Have you ever engaged in a conversation with people who speak your language, but are from other cities or countries? If so, haven’t you felt that, even though you speak the same language, there are expressions or words that you don’t understand? Well, this happens because languages adapt to the cultures, history and contexts where they are spoken.
According to Alex Hammond, “each variety of the language has its particularities”, which can influence in the interpretation of a message That’s where localization comes into play, as it’s not just about the language itself, but understanding other factors. For example, cultural or historical references, events or traditions, message formats, etc.
It is for this reason that, in some cases, translation is not enough or not necessary, since the objective is to make the audience feel that the document, product or service was created with them in mind. In other words, the aim is to personalize the message, but, how to do it?
How to localize the content?
Recapping what was mentioned earlier, communication differences can have an impact on the acceptance of a product, service or message. Thus It is not only about translating but also about considering the needs and particularities of the target group.. To that end, it’s worth analyzing what CommLab India Bloggers describes as cultural and functional aspects.
Cultural aspects of the localization
As its name indicates, it has to do with social, historical and religious references, sense of humor, idioms, customs, color perception, etc.
These characteristics are those that allow the message to be natural, so that there are no barriers to understanding it and, on the contrary, there are communicative references that have a positive impact on the receiver.
One of the most outstanding examples of localization, considering cultural aspects, is the Arabic version of the Simpsons. In it, they made significant changes, starting with the name of the series, Al-Shamshoon, in order to make it phonetically more natural. Additionally, the names of the main characters were changed to adapt them to names common in that part of the world.
For example, “Homer” became “Omar”, “Marge” became “Mona”, “Bart” is “Badr” and “Lisa” is “Bessa”. Similarly, they changed the geographical reference “Springfield” to “Rabeea”, which means “spring” in Arabic.
But localization is not just about changing names, but about thoroughly investigating the customs that may clash with the original message. Which is why “Omar” went from drinking beer to soda, and from eating pork to eating beef or lamb. Modifications made with religious aspects in mind.
Functional aspects of the localization
This category can include something as simple as currency to complex aspects such as legal requirements applicable to the target group. It also takes into consideration all types of formats, including addresses, telephone numbers, date and time, measurement units, etc. Even the length of the text, the size of the pages, the type of font or even the payment methods can be considered.
This is where it becomes clear that localization does not necessarily require translation. In many cases, especially in website localization, what is done is to adapt the message to a particular language variety or context. For example, from North American English to British English or from a Spaniard’s Spanish to a Latin American Spanish.
WWF is one of the leading examples in terms of website localization.
It adapts to the reader’s country or region not only by presenting information in the reader’s language, but also by presenting information related to their area. For example, if we visit the website for Colombia, we will find news related to the Pacific, the Amazon or the Orinoco regions.
While the WWF website for Spain, albeit in Spanish like the one for Colombia, presents totally different information, not only in content but also in format. This is because the context and geographic location differ, so the needs and interests of the audience also change.
Likewise, the WWF website for Canada is in English and French, the official languages of that country. And just like the previous examples, the content and format are different. This is also due to the way the reader consumes the information.
This example highlights the importance of knowing your target audience, so that the content is of interest to them. And, consequently, a positive reaction is produced in the reader, which, in this case, is to donate.
Find out more about the advantages of having a multilingual website in this article.
What can be localized?
In addition to localizing websites or series, such as the examples mentioned above, localization is also recommended for:
- Mobile apps
- Video games
- Multimedia content (either photos or videos, especially if they are of an advertising nature)
- Product descriptions and packaging
- Product and service brochures
- Advertising banners and posters
In general, any document or material that aims to connect the reader with the message in order to trigger a reaction. Such as buying a product, donating, acquiring a service, arousing interest in a video game, downloading an application, etc.
In other words…
Localization seeks to create a bridge that breaks down communication barriers; the pillars of this bridge are not only linguistic but also cultural and functional factors. This allows the message to be adapted to a target group and to be perceived by them as if it had been developed with them in mind. This personalization is what fosters acceptance of the message, product or service being offered.
It’s for this reason that linguistic professionals and specialists and marketing experts are required. This team must work hand in hand to thoroughly understand the characteristics of the target audience. The translator will make sure that the message is understandable to the reader, while the publicist will be responsible for making the message eye-catching and interesting.