Localization, much more than translation…

The term localization originates from English, now widely used in the world of translation at the expense of its equivalent “regionalization”. It is the adaptation process of a product in a given region. It is therefore not limited to a simple translation service.

Localization is often preceded by what is called “internationalization”. It is a preliminary stage which consists in designing a product devoid as much as possible of cultural specificities. It will therefore be much easier to localize on a large scale, and at a lower cost.

Is localization comparable to translation services?

More than a simple translation from one language to another, localization also involves complete cultural adaptation of a product for a target market. Therefore it is not only to convey a message, but its intentions. The translator must have a perfect command of the target language, but also the subject, specific technical terms, the market, the target audience, etc. Beyond words, localization also consists of modifying, among other things, the address format, calendar, time, monetary symbols, units of measurement and colors. So many factors that make this operation very complicated.

Localization, a powerful marketing tool

Localizing allows companies to open the door to the international market. However, don’t rush into it, because a simple error by a translator, or a machine translator, could have a negative impact on the company’s image. Take for example the advertising campaign launched by the Scandinavian brand “Electrolux” in the United States to promote its vacuum cleaners. The slogan used was “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”. Unfortunately for them, in the United States, the expression “it sucks” has a totally different meaning. This type of misunderstanding certainly makes people laugh, but can completely discredit a brand.

Localization is not just about getting around language problems, it can also avoid cultural problems. This time take the example of a brand of soda which broadcast an advertisement in India in which you could see a little boy serving this drink to football players. This advert was interpreted as an endorsement of child labor and led to legal proceedings.

An example: video game localization

Video game localization is another branch of localization, which we often don’t think of, but is very important. Indeed, it is not generally sufficient to translate the dialogs, the menus or the instructions. Translators have sometimes used changes to the story or to the instructions in order to adapt to another culture. It’s a complex job and translation agencies often rely on translators who themselves play video games to produce it, like Antoine.

All these examples perfectly illustrate the importance of localization service providers, especially nowadays where, with globalization, markets tend to be open to other countries, to other cultures. It must take into account local sensitivities in order to adapt to the market and reach the target market.

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