What Is Localization?
What’s the difference between translation and localization? In this article, we explain what these terms mean and share how localized content can engage diverse audiences.
Localization vs. Translation: What’s the Difference?
Translation renders meaning from one language (the source) into another language (the target). Translators must use proper grammar and vocabulary to convey the intent of the original text while taking into consideration any cultural and regional differences between the source and target languages.
Localization is the process of fully adapting content to the cultural and linguistic preferences of a specific place. It includes both the translation and cultural adaptation of websites and multimedia such as audio, video, software, e-learning components, and games. Proper localization gives content the look and feel of having been created specifically for a target market, no matter the language or culture.
What Is Localization?
Every culture has different norms, and the content should be adapted to reflect this diversity. Images should represent the people who live in the target locale. A layout may need to be adjusted to accommodate for text expansion, right-to-left reading, or simply the customs of the target culture. Even colors can have different meanings from culture to culture, making it important to avoid visual treatments that may have negative connotations in a particular country.
In addition to translation, localization can include:
- Adapting design and layout so translated text will display properly
- Formatting dates, times, and addresses to the conventions of the target locale
- Converting units of measurement and currencies
- Changing national holidays and references to geography
- Adapting gender norms
- Altering sort functionality so translated lists will sort in appropriate alphabetical order
- Adapting graphics and images for the preferences and cultural norms of the target locale
- Adapting UI to the preferences of the target locale
- Implementing appropriate payment methods
- Revising content to suit the preferences of the target audience
- Changing content that may include cultural taboos or imagery that may be offensive in the target culture
- Adapting marketing practices such as SEO terms or link building strategies
Localized content should adhere to cultural norms, so that it is relatable and feels natural to the target audience. Website visitors or multimedia users should not be aware that they are interacting with content that has been localized. Ultimately, the organization’s brand voice should maintain a consistent, coherent identity across markets and cultures.
While English is not the world’s most widely spoken language, it has dominated the internet since its launch. This preference, however, is changing as different nations gain prominence in the global economy and internet access expands. Organizations willing to localize their websites and digital content into other languages can take advantage of rapidly growing markets to reach new prospects.
Increases sales – By removing language barriers and cultural obstacles, localization allows more people to learn about an organization’s offerings, increasing the rate at which business can be expanded into new markets.
Build brand loyalty and improve customer satisfaction – People want content that is customized and relevant. Localization allows organizations to better address the needs of their target audiences and create experiences that are relevant and engaging. This focus builds trust and solidifies commitment.
Avoid cultural missteps – Organizations have spent millions crafting campaigns or product rollouts only to later discover that the translation has an unintended meaning, or that the imagery carries a negative connotation in the target country. Localization helps avoid such cultural missteps that lead to embarrassment or costly repair.
How to Create Content for Localization
To set yourself up for success, develop source content with localization in mind. The quality of your text and graphics directly affects the quality of your translated text and overall localization efforts. The more direct your source content, the more effectively it can be translated and adapted for different cultures.
Some basic guidelines:
- When you write text for translation and localization, be succinct. Short, clear sentences are easier to translate and leave less room for misunderstanding. Avoid slang, idioms, colloquialisms, and humor. Do not use abbreviations or words that may have more than one meaning.
- Different languages take up different amounts of space. Leave enough white space in your design-preferably 25%-to easily accommodate character count expansion in different languages, especially in buttons, callouts, or tables.
- Understand upfront that images may need to be replaced so they reflect your target audience or geographic location. Create text as a separate element rather than embedding it into graphics.
- Thoroughly review your source materials-it’s better to catch a mistake before it has been localized into 10 languages!
Get Started With Localization: The Eriksen Approach
When targeting different locales, avoid a one-size-fits-all strategy. Your messaging should be adapted to each of the target cultures while maintaining a coherent identity. Localization gives an organization control over its brand messaging and ensures that all cultural factors have been considered.
Eriksen helps organizations produce localized content that is rich, engaging, and accessible across languages. Our localization services are handled by professionals who have the know-how to grasp the tone, nuance, and stylistic differences in language and to handle any cultural adaptation that is required. Get in touch to speak with a member of our client services team about your localization strategy.