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Localization, Not Translation: Because Words Matter in Every Language

localization writing | how to localize

I’ve been a professional writer on the Wix Localization Team for almost 3 years. But I face the real challenge of clarifying what I actually do on a daily basis when I go home to Italy and talk to my mum (a longtime translator) about my job. She always asks me the same question: why don’t you just call it translation? And why don’t you admit that you followed in your mum’s footsteps?

So mum—this one’s for you! You finally have your answer in black and white: localization and translation are two very different things and in the world of Internet and a globalized economy, translating texts just isn’t enough. Here’s why.

01. The difference between translation and localization

Translating means transferring the meaning of a source text into another language. To do so, a translator needs to understand the meaning of the words and create an equivalent in the target language.

Localization goes a step further. It means adapting texts and products not only linguistically but also culturally. Through localization, we alter and refine a text and product to a specific market, taking into consideration the specific idioms and phrases that will leave local readers with the same impression that was intended by the original author.

Let’s look at an example. Wix recently announced a brand new feature in an email to our users with the headline “Get excited!” Translated directly into French, this just wouldn’t work. Tell a French person to “Sois excité!” and they will think you are propositioning them—to the bedroom—since excité means to turn on. So in writing the localized version of this text we instead said “Vous allez adorer cette nouvelle fonctionnalité!” (“You’re gonna love this new feature.)

As you can see, when it comes to working on text for an app or product that is destined to be sold around the world, translation isn’t enough. It needs to be localized.

Whether we’re writing in English, French, Japanese or Russian, users depend on the text we write to understand how our product works and what it offers. Furthermore, they also get to know the brand through the language choices we make. Content that is expertly localized can make all the difference in whether or not a user has a positive experience. Put simply: words matter, which is why we do localization in-house.

02. Localization at Wix

Our localization team consists up of more than 20 writers from all over the world: Buenos Aires, Seoul, Stockholm, Tokyo, Istanbul, Milan, Moscow, New Delhi and more. As UX writers, marketing writers and ADI writers, we’re responsible for localizing Wix in 16 languages and ensuring that we look amazing in any language—and that our branding, tone and voice never change. From bellissimo to 대박, we always want to look stunning.

03. So how do we do it?

First and foremost, we sit together. Localization is done on-site at our offices in Tel Aviv. Twice a month, all the writers at Wix attend professional development workshops where we create content and get to know each other better. Within this community of writers, there is a special bond among the localization specialists who speak the same language. We work closely to align our linguistic choices, brainstorm and to develop the best solutions (and craziest ideas) for each and every market. Over the years, we have built up a shared glossary for each language. Used internally, it helps ensure that our voice stays consistent and on-brand.

04. The benefits of localizing in-house

Every localization writer is an integrated part of the company, working in-house where we can feel the heartbeat of the brand, deeply understand our users and ultimately create the best possible text. We are able to keep up with the rapid pace of product development and localize new products quickly, without ever compromising on quality. In other words, we give our users around the world the best possible product, in the shortest amount of time.

The result is that a Wix user sitting in Rio de Janeiro can create a website in Portuguese using the newest products and features, find easy answers to their questions in Portuguese support articles, get inspired by a brand new blog post and even use ADI to build a Portuguese-language site in a matter of minutes.

05. Sure, it’s not perfect.

Localizing in-house has helped us successfully penetrate markets around the world. But there is work to be done. We still have challenges at times when a design just doesn’t look right in one of our languages or when certain markets need customized products to fit their culture. But we are improving all the time and have plans to create new features and templates, tailored to the needs of specific geographies and markets. And because our language teams sit within the offices, we are able to make suggestions, test new techniques and ultimately give our users a better experience.

What’s the bottom line? To be competitive in a global market, a company needs to fully localize—and not just translate—the entire user experience. And by doing so from within the company headquarters, we are able to localize with maximum quality and velocity.

As localizers, our job is incredibly multifaceted. Responsible for bringing Wix to users around the world, we are the “ambassadors” of the company’s voice and brand. Almost 40% of Wix users are non-English speakers and we are proudly localizing Wix for each and every one of them.

Rebecca Pakin, Writer (Italian) at Wix

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