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Going Global: A Complete Guide to Localization in Translation


Localization in translation is the process of adapting the translation of a certain text to the target audience in a way that suits the culture of the target audience. It has many benefits and specific techniques and requirements. There is a difference between localization and the simple process of translation and it takes professionals to be able to deliver high-quality localization results. 

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What is localization?

Localization is making one thing local and adapted to a specific audience, and in some cases, restricting it. Localization can be used in selling items and products around the world for example. Each product and item is called to be designed in a way that suits the target audience. Even the packaging can and should be localized sometimes.

Moreover, localization is highly used in translation.

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What is translation?

Translation is the process of conveying content from one language to another. Translation has many subcategories such as subtitling, localization, transcreation, and transliteration. There are many approaches to translation that are used based on the needs, demands, and purposes. Translation usually aims at reaching a wide audience, and it is used in all fields that include business, psychology, literature, legal, medical, economics, finance, engineering, IT, media, and many more.

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What is localization in translation?

Localization in translation means adapting the content of whatever product and field to the target audiences’ country or region. Adaption means taking into consideration the cultural backgrounds of the country or the specific region and the beliefs, history, and preferences of the specific target audiences. Localization is one of the best extensions in translation because it makes everything appeal to the audience and it makes sure that what is being read is relatable and appropriate.

Localization in translation can be used in nearly everything, including marketing since it guarantees a relatable outcome, ads, websites, captions, titles, articles, blogs, reports, movies, series, brands, descriptions, services, products, media, journalism, gaming, entertainment, and more. Localization is the only way that ensures an outcome that will touch the target audiences’ hearts.

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What is the difference between translation and localization?

While translation means the process of transforming contents from one language to another one, the localization process is way more wide-reaching since there are many factors that are taken into consideration. Translation can be applied to technical content that doesn’t usually face problems regarding adaptation. However, localization is used to make the content well-adapted and translated in a way that fits the target audiences.

The localization process is based on many factors that include cultural backgrounds, sensitive topics, history, preferences, norms, beliefs, religion, etc. The content should be translated in a way that is acceptable and doesn’t have consequences. It is used to appeal to the target audiences and to make them relate to what they’re reading and/or buying, while translation only consists of conveying the meaning in another language. Localization is mostly used in marketing, media, ads, gaming, the business world as a whole, etc. Whereas translation is typical for fields such as legal and medical.

What is content localization?

Content localization is content translation and adaptation. It consists of transforming the content from one language into another one in a way that is understandable and relatable to markets of the target language. Content localization is used by nearly all successful business owners and individuals who wish to expand and reach wider audiences. This is because it guarantees adapted and suitable content that fits into different countries and regions.

Importance of localization in translation

Localization is usually what gives the translation a deeper meaning that is tailored based on specific preferences and cultures. The benefits of localization in the translation are many since they play a major part in the quality of the translation as it won’t sound as if it’s translated in the first place. Marketers can use localization to adapt the products or services in a way that makes sense in the target language.

Even the slogans that are used and brands are called to be localized because not all slogans have the same meaning in different countries. Localization boosts the audience reach which results in a higher income. It is the only way that guarantees that the content travels around the world in an appropriate and adapted way.

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Skills of localizers

To be a localizer, one has to have some specific skills and qualifications, which include:

  • Fluency in all languages they work in.
  • Research abilities and the ability to understand all contents and products that need to be localized.
  • Time management skills. They have to know how to manage their time and always meet deadlines.
  • Emotional intelligence because localizers should know all about sensitive aspects of the target audiences.
  • Close attention to details. Localizers should pay close attention to all cultural details, nuances, linguistic differences, and more. This is to ensure a good outcome.
  • Ability to use CAT tools since they are an integral part of translation and localization
  • Responsiveness. Localizers should be responsive and easy-going.
  • Strong communication skills. These skills make it easier for both the localizer and the client.

Difference between globalization and localization

Localization is the adaptation of specific content, a resource, or a product to fit in a specific country or region. Whereas globalization is the adaptation of a precise content or resource in a way to fit multiple locales, cultures, regions, and countries at once. Globalization is on a wider scale and is suitable for more than one country or region at the same time.

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Localization VS standardization

Standardization brings into focus a specific standard to ensure regularity and consistency. Standardization offers brand consistency and high-quality content in every single market, while localization approaches each market at an individual level. Their use can differ based on the different kinds of business and purposes.

Localization VS lateralization

Language is mainly both localized and lateralized in the brain. However, lateralization means that one hemisphere of the brain, which is the left one, shows better engagement in the functions of the language than the other one that is on the right.

Localization is the principle that means that the functions of the body have specific locations in specific organs or parts of the body. This means that languages are localized in the brain, and are lateralized in the left hemisphere.

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Localization techniques

When it comes to localization techniques, it usually depends on the content and the field. However, there are localization techniques that should be used no matter the content and the field. These techniques include:

  • Know the target audience.
  • SEO localization in the case of website localization. It guarantees that the website is recognized and that it ranks first while conducting research.
  • Test the content to know how the audiences will receive it and react to it.
  • Conduct thorough research to know all about the minor details that could play a major part in the outcome.
  • Carefully read the source content and set a plan to know exactly what needs to be changed and how it should be changed.
  • Use useful translation and localization tools and resources to ensure a high-quality outcome that doesn’t contain any terms or sentences that might not make sense in the target language.
  • Know all the connotations of all the terms and words that are being used.
  • Read about the topic you want to localize carefully before starting.
  • Ask questions and refer to native friends who can help out with the process.
  • Always know what you’re localizing and don’t choose the terms randomly.
  • Avoid literal translation.
  • Translating in a way that fits the target country and culture.

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Localization requirements

To ensure an outcome that is up to scratch, there are some requirements that the localizer should take into consideration to meet the purpose of localization. Therefore, to make sure they produce a high-standard outcome, localizers should meet the following criteria:

  • Fluent in all languages they localize from and into. This is because they need to understand everything, and then convey it in the right way. Localizers should know all about grammar, spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure details in all languages.
  • Deep knowledge of the culture, customs, traditions, religion, history, beliefs, preferences, and everything else related to the target audiences and country. Knowing this makes the process more likely to have outstanding outcomes.
  • Reliable research tools, glossaries, and dictionaries. If the localized terms aren’t well chosen, then the purpose of localization might not be successfully served.
  • Well adapted. The localized project should be well adapted in terms of words, sentences, styles, and everything related to the choice of specific factors during the process. Everything should be suitable and should fit into the target country and culture.
  • Information is appropriate and understandable. Minimum to no use of literal translation, but rather the use of appropriate words and structures that make sense to the target audiences, and are understandable.
  • No terms and words that have connotations. Localizers should pay close attention to the use of terms and words. Some words might have negative connotations in a specific country or culture. Localizers should know what to avoid and adapt everything in a way that suits the target audiences.
  • Same information. Even if the whole content will be adapted to another country, however, the localized content should contain the exact same information as the content of the source text. Nothing should be changed in terms of information and details, but rather in terms of structure, choice of words, and the selection of equivalent ideas. But the gist of the original text shouldn’t be at all modified.

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Who can be a localizer?

Since localizing is an extension of translation, a localizer should have a degree in Translation or an equivalent to it. A degree in literature can also be used instead if the person gains some experience in the translation field. As for the qualifications of the localizers, they should be really educated and they should know everything about the languages they work in.

They should constantly read and conduct research on a regular basis. They should be well informed about all cultural differences and even sensitive topics and restricted ones. Localizers should also have their own way of writing since they will be conveying the information of the source text in a convenient way and using their own words and styles.

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Examples of contents that can be localized

When it comes to localization, nearly all contents that aren’t technical can and should be localized. Because if the person aims at expanding and has already taken the decision of translating the content, he/she should know that localization adds value to the content.

Localization can be used in all fields and for different reasons. Including:

  • Media: When it comes to media, it is important to convey the information as is. However, there should be a specialist who takes care of everything related to the target audiences, and this specialist should make sure that the words he/she is using don’t have a negative effect on the readers and/or viewers.
  • Web development: When developing websites, the aim is to make the readers choose you for your services or products. The website should not only be translated but it should also be written in a way that suits the target audiences and appeals to them.
  • Electronics: Whether it be smartphones, tablets, computers, or any other electronic device, localizing them based on the target audience’s preferences will definitely increase sales.
  • Movies: Not all subjects and topics can be easily discussed everywhere in the world, for that reason, movies should be localized in a way that is acceptable in the country of the target audiences.
  • Gaming and entertainment: All games should be adapted to the target audiences’ countries, cultures, beliefs, and even religions. Even when it comes to choosing the names of the characters or the locations. Sometimes, even the field of the game should be modified at some point.
  • Brands/ slogans/ marketing: This field has one and only purpose, which is to be successfully known worldwide and make the highest number of sales. When using localization, marketers and brands are making their products suitable for the needs of the target audiences. If the products or the marketing strategies don’t appeal to them, it will result in failure, since no one will be interested.

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