The fields where localization is applied
Localisation, as defined on the blog of the website Gamatomic, which clearly understands what it’s talking about, is a process of translation through cultural and normative adaptation of an exported medium. In other words, in order to sell a product abroad it needs to be adapted to its target audience—that is, the population of the country whose market you are seeking to enter.
The difference between localisation and translation
Like translation, localisation is billed by the word, and proofread by a reviewer. Furthermore, certain translation agencies have made it their specialty. However, contrary to popular misconception, localisation is much more than simply a “deluxe” translation of websites or software applications. To enter a market one must identify the smallest details of its local customs and mores by conducting a sociocultural study of the target audience so that the reader or user does not realize that what they see or use is in fact, a translation. Furthermore, localizers often have skills and know-how necessary for performing certain types of computerization, coding, and even graphic design.
Localization and video games
If localisation often comes up when speaking of video games, it’s because such games cater to highly diverse audiences. Creating a video game requires the involvement of a great number of people, specialized in a variety of different domains and hailing from the four corners of the globe, with English generally adopted as the common language for development. The end result is an extremely globalized finished product that has to be adapted to the perceptions of local gamers. One needs to choose the themes, colors, music, and dialogues suited to the expectations of the end users for each country or region where the game will be sold.
Other areas of application
While localization is part and parcel of making video games, localizers have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to finding areas needing their talents. A localizer must able to adapt to a wide range of activities ranging from literary to the highly technical.
In marketing, localization is a crucial milestone for any company wishing to export. The first step is to internationalize a product by removing any trace of its original nationality, and then target it at a new culture through the process of localization. The product should appeal to each customer as if it had been made for them alone. The more it relates to the consumer’s personality, not only in language but also in its cultural references and plays on words, the more likely the user is to purchase it.
Localization touches on a wide range of domains including, but certainly not limited to, smartphone apps, advertizing, software, websites, all types of multimedia content, as well as technical, medical, legal and scientific documents, user manuals, brochures of all sorts, guides for events, people or places, and especially all that is not directly word-based, such as date/time formats, currencies, icons, colors, units of measure, etc.
For example, car dealerships change the speed notations to either km/h or mph depending on the place their cars are sold; filters on the world-famous Snapchat app show the names of cities where the user is located; online payment sites display currencies based on a user’s country; in advertizing, localizers rework slogans so that users from the target country can identify with them through cultural references and plays on words; the name of a famous U.S. restaurant chain might be replaced with one more known elsewhere, etc.
Translating software is also commonly handled by localizers. In this context, they have to be mindful of and adjust items like country flags, language codes, graphics, dropdown menus, etc. As in translation, it’s important to meticulously observe the design fundamentals chosen by the program’s creators, as well as strictly follow the rules in terms of copyright, confidentiality and data protection.
Localization goes even further than translation since it often involves taking regional differences into account. There are many variants of Spanish and Chinese, for example, and it’s important to adopt the Chinese vocabulary used in accordance with these linguistic variations.