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August 12, 2020By legaltranslationsTranslations Skills

Why Localisation Matters in Translation

The translation industry has not been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic as much as some industries despite the almost complete disappearance of international travel and tourism. Trade continues all over the world. Manufacturers make things, distributors distribute them, and wholesalers and retailers sell these goods. Scientists and medical professionals are as busy, perhaps busier than they ever were. Governments and private organizations have adapted their normal activities to suit the new normal.

For all of this activity there continues to be a demand for accurate translation services. Translators everywhere are needed to translate health information, government edicts and rules, manuals for new products, business correspondence, legal contracts, and marketing material. These are just a few examples of where the translation is essential.


    What is the localization and why is it important in translation?

    Localization is a term used to describe the adaptation of translated material so that it is better understood or resonates better with its intended target readership. Localization means adapting text so that it is better suited to a particular cultural group, or dialect of the language to be translated. Localization is most appropriate for translation used in marketing and less appropriate or important for technical translation.

    To take a simple example, Central and South American Spanish is a little different from European Spanish. Not a lot, but as different, say, as American English is to the U.K. or Australian English. If a German manufacturer intends to sell goods in Mexico or Argentina and employs translators to translate any accompanying documentation or marketing material from German to Spanish, it should be localized to ensure the language and idioms used are suitable for Latin American Spanish readers and not people who live in Madrid.

    Cultural nuances are as important as differences in dialect. Marketing messages have in the past made many mistakes when advertising material was translated by translators who had little cultural awareness of the people for which the material was intended to inform. This is because colloquialisms, used a lot in marketing, are often very specific to a particular culture. What might resonate in the originating cultural context may be downright rude or insulting in the target cultural context if the text is literally translated. Even brand names sometimes have to be adjusted as the names may mean something hilarious, rude, or just plain odd when used in a different cultural context.

    The problem of cultural and linguistic insensitivity has been exacerbated to a certain extent by the ready availability of internet tools that translate text at the click of a mouse. It can be very tempting for businesses venturing into the field of international markets for the first time to cut corners on the cost of translating and use translation software to do the work for them. Why not? It’s free! The problem is that not only does the translation tool do a poor job at translating, but it also is not set up to localize the product, setting up the translated text for double blunders. This option tends to be not as cheap as the business who tries using it might have wished for. The marketing message inevitably seems crude, or clumsy and amateurish. It may be a complete turn-off, wasting precious time, and delivering a market to a savvier competitor.

    What’s the answer?

    Businesses intending to market their goods overseas should choose a professional translator with a good working knowledge of the cultural environment that is being targeted with the expansion of the business. This will certainly be a more expensive option than using a free internet tool, but the more accurate and localized translation will pay dividends in the long run with a better appreciation and greater sales in the new market that has been targeted.

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