Localisation of text refers to the process of linguistically and culturally adapting a product or service, from one language to another, to the local environment. It’s important to address the audience correctly, give correct cultural impressions and also the right associations for the audience you woculd like to reach out to.
What does cultural adaptation of text involve?
For me, as a translator, localisation is all about cultural adaptation and translation of marketing materials, slot machines, software and websites. Material can be localised for a specific region, a specific country or even a specific target group. Needless to say, material which should appeal to people over 60 needs to have a very different tone and approach from material which should appeal to for instance young people between the ages of 18 and 25.
In practice, this means that I do a number of things, including, but not limited to:
- make sure that the appropriate character set and direction of writing is used
- adapt the style level and how the audience is addressed based on the target group(s)
- translate or adapt to local formats for dates, weeks, phone numbers, addresses, currencies, time display and sort order
These types of changes are made to the text, product or service in order for it to feel right for the local audience. It’s important to eliminate anything which may sound, or be perceived as, “incorrect”. This might not be incorrect or wrong in the traditional sense of the word, but it’s incorrect or wrong for the target audience. In order for something to effectively appeal to the right target group in the right market in an efficient manner, it must feel right for them.
How to make the localisation process easier
Localisation, or cultural adaptation, requires some extra work. The process can, however, be made easier if you prepare well, and keep this in mind already when you work on creating the text, product or service. Below you will find a few pointers as to what might be smart to keep in mind in order to ease the future localisation process.
- Identify the target group for the text, i.e. the group you would like to address.
- Product names, colours, sound, icons and symbols can be interpreted differently and have different meanings and connotations in different cultures. Try to come up with something that does work, avoid whatever doesn’t work, or facilitate the possibility of cultural adaptation at a later stage.
As an example of the above, we can mention that thumbs up, which for most of us means “super”, “OK” or similar, in several countries in the Middle East actually equates to giving them the middle finger. Be careful!
- Illustrations should also be locally adapted to really catch on properly with your target audience.
- Remember that hot keys, short commands, speed dials and keyboard layout often is different from one local operating system to another.
- Do remember that units, dates, quotation marks, time stamps, currencies etc. often also are written in a different manner.
- Try to avoid material which is difficult to translate or could possibly be perceived as offensive locally. Humour is a great tool, but it is so culturally determined that it becomes extremely difficult to translate. The same applies to idiomatic expressions and puns. In case of the above, a good translator/localisation expert, who can change these to give similar associations in the local market, is required. This must be specified, so that the person working on the text is aware of the need to localise these (as opposed to simply translating).
- If all, or parts of, the material is to be printed, or if the end user should be able to print it out, you may want to consider the page and paper format.
Please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss your needs for cultural adaptation of texts, or to request a non-binding quote.