Why Is Localisation Important?

September 25, 2020

Working in the translation industry, we use the term localisation frequently. However, it has come to our attention that, outside of our industry, it may not be a term that is widely understood. This article aims to answer the question, ‘What is localisation?’ and share why it is crucial when considering your global communication.

What is localisation?

When you are looking to overcome a language barrier and communicate with a local target market in another part of the world, initially you may look to get your message translated.

For example, if you were travelling in Italy, and wanted to order a slice of pizza and a coffee, and could not speak the language, you may reach for a translation app on your phone that would provide you with the translation of the words required. If you needed to use a simple document in another country, perhaps a birth certificate when applying for a visa, using a translation provider would give you a satisfactory result.

Translation will provide accurate results, as it adheres to the rules surrounding grammar and syntax in the target language. However, you may face challenges in translation work when the message you are looking to convey is more than just literal information. This is where localisation takes over.

Localisation follows all the procedures of translation in delivery of accuracy. However, it goes one step further to adapt the content to be in line with local culture and laws, as well as the dialect of your target audience. Localisation is not just required for written content. Graphics and images, formatting and units of measurement are further aspects that also need to be considered.

A successfully localised piece should fit perfectly alongside any native content.

Most documents, except the simplest, require localisation at some level, so it is always worth checking if it has been done.

What are the benefits of localisation over translation?

Whenever you are trying to engage with and incite action from a global audience, localisation should be considered. It is therefore often used for websites and marketing material, service brochures, user guides and interfaces.

Localisation evaluates how the target audience will receive a message. It ensures that it is not just understood, but is appropriate in tone and style to be engaging to the reader. It is widely accepted that consumers are far more likely to purchase goods or services when the content is in their native language. However, the use of language still needs to resonate with them and not be off-putting due to the use of a particular word or phrase. Get it wrong, and it could destroy a campaign and alienate a whole target market.

Shockingly, the US Committee on Economic Development (CED) suggests that American businesses lose more than $2 billion a year to language or cultural misunderstandings.

A famously mistranslated tagline for Pepsi has gone down in marketing lore. The initial campaign was “Come alive! You’re in the Pepsi generation”. However, it has been reported that the subtle change to “Come alive with Pepsi!” led to the misinterpretation in China that this was suggesting the drink brought back ancestors from the grave!

Even when the same language is spoken across two different target markets, localisation should be implemented for the successful delivery of a message. This need is illustrated in the difference between the US and UK markets. There are many American words, such as sidewalk, elevator and sneakers, that the British public understands, but which are not used within our dialect. And often if the content is not viewed as native, it may be disregarded.

What is needed to achieve effective localisation?

For successful localisation, an in-depth understanding of the relevant culture is required. Our localisation projects are always allocated to a native linguist to ensure first-hand, thorough knowledge. Researching a culture may enable understanding and allow competent localisation, but living the culture as a local provides a whole different level of expertise. Of course, any linguist working on localisation must be skilled in translation to ensure accurate use of language and also have specialist knowledge of the subject area on which they are working.

If you would like to talk to us about your localisation requirements, please get in contact with the Mission Translate team, who will be pleased to assist.

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