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Localization is a more specialized branch of translation. It may even be used when one dialect of a language is converted into another dialect, e.g. U.K. English to U.S. English, or even when a standard message is modified to suit a particular subset or niche readership who actually speaks the same language, e.g. a marketing message or website that was originally designed for older adults but has been revamped to suit teenagers.

What is content localization?

Content localization is a refinement of translation that helps to make whatever content has been translated more readily understood or more readily appreciated by the target readership. At a very basic level, it converts things like currency, measurement units, and time zones to those used by the target population. It helps to avoid confusion, ridicule, or disgust when words are literally translated without thought to what the literally translated words might actually mean in another language. It helps to convert official language into more readily understood dialects and colloquial usage. 

Content localization is not used very much (apart from units, etc.) when the translation of scientific, medical, or technical documents is done. Official documents like birth and marriage certificates also don’t need to be ‘localized’. However, some legal documents may need to be localized to take into account differences in legal systems and terminology. Much marketing and literary translation use localization techniques because of sharper differences in language usage.

Build a content localization strategy

1. Analyze your target markets and languages

Content localization may or may not be necessary. Whether it does or not depends on a careful analysis of the target market and the language(s) used by this market. It all depends heavily on the sort of content you want to translate. As explained above, marketing material is one of the most common types of content that requires a localization strategy. New apps such as those used on mobile devices will also need a localization strategy.  

2. Select what you want to localize

Localization isn’t just replacing text with text that will be more readily understood and appreciated by the target market. It includes images, colors, video content, slogans, and brand names. This means using localization services that really have both feet firmly planted in the target population and the originating population so that misunderstandings and potential anger do not occur.

3. Find the right translation agency

Many translation agencies and individual freelance translators specialize in one branch of translation or another. Not all translators offer localisation services in addition to the standard translation. This means that you really need to know what level of localization you need before actually looking for a suitable translation agency. Note that localization will cost more than just straightforward translation, so again if you don’t need localization done, don’t ask for it! 

In some cases, you may need to seek out a translation agency to do the bulk of the content translation, then use a specialist localization team to convert this translated content into suitably localized material.

Conclusion

Localization is a form of specialist translation which makes content more acceptable and appreciated by some target markets. It is particularly important for marketing content, although basic localization may be necessary for a lot of quite varied content. It is important to find an agency that specializes in localizing content, not just one that does the standard translation.