Avoid Embarrassing Your Whole Business With These Localization Faux Pas

By Translator Thoughts
In Localization
Dec 17th, 2016

Going international is a huge step for a lot of businesses. It can open up the ways to all sorts of markets and even help them find a stronger foothold in another country than they have in their home. But there are a lot of businesses that just get it wrong and crash the whole move. If you don’t want to waste your time and your resources, you’re going to need to a moment to plan things out a bit better.

Avoid Embarrassing Your Whole Business With These Localization Faux Pas


Don’t miss the little details

If your business is entirely online, you might think that it’s a lot easier to simply translate everything from one market to the next. For one, you need to think just beyond the content, the visuals, and the big marketing pushes. You need to think of all the little tricks you use in your marketing and how you translate them. From your site graphics to crucial elements of online marketing like search engine optimization. It’s not always as simple as using the same words you use for your own SEO and translating them. Different terms and figures of speech might apply more relevantly to your services than a direct translation. So make sure you’re not missing the little details.


Localize, don’t translate

Overall, you don’t want a plain translation of everything you’re writing. For one, idioms are an absolute minefield. When they get taken literally in another language and don’t make sense to them, it can be a marketing disaster. Don’t hoist yourself on your own petard by relying on idioms like that. Don’t just get it translated. Get it properly localized so it makes sense and communicates well to your new market. Localization teams like Bilingua Franca are worth considering because they know more than the language. They know the people and how they use the language. Rely too much on auto-translation tools and you’re leaving your business at a much higher risk of speaking nothing but gibberish to the people you’re trying to win over.


Don’t ignore the cultural barriers

Language isn’t the only thing worth considering, either. Globalization might seem like it’s helping us all develop one mindset, but you’re going to be suffering some serious cultural dissonance if you assume that there aren’t going to be any cultural barriers between you and your market. For instance, a lot of countries have different takes on certain aspects of personality, as well as taboos on things like public displays of romance or even hints of violence. For the most basic of examples, an advertisement for a car showing the driver on the left side would immediately look wrong to people in countries where the driver sits in the right side of the car. Make sure you have a good idea of the cultural connotations of your marketing.

It’s not as simple as offering the exact same thing in a different language. You need to know the place that you’re spreading your marketing too. You need to have people who know the language more in-depth than Google translate and know the culture for longer than a vacation’s worth of time.


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About "" Has 25 Posts

TranslatorThoughts is a blog about Translation, Interpreting, Languages and Freelancing. Featuring articles from a variety of authors, interviews, tips and much more. If you want to contribute, write an email at contact@translatorThoughts.com

2 Responses to “Avoid Embarrassing Your Whole Business With These Localization Faux Pas”

  1. Wei Shan says:

    The don’ts you mentioned here provide simple but essential guidance on business localization.

    Localization has become the major factor in the acceptance and success of products or services in the global market and has included not only translation but also adaptation to the target market. (Esselink, 2000) Just like you said even little details need to be adjusted in the lexical, cultural and even visual perspectives according to different market backgrounds, rather than simply translate everything. Translations is an irreplaceable activity in localization. (Esslink, 2000) Traditional translation has changed into screen-based, digital and multimedia under the force of the advances in information technology. (Ko & Chen). I do agree with you that localization teams can be a professional and reliable choice to avoid localization faux pas. A good international business result requires not only the fully understanding of the source material and the accuracy of the rendering, but also special focus on cultural nuance (little things). It also reminds me of glocalisation, which emphasis the harmony between local market and global considerations. (Ko & Chen) Well-localized product can maximize the user group in the target market and in that way, can maximize the profit relates to it, and this is the final goal that every company wants to achieve.

    Thanks for sharing this content.

    • Erica Lim says:

      Hi Wei, I love how you have mentioned about Glocalisation, which is a combination of globalisation and localisation. It is indeed very important for businesses to hire a translator and/or a marketing manager that truly understand both sides of the culture and ways of saying things. Even different areas within a nation often speak different dialects, so it is definitely risky for businesses to just make assumptions before making any marketing research.

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