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Content marketing in a foreign language: translate, localise, transcreate or write original content?

Did you know that just over 58% of the web’s content is written in English? Yet fewer than 500 million out of the world’s 4.5 billion web users are native English speakers. That’s just 11%. So, when you also consider that the majority of web users (71.2%)  spend most or all of their time browsing in their native language, you quickly realise that there is enormous potential for growth through content marketing in a foreign language.

Content marketing in a foreign language

But what is the best way to do content marketing in a foreign language? Should you translate, localise or transcreate existing content, or is it better to write original copy directly in the language(s) of your target market(s)?

The simple answer is, it depends. That is, on what kind of content you publish, how culturally sensitive it is to your target audience and, of course, what your budget is.

In this brief post, we take a look at the differences between these three approaches.


The process of translating your website involves communicating the exact meaning of your content (almost word-for-word) into another language. It doesn’t necessarily take into account cultural references and isn’t appropriate if your content needs to be culturally fluent, not just linguistically fluent. Translated texts rarely connect resonantly with new customers and should therefore be restricted to specific pages of your website that don’t need to engage your audience (T&Cs, technical guides etc.).


Localisation, on the other hand, takes into account the cultural nuances of your target locale. It transcends word-for-word conversion and uses terms and references that resonate with your target market. It should look and feel as if it were originally written in that language, although it is still largely based on the original source text. Localisation also adapts images, text direction, icons and other elements of the website’s design. It is best suited to websites, software, apps and video games.


Transcreation (or creative translation) is similar to localisation, but takes it a step further by engaging more of the translator’s creativity. According to Wikipedia, it is the “process of adapting a message from one language to another while maintaining its intent, style, tone and context.” It essentially evokes the same emotions in the target language as it does in the source language. Like localisation, transcreation adapts cultural references, layout, images and videos to resonate with the target audience. It is best suited to slogans, advertising and retail.

International copywriting

International copywriting and content writing (or multilingual copywriting/content writing) typically doesn’t rely on any source texts. It begin with the content strategy phase and can be used as part of the transcreation process, but texts are written from scratch, based on a brief. Other content elements are also designed to resonate with the target culture. International copywriting should always be carried out by a native-speaking copywriter based in the target locale. It is best suited to original blog posts and web copy, advertising and slogans.

Which offers the best value? Translation, localisation, transcreation or copywriting?

Given the varying degrees of skill and time taken to either translate, localise, transcreate or write original content, the cost of each of these services vary. Translation is relatively quick and inexpensive and can be sped up through the use of machine translation and automated workflows. However, the final results may not resonate with your target audience, lowering your return on investment.

Localisation and transcreation, on the other hand, are more time consuming and require creative skills and careful planning to implement successfully. However, although slightly more expensive, your return on investment will be far greater.

Finally, international copywriting or content writing do require creativity, but don’t necessarily rely on the same linguistic skills offered by a professional translator. They may therefore suit both your budget and your need to engage an audience if you want to be successful at content marketing in a foreign language.

For more information or clarity on the difference between these four services, why not get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.

Keytext provides quality translation, localisation, transcreation and international copywriting services to help businesses communicate effectively with a global audience. We collaborate closely with our team and, unlike other agencies, we enable our clients to work directly with their choice of translator or copywriter directly via email.

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