Localisation: what you need to know

Jan 12, 2018 | Language, Localisation

For applications that provide the user with a personal and often fairly intense experience such as websites games or marketing material, you need to do more than just translate – you need to localise. What does this mean?

Know your audience

Basically, localisation is translation plus full adaptation to the target culture and the target market.

Let’s start with translation itself. You have your website or game translated into the target language. But what version of the language? If you have a rather formal site – for example, one advertising corporate legal services – then a formal version of the target language would probably be appropriate. But if your product is informal, such as a dating website, then you’d probably want it translated into a more casual language. And, if it’s extremely informal – something like a youth-oriented site specializing in pop music – then you’d probably be aiming for something very informal and slangy. If you don’t pay attention to the type or level of the target language, you could wind up with a corporate law site that’s heavy on slang, or a pop-culture site for kids written in dry, academic language.

You also need to consider regional issues – do you want to take about the ‘boot’ of a car, or its ‘trunk’. Are you translating into French for Paris, or French for Montreal? Are you aiming for a Spanish-speaking audience in Madrid, Mexico City, or Buenos Aires? Remember – the ‘local’ in localise means local.

Language is just the beginning

Localisation starts with language, but it doesn’t end there. What system of measurements does your target market use? What kind of currency? What side of the street do they drive on? What colour are the lights on a police car? Do people leave tips at restaurants? Are some things just too impolite to talk about? How do teachers conduct discussions in the classroom, and do they have discussions at all? Localisation may need to address all of these questions and more.

Games: handle with care

For games, localisation may be even trickier. The actual space available for a given string of text, both in source code and on the screen, may be severely limited, and you may need to adapt the appearance or dress of the characters to match the local audience. Do you translate incidental text in the on-screen graphics, such as a street sign, a billboard, or the inscription at the base of a statue, as well as the on-screen commands?

Do you know what’s acceptable and what is taboo in terms of sex, violence, supernatural phenomena, religious and political symbols, local or national politics in your target market? Is there spoken dialogue? You’ll be dealing with voice actors, and dubbing and synchronization issues. What about your soundtrack? Does it suit local tastes? Have you secured local rights to use the music, or any brand names, trademarks, or proprietary images? And what the game itself? Is the story right for the target market? Does the style of play appeal to local gamers?

When questions such as these may determine the success or failure of your product, localisations isn’t an option – it’s a necessity.

For help with the localisation of your content, please get in touch with us today by giving us a call on 0330 058 0251 or by requesting a quote here. 

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