When entering a market outside of the United States, you can’t just translate documents word for word. Content localization is also vitally important. According to the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA), “Localization is the process of adapting a product or content to a specific locale or market.”

Translation and localization are a connected process. In addition to translation, an effective localization strategy may also include:

  • Adapting graphics to target markets
  • Modifying content to suit the tastes of other markets
  • Adapting design and layout to properly display translated text
  • Converting to local currencies and units of measure
  • Using proper local formats for dates, addresses, and phone numbers
  • Addressing local regulations and legal requirements

Localization aims to give a product the look and feel of having been created specifically for a target market, no matter their language, culture, or location. While the above factors are all involved in content localization, there are three things that are easily overlooked. They may seem small, but they can have a big impact on your company’s localization strategy.

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Content Localization  – Cultural Considerations

Whether you are involved in a technical document translation or a consumer-oriented document translation, it’s still important that your content localization efforts take cultural references into consideration. In fact, the consequences of misunderstood meaning in technical, consumer-facing, or marketing translation can be significant.

When Ford Motor Company tried to emphasize to consumers in Belgium that their cars were the result of excellent manufacturing, they used an ad campaign with the phrase, “Every car has a high-quality body.” However, due to different cultural nuances, the translated slogan read, “Every car has a high-quality corpse.”

It is essential to meet cultural expectations, like how to address your customers correctly. In some countries, the use of honorifics is always expected, like adding the gender-neutral suffix “sama” when interacting with customers in Japan.

Content Localization – Language Differences

Culture, history, tastes, and language usage vary greatly across the world, even within countries that speak the same language. For example, nuances in the Spanish language vary across Mexico and other Latin American countries, where different dialects are commonly used.

An American automobile manufacturer doing business in Mexico may use the word “coche” to refer to a car. However, “coche” means baby carriage in the Dominican Republic. The company would need to use the word “carro” for this market instead.

By taking into account regional practices and culture, content localization automatically expands your outreach globally. By utilizing the right terminology for a given culture, you are ensuring that your marketing messages, product instructions, and important documentation are relaying the exact message you intend.

Content Localization – Native Translators

The intricacies of various languages and dialects are best understood by native speakers. That is why, as you prepare your company’s localization strategy, it is best to partner with a translation partner that uses only native-speaking translators. Such professionals will have specific translation expertise, in addition to an innate knowledge of your target audience and its unique requirements.

Native-speaking translators will be able to contribute firsthand knowledge of local colloquialisms to improve your company’s content localization and overall translation project outcome. They are a vital component to translation and localization success.

Regardless of where you do business, it’s crucial that your international translation conveys your message accurately and recognizes your target market’s cultural localization nuances.

International Language Services is an ISO 9001:2015 certified company, and our team includes highly experienced native language translators who are also subject matter experts. When you’re ready to begin a document translation project for your organization, give us a call.


Not Just for External Audiences: Your Guide to Translating Internal Communications

When you think of document translation, you probably think of external content. But translating internal materials is just as important.