Localization, which assists a business in adapting its products, services, apps or websites to a specific market’s requirements, is crucial for businesses that want to expand globally. Key aspects like the target language, consumer’s buying behaviour and cultural insights are taken into consideration while working on the localization strategy.

At the heart of localization lies the need of an organization to offer an experience to its audience that they can feel comfortable and at-home with.

Kocarek GmbH, an organization specializing in localization and translations, believe that an effective localization strategy can help a business meet its customers needs better. The Germany-based company enjoys a strong reputation offering all types of translations and has worked with a vast array of clients. Using insights from their experience, we shall delve into the art of localization and how it is different from mere translation.

What is the difference between Localization and Translation?

By definition, translation means “the substitution of textual material in one language for equivalent textual material in another language“. While localization “is the second phase of a long process of translation and cultural adaptation taking into account the differences that exist between the different markets”.

That is, translation is a mostly linguistic process, while localization implies a linguistic and cultural adaptation. In this sense, localization is a translation for the local market, which seeks to convey the same intention as the original (sales, customer retention, commercial expansion, etc.) In other words, the message is translated, but the intention is localized.

How does Localization Work?

As mentioned above, localization is an idiomatic and cultural adaptation. It does not only consist in translating the language but in carrying out a translation adapted to the new market’s culture.

McDonald’s is one of the largest fast-food chains in the world. It has points of sale all over the world, but the menu varies according to each region. This is because each country has different customs and preferences. Therefore the menu adapts to each culture.

For example, anywhere around the world, the classic menu consists of beef burgers. While in India the menu consists of spicy, vegetarian and mostly chicken based menu, clearing staying away from beef, keeping in mind the cultural sensitivities. This is because, in India, cows are considered sacred, and beef is not consumed.

Now, if we think about language localization, McDonald’s needs a specialized translation for its customers in India. It needs to localize the website, the menus, commercials, videos and other elements with which the client interacts.

In addition, not only does it require specialized translation into Hindi (the native language), but it must also take into account other cultural aspects. It is important to make an audiovisual translation of other content such as images, videos, jingles too.

In the same example of beef, the company must replace the images or other content that refers to cows since a localization error there could mean serious loss of reputation in the local market.

Another example of this is what happened with the Braniff airline. Braniff translated its slogan “Fly in leather” (fly in leather seats) as “Fly in leather.” Although this adapted translation was correct, in Spain it was not so. This is because in Spain, the expression “in leathers” means naked. This is a clear example of the problems that a poor localization can lead to.

All this demonstrates the importance of the language service provider not only knowing the language, but the local culture too.

What is Localization?

Experts at Kocarek argue that the idea of localization is to offer a personalized service to the client. Therefore, the content related to the product or service that you want to localize must be translated into your own language. This ensures understanding and increases the possibility of loyalty.

  • Localization and translation for the local market include, for example:
  • Printed material (documents, brochures, posters, etc.)
  • Audiovisual material (images, videos, subtitles, dubbing, etc.)
  • Web pages (web copy, URL, meta descriptions, SEO, date and time formats, etc.)
  • Video games and software (technical manuals, codes, graphic files, menus, dialogue boxes, user interface, etc.)

What Languages can be Localized?

Any language can be translated and localized. Some of the most localized languages are English, Spanish and Chinese, as they are the most spoken languages in the world. However, demand for localization in other languages such as French, German, Portuguese, Korean and Arabic has also been increasing. We must take into account the importance of linguistic variations in specialized translations.

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