contributed by Isaiah Curtis and Sam Goldfarb, LUNA Summer Interns 2017

For many people and businesses outside the language services industry, there is confusion surrounding the notion of localization. What does localization mean? How is it different from translation? Why is localization important for my organization?

To understand localization, it’s important to first get a handle on the concept of translation. Simply put, translation involves the transfer of written content (words) from one language into another with an end goal to preserve meaning as best as possible.

Localization takes translation a step further. In addition to rendering written content in a different language, localization entails adapting content and making it more suitable or palatable for specific regions or locales. According to the Globalization & Localization Association (GALA), “the aim of localization is to give a product the look and feel of having been created specifically for a target market, no matter their language, culture, or location.”

Different countries have distinct cultures. Even different regions and areas within countries have distinct cultures. Localization takes into account that people from distinct cultures are familiar with different things. They have differing preferences, attitudes, and expectations about how information should be presented.

In localizing a website for a foreign audience, localizers go beyond simply rendering the content of the source website into another language. They adapt and modify elements of the content and presentation to conform with disparate cultural preferences and expectations.

For example, imagine a website is going to be translated with a red background, but red has a negative or undesirable connotation in the target culture. This color, for instance, symbolizes grief and mourning in South Africa (in other cultures, it has a positive connotation; in Chinese culture, it represents celebration). Localization experts will modify the background color to make it something more neutral or appropriate for the target culture. As a more obvious example, consider a clothing website whose prices are in US dollars and sizes are provided using standard American measurements. The prices and sizes should be accurately adapted for European clients.

Stay tuned for part two of LUNA’s localization series. And, contact us today to inquire how we can help you localize your content.