Translation, Localization and Transcreation in Plain English

Not sure what the differences are between Translation, Localization and Transcreation?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone!

I’ve been working in translation for 10 years and I still get them confused. So, I made a handy guide to help you figure out which one you need.

Translation, Localization and Transcreation in Plain English

Cheat Sheet

Translation, localization and transcreation all convey meaning from one language to another. For example, imagine you wanted to translate, localize and transcreate a Korean document into English. All three would convert Korean into an English equivalent.

The main difference between them would be how accurately the final version reflects the original

If you ranked the three versions according to accuracy, they would be:

  1. Translation – most accurate
  2. Localization – accurate, but more natural
  3. Transcreation – least accurate


The most accurate of the three is translation with a nearly 1:1 ratio. Images, layout and brand vocabulary stay the same.

It’s ideal for legal, medical and other documents that need meaning preserved. 

Translation will be billed by number of words or characters. It’s usually the least expensive of the three.


Next would be localization, which allows for some liberties to be taken with the source in order to adapt it to the target market. This often requires changing some terms to better suit a geographic area. Images and layout can be changed to make more sense to the intended audience.

For example, instead of using the “Super Bowl” in Korea to demonstrate a large sporting event, you would most likely go with the “World Cup”, because they’re more familiar with it. 

Marketing material, websites, emails and other customer facing material benefit from localization.

Localization can be billed by the word, character or by the hour. It’s in the middle in terms of cost.


Transcreation allows for the most liberal conversion of the source to the target language. It can be thought of as copywriting in the target language. 

The finished project is more of an homage to the source than a literal translation. 

This allows for more creativity and freedom to completely adapt a message to a geographic location. Images, layout and even branding words can be enhanced to maximize impact.

Transcreation can be used for product names, targeted marketing, branding and ad campaigns. 

Pepsi could have benefited from this when they claimed they could revive dead ancestors in China. 

Transcreation is usually billed by the hour. It can also be a bit expensive compared to the other two.

3 Types of Translation you Will Need

1. Personal Use

Individuals for images, shopping websites, webtoons, signs and menus while traveling

  • Quality: the overall meaning with potential errors
  • Delivery: Immediate

Use Papago or Google Translate

2. Professional Use

Startups and new business for internal communication, social media posts, user reviews, emails and letters

  • Quality: human translation without QC
  • Delivery: At least a day

Use Fiverr

3. Advanced Use

Established companies for presentations, legal documents, reports, mobile apps and website localization

  • Quality: human translation usually with QC like proofreading and review
  • Delivery: Longer than a day

Use a reputable company specialized in the language pair you need

Check out some Fiverr gigs below!

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Translation, localization, and transcreation aren’t confusing when you understand their purposes. Before starting a project, make sure to figure out which one you need.

Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.

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