Important Localization and Translation Terms to Know

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The localization and translation industry is growing, and more and more companies are looking for services to expand their outreach to a global market. When first approaching localization service providers, it can seem daunting. There are so many terms to know just to get an accurate quote.

In this blog, we will cover some important localization and translation terms to know. We’ve covered many of the terms in more detail in previous blogs, however, this article will be a great resource to bookmark if you ever need a quick reference for definitions and the differences between similar services.

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photo by Jacek Dylag

Localization & Translation Service Terms

Below are common localization and translation services: 

  • Captioning: adding a transcript in the same language as the dialogue in the video in a format similar to subtitles. Captions transcribe or describe all of the audio information necessary to understand the video content, such as: dialogue, non-verbal sounds (yells, grunts, etc…), sound effects, and musical cues. Closed Captioning (the CC symbol on the corner of most video streaming services) is captioning that can be turned on and off, as compared to Open Captioning that cannot be turned off.
  • Subtitling: translated text of dialogue and on-screen titles. Unlike captions, subtitles are in a different language than the dialogue in the video and exclude non-verbal sounds, sound effects, and musical cues.
  • Voice-over: voice recordings that play over a video, generally as off-screen narration or UN-style (delayed 1-2 seconds and played over original audio). Voice-over can also be used without video for voice assistants, e-Learning, video games, etc..
  • Dubbing: voice recordings in a different language that replace the voice of the individual(s) speaking on screen. The voice can match the lip movements on screen (lip sync dubbing).
  • Translation: converting text from one language into another while still retaining the same meaning and intent.
  • Interpretation: live translation of spoken words by a professional interpreter from one language to another. Simultaneous interpretation refers to interpretation done in real time with a few seconds delay, whereas consecutive interpretation is when the speaker pauses after completing a thought for the interpreter to translate, alternating between speaker and interpreter.
  • Localization: adapting content to fit the cultural and linguistic norms of a target audience. Localization encompasses translation while also taking into account cultural customs, local references, region-specific accents/dialects, and more.


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Important Industry Terms

Now that we know the definitions of some of the main localization services, below are some more industry-specific terms that will be helpful:

  • Language Service Provider (LSP): a business that offers language localization services. This can be for a single language or multiple languages.
  • Internationalization: referred to in shorthand as “i18n”, a strategy by businesses to make their content ready for localization. This can mean having extra room in a text box so that it allows for text expansion when translating into a different language, having multi-language text encoding (such as single byte for Latin script languages and double byte for complex script like Chinese and Japanese), and more.
  • Assets or Source Files: materials needed to provide localization services. This could include: transcribed scripts, translated scripts, audio stems (see below), After Effects projects, graphics, animations, etc…
  • Standard vs High Resolution (for video): In the U.S. standard resolution (aka standard definition) is 720 x 480 pixels. Any lower would be low resolution (e.g. 320 x 240 pixels). High resolution starts at 1280 x 720 pixels (aka 720p), with 1920 x 1080 pixels (1080p) being a common video resolution. Now 4k (3840 x 2160 pixels or 4096 x 2160 pixels) is growing in popularity. Important to know: the higher the number of pixels, the higher resolution and clarity of the video image as well as the larger the relative size of the video file (if they’re the same format, see below).
  • Video Formats: after a video has been edited, it is compressed to a digital format so that it is playable on devices. Popular video formats are MP4 and MOV. A video is compressed using a codec: for MP4 the H264 codec is used and it creates a relatively smaller, lower quality (but can still be high resolution) file compared to an MOV file using the Apple ProRes 422 codec which is a larger, higher quality video file. 
  • Audio Stems: source audio files that are separated by their category such as dialogue, music, sound effects. Having the audio stems allows the localization provider to replace a dialogue track and mix the audio (see below).
  • Unmixed vs Mixed Audio: Unmixed audio is the voice-over/dubbing track by itself (does not include other audio stems). Mixed audio is an audio file that includes all the audio stems and the recorded voice-over/dubbing that replaces or overlays the original audio. Mixed audio is cleaned and the volume levels are adjusted so that all the audio stems play well together. 
  • Deliverables: the expected files that you will receive after localization has been completed such as:
    • Text: caption/subtitle text files (such as SRT), translated scripts
    • Audio: voice-over recordings
    • Video: final video including voice-over/dubbing and music/effects, videos with captions/subtitles burned in (always showing)
  • Source Language to Target Language: the source language is the language one is translating from. The Target Language is the language one is translating to.
  • Loops: lines of dialogue in a script to be recorded. These are numbered and are generally organized by character/voice actor.
  • Quality Assurance (QA): having a native-speaking language professional ensure the quality of the localization service (translation, subtitling, voice-over etc…). QA can also be done to make sure there are no technical issues with the deliverables.


photo by Hannah Wright


There are still many other localization and translation terms that we did not cover as well as many exciting advancements (machine translation, artificial intelligence, etc…) that are introducing even more new words into the industry. Hopefully from the definitions above you are better able to understand the differences between localization and translation, subtitling and captioning, voice-over and dubbing, assets and deliverables, and more.

With these terms in mind, we hope that you’re better able to decide on the best localization service for your content and ask for an accurate quote. To keep up to date with all the terminology and changes in localization be sure to follow our blog.

Download our free captioning, subtitling, and video localization checklist below!


Subtitling Captioning Video Localization Quote Checklist free pdf