Companies going international have to consider more things aside from making their businesses succeed in their chosen markets. With the level of competition higher and the number of competitors larger and more diverse, they have to do more to stand out, to be unique and to be considered a ''local'' company.
Getting the look and feel of being local takes a lot of strategic planning and involves people with different skills sets, both from the company and third party suppliers. The process is called localization, which means adapting to the culture of the target locale or audience. Several types of localization are utilized, including:
- Video games
- Product information
- Mobile applications
- Tech support pages
- Help files
What is localization?
Localization, shortened as l10n is the act of adjusting the characteristics and functional properties of a product to fit a foreign country or the market's legal, political, cultural and language dissimilarities. It means adapting the content or product to a particular market or locale. Localization goes beyond translation, which becomes one of the elements in the process of localization.
The objective of localization is to provide a product the feel and look of being specifically created for the target locale, regardless of location, culture and language.
Scope of localization
Localization is a more involved process under the umbrella of translation. Aside from ensuring the accurate translation of all information into the target language, it is concerned with several other things such as:
- Adapting all graphics to the preferences of the target audiences
- Modifying all content to fit the consumption habits and tastes of target markets
- Adapting layout and design so translated text can be properly displayed
- Converting elements, such as units of measure and currencies to local requisites
- Using the right local formats for phone numbers, addresses and dates
- Addressing all legal requirements and local regulations.
Professional translation providers help companies and businesses, government and organizations effectively communicate to their global audiences through localization. They ensure that the clients' content sensitively adapts to the culture of the target market and presented in the proper language understood by their local audiences.
In language localization, the translation itself is the component that consumes more time. For example:
- If the localization is for video, audio and film, the translation of music lyrics or spoken words would be done either through subtitles or dubbing
- Translation is needed to change the text of all printed materials and digital media, which may include documentation and error messages
- Logos and images containing text that should be translated might need alteration or replaced with more generic icons and pictures
- The design of a website or written content may be altered to provide the right space for the differences in the sizes of characters and the differences in translation length
- For translation of audio materials, localization will have to consider the difference in variety, register and specific dialect
- Consideration for writing conventions for number formats, such as grouping of digits and decimal separator
- Consideration for time and date format, including the use of a different calendar
- Standard data of the target locale
Let us delve into things deeper so you can understand the many differences localization has to consider in order for the localized materials, whether they are a website, products, product information or written documents will look specifically like one of the locals.
- Different writing systems use different scripts or characters. They can be symbols, logograms, syllograms (syllabic symbols) or letters. The writing direction may differ as well, as some go from left to right (European languages) and right to left (Arabic and Hebrew) or in boustrophedon scripts (one line goes left, next line goes right or vice versa). Some Asian languages can be written vertically.
- The presentation uses a complex text layout, with the characters of a language changing shape based on the context. There are languages where capitalization is required, which may not be present in other languages. Different sorting rules for text also exist in different writing systems and languages.
- The translator doing the localization must likewise consider that some languages use a different set of numeral system.
- Attention to detail is essential as the pluralization and other rules of grammar of other languages vary.
- The use of punctuations may vary as well. The French language uses guillemets in some publications. It is similar to the double quotes used in English.
- Economic conventions vary from country to county, such as in paper sizes, favorite storage media, broadcast TV systems, phone number formats, delivery services, postal codes and formats of postal addresses. Include the currency symbols, position and use of currency markers, measurement systems, sizes of batteries and electric current and voltage standards.
- There could be variations in providers of payment services, weather reports and presentation of online maps from third party providers.
- Translators should carefully consider variations in time zones.
- Legal requirements vary, so there could be some customization of the product or change the product entirely to fit a specific country's regulatory compliance, such as:
- Compliance with privacy laws
- More disclaimers on packaging or website
- Different requirements on consumer labeling
- Regulations on encryption and export restriction compliance
- Conformity with subpoena procedures or Internet censorship
- Accessibility requirements
- Tax collections (customs duties, value added tax, sales tax)
- Localization must exercise sensitivity to political issues such as disputed borders, and disputes in geographical naming.
- Consideration for numbers assigned by other governments, such as national identification numbers, Social Security Numbers and passport.
- The translator should take into account local holiday, title conventions and personal name conventions, aesthetics, the appropriateness of colors and images, local architecture, people's socioeconomic status, clothing and ethnicity.
- Care should be given to local customs, along with local conventions such as superstitions, local religions and social taboos.
The process of localization
Once you have decided to go global, your translation management process should include an understanding of the localization process. This will help you make informed decisions when creating and executing the roadmap for your type of localization need, whether it's a website, audio/video materials, software, games or other types of documents. It is important to note at this point that it is better to hire a localization team from a reputable translation company to work with you from the beginning.
Here are the steps:
- Set your goals. Have a clear target, determine milestones and create the criteria for acceptance. Ensure that all stakeholders understand the goals of the localization.
- Evaluate the resources, efforts as well as the tools you need. From the evaluation, you can create and estimate schedule and make a dependency analysis.
- Create a linguistic, technical and cultural assessment, ensuring that you analyze each aspect.
- Check the architecture of the software and the code localization.
- Extract the original content or files. Use the tools necessary to get all the translatable content from the raw materials you have extracted.
- Determine the workload estimates. Generate a statistics report so you can analyze all your source materials to pinpoint the baseline for starting the translation.
- Reuse the existing translations you have. Create and maintain a glossary of terminologies you use
- Translate all vital materials into the target language/s.
- Adapt the user interface (website, video games, software) to match the translation and other differences generated by the localization, such as direction of text, size of space, sizes of buttons).
- Localize the graphics and other media that contain visible symbols or text that were not localized in earlier steps.
- Compile and build all the localized files. These files are to be tested so the results can be immediately viewed and required fixes can be done.
- Check for linguistic quality. Consistency, fluency and style of the translations should be double-checked.
- Functional testing and verification to ensure that the content or any localized material performs as expected.
- Delivery of localized content or software to the client.
- Launch of the localized website, content, software, etc.
With the world getting smaller through globalization, services are getting varied, especially electronic or e-services. In all certainty you have encountered some e-services, such as e-commerce, electronic payment systems, e-learning, online shopping and other services available over the Internet.
E-services provide businesses access to a wider customer base thus increasing their market reach. The entry barrier into other markets and the cost of getting new customers are lowered while businesses provide their new and existing customers another communication channel. E-services allow the provision of more services, which can enhance the image of the company and build a competitive edge. Some e-services platforms provide consumer data analytics.
Since you are reaching audiences from different locales, localization is critical for e-services, due to the following:
- It can increase your market share and improve or enhance your revenue.
- It can ease cultural sensitivity.
- It enables you to gain better rapport with your target consumers.
- It provides you with better advantage over competition.
- It greatly strengthens your global presence.
- It enables you to talk to your target consumers in the language they understand.
- It makes you look and feel local.
Video game localization
In the same manner that it is imperative to localize your content, information, programs and documents, localizing video games gives you a greater edge, as consumers want to play games they can fully understand. In India for example, they love racing games because it is very difficult for them to find other types of video games available in their language. With racing games, they have an easier time understanding and navigating the game even if they cannot fully understand the language.
Here's a brief look at how video game localization is done.
1. Audit of materials
Perform an audit of all the materials for localization, such as text files, documentation, instructions and artwork. The translators involved in the localization could also try to play the game in the source language so they have an idea of the story, dialogues, characters, menus and other elements of the game.
Start of localization, which could take weeks or months, depending on the number of translators and localization experts, editors and the volume of materials, which may be in different types.
Depending on the arrangement, the editors or the original developer of the game will program the translated and localized texts into the game.
4. Quality Control
Once the developers have produced a playable version of the localized game, the quality control process starts. Editors and other stakeholders will verify that no grammatical and spelling errors, wayward text and other inconsistencies appear at any given point in the game and other system problems surfacing such as issues with graphics and sound.
5. Manufacturer's approval
Manufacturer's representatives would verify that the localized contents of the video game fit the needs and requirements of the original video game.
Movies are distributed to different markets around the world, viewed by a variety of audiences speaking various languages. While it is very expensive to shoot the entire movie in a different language to fit other markets, localization is a more efficient and cost-effective means to localize movies.
There are two methods to localize movies and videos. One is by dubbing and the other is by adding subtitles.
- In dubbing, voice actors replace the original dialogue in other languages. Timing is critical in dubbing, as the new script should match movements and speech of each character in the movie.
- In subtitling, the spoken lines are translated and placed at the bottom of the screen, generally occupying the center position. Subtitling requires precision, as the number of characters and the length of time the subtitles appear on screen are limited. The subtitles should be synchronized with the characters' actions and dialogue.
In localizing movies, the translator or localizer must fully understand the target audience's cultural perception because ideas and objects have different meaning in different countries. They should understand the connotations of animals, food, gestures and colors. It is important to choose the voice actors as well. Voice actors who are popular with the target audiences add more value and acceptance to localized movies. The most important thing is not to offend the target audiences and ensure compliance with censorship guidelines.
Other types of localization
Localization covers various types of written documents and multimedia materials. For global businesses, one of the most important elements to localize is the brand/product website. As you enter a different market with a different culture, language, consumers as well as socioeconomic and political conditions, you need to appear local and not stand out for being ''foreign.'' You have to adapt your website to the local market.
Other materials that need localization are mobile apps so you gain traction in other markets and more users. In much the same way, most software should be localized as well, to ensure that users would have an easy time following instructions, navigating and using the program.
Expert assistance in localization
When you are ready to localize your brand or product, you have a reliable and trustworthy partner in Day Translations, Inc. We have more than 10 years' experience in the industry and we've helped several multinational clients with their localization requirements. We understand the strict requirements needed for localization services, which is why we only work with native speakers and subject matter experts. It's to ensure the highest quality and accuracy of our work. Whenever you are ready to start your localization project, give us a call at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email at Contact us. You can reach us anytime as we are open 24/7, each day of the year.