Localization Basics: A Must-Know Guide for Beginners

by Lilt  Han Mai, Associate Director, Demand Generation  ·  Localization, Translation, Cultural Nuances, Localization Tools, Quality Assurance, Compliance

For translation beginners: localization is the process of adapting content to fit the specific needs of a region. It involves much more than simply translating words from one language to another. Effective localization considers cultural norms, expressions, and values to ensure the content is appropriate and relatable. It also involves addressing linguistic nuances, such as slang, idioms, and language structure, to maintain the original message's intent and tone. 

On the technical side, localization includes adapting formats for dates, times, currencies, and addresses, as well as ensuring compatibility with local devices and software. In this guide, we’ll share 8 steps outlining how localization makes content more accessible and engaging for your target audience.

1. Localization vs. Translation

  • Translation: Converting text from one language to another while maintaining meaning.

  • Localization: Adapting content to fit the target audience's cultural, linguistic, and contextual nuances.

2. Understanding Your Audience 

  • Be aware of cultural norms, taboos, and preferences. Understand local customs, traditions, beliefs, holidays, and values that might affect content. 

  • Identify your target audience for the localized product or service. Consider their language, culture, preferences, and technical literacy.

3. Adapting to Local Preferences

  • Localization involves tailoring content to meet local preferences, such as using appropriate colors, images, and symbols that resonate with the target audience. 

    • Differentiate between regional variants (e.g., British English vs. American English).

  • Be aware of cultural nuances that can impact the translation. This includes local dialect, slang, humor, metaphors, symbols, and colors. 

    • For instance, a red rose might symbolize love in the West, but in China, it can symbolize passion or good luck.

4. Handling Date, Time, and Conversion Units

  • Localizing date and time formats, including calendars, time zones, and holidays, is crucial to avoid confusion and ensure accuracy. 

    • For example, dates are written in YYYY-MM-DD format in many Asian countries, but in MM-DD-YYYY format in the United States.

  • Adapt currencies and measurement units to ensure seamless translation. 

  • Pay attention to formatting and design elements that might need to be adjusted for the target locale. 

5. Considering Legal and Regulatory Requirements

  • Localization should adhere to legal and regulatory standards specific to the target market, including privacy laws, labeling requirements, and product regulations. 

  • Understand local laws regarding content, especially for marketing, product information, and privacy policies.

  • Compliance with these standards ensures that your business operations are lawful and your products are accepted in the local market.

6. Localization Tools and Technology

  • Utilizing localization tools and technology can streamline the process and improve efficiency. Consider technical aspects of localization, such as character encoding, software compatibility, and keyboard layouts.

    • Invest in translation management systems (TMS) and computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools to ensure a smooth localization workflow, or an orchestration layer like LILT to manage your complex multilingual content processes. 

  • Ensure text fits within the design constraints of software, websites, and apps.

  • Consider text expansion or contraction during translation.

  • Maintain consistency in terminology and phrasing.

7. Testing and Quality Assurance

  • Thorough testing and quality assurance processes are essential to ensure accuracy, consistency, and functionality of the localized content.

    • Implement processes for proofreading and editing. Conduct in-country reviews and user testing.

    • Create and use glossaries for consistent terminology.

    • Follow style guides for tone, voice, and formatting.

    • Localize images, graphics, and multimedia content.

    • Ensure that symbols and icons are culturally appropriate.

    • Learn about the target culture through immersion and research.

8. Conclusion

  • By following these localization basics, translation beginners can enhance their understanding and effectively adapt content to resonate with diverse audiences.

    • Plan for multiple iterations and feedback loops.

    • Coordinate with other teams (development, marketing, legal).

    • Maintain clear and consistent communication with clients and team members.

    • Understand project requirements and expectations thoroughly.

By mastering these basics, you’ll be well-prepared to embark on your translation and localization journey with confidence.