If you’re a regular user of translation services or work in different markets worldwide, you may have come across the term ‘localisation’ quite frequently, but still be unsure about what it actually is. You may also wonder why it’s important. Surely, if you translate your content into the appropriate language, that’s enough, right?
In our blog this week, we answer these and other frequently asked questions about localisation to give you an understanding of its value.
What exactly is localisation?
Localisation is the process of adapting content to ensure it is culturally appropriate for the specific local market.
Why is localisation important?
Localisation considers the context of how content will be used and ensures it delivers the same impact as if a native individual had created it. This evaluation supports better audience understanding and avoids causing any potential offence where certain aspects could be inappropriate.
So, how is localisation different to translation?
Translation is just one step in the localisation process, and for some basic or straightforward communication, this is enough. For example, a simple translation works perfectly when you want to order a coffee when on holiday in Spain or ask where the nearest train station is. But when the content draws on aspects of a culture or requires an understanding of context, engaging with a native, in-country linguist to localise it will ensure the intent is correctly conveyed.
Furthermore, localisation is not just about the language. It considers every aspect of your content, including images, colours, currencies, abbreviations and formatting items such as dates, times and phone numbers.
To illustrate the importance of localisation, here are three examples of when it was not fully considered:
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
In the West, most of us are familiar with the tagline, ‘Finger Lickin Good.’ However, its translation into Chinese, ‘Eat Your Fingers Off,’ did not deliver the impact the brand was seeking!
A simple colour change may seem straightforward, and when Pepsi switched the colour of its vending machines to light blue in the 1950s, they probably thought it was pretty inoffensive. However, light blue is the colour for mourning in Southeast Asia, which left Pepsi mourning the loss of a significant chunk of sales!
White teeth may be a sought-after look in the West, but black teeth are seen as a status symbol in Southeast Asia, and people chew betel nuts to achieve this effect. Therefore, when Pepsodent created a toothpaste campaign promising whiter teeth, it completely missed the mark in this region.
When is localisation needed?
Any business from any sector should use localisation when communicating with a different market unless the content is very straightforward, as highlighted above. Whether it’s the subtleties of a marketing campaign, sensitive communication in a healthcare setting, or conveying different countries’ concepts and procedures in the legal sector, having a native appreciation of your market will ensure your delivery is more effective.
Same language, different market
Localisation is still important even when your new, local market is English-speaking. For example, there are many cultural differences between British English and American English: lift vs elevator, pavement vs sidewalk, trousers vs pants, the list goes on. Even simple spelling, e.g., localisation vs localization, will reveal whether you’ve localised your content to the relevant market.
The same applies to other markets that share the same language. For example, Spanish is spoken in South America and Mexico, as well as Spain, but there are key differences in the words they use. So, if you translate your content into Spanish, you’ll also need to ensure you localise it to the appropriate market.
What should I look for when seeking localisation services?
At Mission Translate, we recognise how our role can significantly impact your relationships with your non-English-speaking clients, so take every step to ensure we deliver high-quality language services that are appropriate for your audience. These steps include:
- A meticulous briefing process to fully understand your objectives
- Working only with native, in-country and sector-specialist linguists
- Editing and proofreading every file by an independent, equally qualified linguist
- Leveraging the latest translation technology to enhance consistency and shorten turnaround times
- Engaging with experienced desktop publishers and utilising specialist software to create a professional finish for your files
- Employing ISO-accredited quality assurance protocols via our dedicated project management team