Content localization is the process of adapting content for geographic or cultural differences. Content localization is an important part of localization (often referred to as L10N), which is the process of adapting a product or service for a specific area.
Thanks to the Internet, content localization is no longer the domain of mega corporations bent on world domination. Today, everyone from individual entrepreneurs to local food manufacturers can tailor their text to reach a global audience. And for some organizations, content localization is the only form of localization that is necessary or economically viable.
Unfortunately, content localization is often confused with word-for-word translation. While translation can be a crucial part of the content localization process, it doesn’t bridge cultural differences between source documents and end readers. Instead, the content itself may have to be rewritten in the secondary language. For example, gender references may need to be changed or even eliminated for countries with strict gender roles. Other issues to consider include political, religious, and socioeconomic differences; cultural associations with colors; food preferences or restrictions; and fashion preferences or restrictions.
In addition, translation isn’t always required. In many cases, specific information just needs to be tailored for the intended audience. For example, if you are a Chicago-based watercolor artist who primarily sells prints to art lovers in England, you don’t have to use British spelling on your website—your fans across the pond probably enjoy your twist on the Queen’s English just as much as we Americans are fascinated by the accents on Downton Abby. However, your online catalog should show prices in pounds and dollars and clearly disclose international shipping charges or additional instructions for overseas returns.
In my next post, I’ll discuss specific content you may want to localize and share a few tips for getting the most out of the process.
Until then, cheerio!