Translation, localization and transcreation: what’s the difference?

A good quality translation is based on a few simple factors. Firstly, the translator should be a native speaker of the target language and have a full understanding of the sourge language. Secondly, the translator should have expertise in that area in order for the translation to be technically correct. Last but not least, you should not even be able to tell that it is a translation when reading it!

Typical translation work includes general documents, films’ script and subtitles, websites, softwares, certificates, contracts, technical manuals, technical translations in various specialist areas, conference documentation, literary works and much more.

In the translation jargon, you would also hear about localization and transcreation, which are not exactly the same as translation. What’s the difference?





Main characteristics

The content stays the same

The meaning stays the same

Different content developed to meet business objectives


Literal word-for-word translation of everything

Translate the meaning of the words in a way that is culturally

Developed in local language; English may be used as part of the brand vocabulary


No change

Change to
meet local expectations / product needs


No change

Minimise changes

Change to meet local expectations

Brand vocabulary

No change

No change

Enhance and expand

 Localization is the process of culturally adaptating a product, generally a web page, an mobile app, a software or a video game, but you could even localize food (as in the case of McDonald’s), design and anything you can think of.


The Simpsons localized (i.e. culturally adapted) for the Muslim world. Homer never drinks beer (but soda) and never eats porks (it is always made clear that the meat is lamb or beef).

Coca cola  Coca cola transcreation Coca Cola transcreation

Coca cola transcreation Coca cola transcreation  Coca Cola transcreation

Great examples of cultural localization: the completely different web pages Coca Cola has in various countries (US, UK, Portugal, Israel, Japan and Taiwan, in this order).


Last but not least, transcreation is the process of re-creating in another language, which is generally the case of spots, campaign advertisement, etc. In fact, these generally consist of word games and if translated literally would simply not work for the target audience.


Haribo is to Germans what Cadbury is to the British: an institution. So when they decided to launch their products in the UK, it was important that the tagline was spot-on. The English literal translation of the German slogan „Haribo macht Kinder froh, und Erwachsene ebenso“ [“Haribo makes kids happy, and adults too”] was pretty flat as it lacks the punchy rhythm and rhyme of the original. And so the following line was born: “Kids and grown-ups love it so, the happy world of Haribo”.




The Spanish version on the right literally reads; “hot, hot… …search and find”. It is not a literal translation of the English version, but a well-rhymed Spanish variant.

Why is it so important to adapt concepts, words, design, etc.? Culturally speaking, to satisfy clients’ expectations. Economically speaking, not to lose money. Would you like an example?



Here you have a wonderful case of “lost in translation”, which was corrected only later, after a significant loss of money. You might probably be acquainted with the Mitsubishi Pajero case. If not, once you know that “pajero” for a Spaniard means “tosser”, you will definitely understand why Mitsubishi could not sell a single Pajero in Spain. Finally, they realised the huge cultural mistake and completely changed the name into “Montero”.

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