Culture plays a crucial role in the translation and localization projects for international businesses. The company’s reputation rests on the appropriate translation of documents and the correct localization of their websites. Taking notice of cultural considerations largely helps in contextualizing translations.
As it is, translation is not about the word-for-word lexical substitution. Translation considers various factors to be effective. One of them is culture. It is essential to understand that some elements, such as words, colors and images that are acceptable in one country or culture can cause a risky breach of legality in a different culture.
In most translation and localization work, translators have to be careful about concepts and topics such as religion, sexual orientation and civil status. For a company conducting international business, they should be cautious about miscommunicating such issues that seem commonplace in some countries.
One good example of a lack of foresight, research and understanding of the local culture and its sensitivities is the Xbox game called Kakuto Chojin: Back Alley Brutal, created by Dream Publishing and Microsoft Game Studios published it in 2002. The game was released in 2003, and it used verses from the Qur’an that as background chants. The Qur’an is central to the lives of the Muslims, and they accord it the utmost respect. They did not take kindly to the game literally using the word of God in a game that does not give it deference. Thus, the company had to recall the game, suffering a loss of sales from regular and potential buyers.
If the companies have done their research and have taken the time to learn that fully understanding the local cultures of the foreign markets where they are going to sell their products, they could have avoided not only the loss of revenue but also the deep dent in their reputation.
Therefore, when doing translation or localization, it is crucial for the translators to look at all the cultures that may directly use or read the translation. The most fundamental step to ensure that the translation is going to make a positive effect is to have the material adapt to all the cultural requisites of the target language.
Effects of localization on language translation
When you localize the language, you modify it so that it adapts to the target country’s culture, local customs and the expectations of the target audience. In some regions, for example, religion is a difficult topic to translate and in some cases, even the translations that have something to do with clothing, especially for women, should be carefully written, particularly for those in the Middle Eastern regions such as the United Arab Emirates where there is a strict dress code for women.
Spontaneity, for example, such as in letting your hair down so you can feel the wind blow through it, such as in scenes in car campaign concepts, needs expert localization methods when run in countries where men and women are required to wear face, head and hair covers. This may be an extreme example, but it does illustrate that it is crucial for international companies and translators to understand cultural considerations fully. Failure to do so can have an immediate impact on the company’s reputation.
A company ventures overseas to capture a broader market, therefore it is vital for every aspect of going global to include the local culture in the marketing plan. Before that, the company should conduct a careful study and analysis of the target country and target consumers.
When you talk about culture, you talk about the combination of knowledge and attributes of a specific group. The qualities or features are those related to customs, traditions and language to art, music, religion, cooking, health and lifestyle. Culture has visible and invisible parts. Some of the visible parts include the food they eat, the way they dress and the way they speak.
It takes time and effort to learn and appreciate the invisible part of someone’s culture, such as the way they think, their beliefs, their stand on religion and how they feel. These hidden aspects are the most important because they dictate how receptive the target audience is to the messages and marketing strategies of a company.
Humans and language have a very close relationship, and interpretation and translations are the best tools to facilitate understanding among people around the world.
Translators must be culture experts. They should have thorough respect and understanding of different cultures (or at least the culture and customs of the people speaking the source and target languages). They must also be knowledgeable of the most effective ways to say things appropriately to deliver the client’s messages effectively. They have to do more than merely change the source language with the target language. They have to provide the proper meaning of the content in a way that it is acceptable to the target audience.
Cultural expertise extends to cultural sensitivity and awareness. Culture encompasses nationality, religion, ethnicity and language. While cultural diversity is beneficial, it affects the work of translators, since they do not have direct control over who has access to the translation or localization.
How culture affects a business
The success or failure of your overseas business ventures depends on your understanding of the importance of culture and recognizing its vital role in your target customers’ lives. You cannot afford to forget about this critical ingredient of your website otherwise your marketing campaign is doomed from the start. As a new entry in an existing market, it is your responsibility to attract as many potential consumers as possible. Without understanding their cultural preferences, you are likely to offend or alienate your intended market instead of gaining their attention and winning their patronage.
Language and culture go together, and if you want to explore foreign markets, you need to understand local culture as well as speak their language, through translation and localization. It will be good for your business if you pay attention to the target country’s customs and cultural differences.
Understanding local culture helps you to formulate and implement effective marketing strategies. You cannot import the strategy you use in your home country into another country that is culturally different from yours, because it would be impractical and ill-fitting to your target audience.
What happens when the business fails to consider the local culture?
Businesses need to understand that consumer behaviors in different cultures and locations are shaped by their values, preferences, attitudes and economies. For you to gain entry into a foreign marketplace and win the patronage of foreign consumers, you have to time your product release, create a tailor fit marketing strategy, translate information and localize your website. Your success hinge on how well you understand the local consumers, which means that you should take the time to study not only your targets’ demographics but also the local culture.
Failure to acknowledge cultural considerations will likely lead to the following:
- Loss of confidence and faith in your company and product
- Negative reactions from the public and consumer backlash
- Negative reactions to your brand and bad publicity
- Loss of customers, sales opportunities and revenue
- Possible breach of local legislation and retaliatory lawsuits
The lack of cultural sensitivity and awareness is exemplified by the movie poster for an indie film released in 2004 – Hollywood Buddha – that showed a man sitting on top of a Buddha image’s head. The Thai audience and well as Buddhists and monks in Sri Lanka, Burma and Malaysia launched public protests and voiced their anger over the poster. The producers failed to understand that every part of a Buddha statue is sacred to Buddhists.
What should a company do?
If your goal for your business is to go global, you should consider all the aspects of the culture of your target markets in the development, marketing campaign and web design for your product.
For efficiency and accuracy of the translation and localization, you should hire a professional and experience language services provider with highly qualified translators who are native speakers of the target language/s. The translators should have in-depth knowledge of local culture to enable them to translate specific phrases, idioms, concepts, slang and expressions. It is also essential to hire a web designer that is familiar with localization concepts and the cultural requirements of the target audience.
The right method to handle cultural considerations for international business translation or localization is to collaborate with a professional translation agency. Choose one with a good track record of delivering accurate and appropriate translations in the target countries and languages. Carefully considering all aspects of preparing for entry into the global business arena helps to maintain your high credibility and good reputation of your company.
Day Translations, Inc. has worked with several international corporations that demand the highest quality of translation and localization work. Our team of native speaking professional translators and subject matter experts are located in-country, so they fully understand not only the nuances of the language but also the cultural preferences and requirements. For your translation and localization needs, call us at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email at Contact us at your convenience. We are open 24/7, every day of the year so you do not have to wait when you have an urgent need for language services..
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