Localization for Non-Localization Professionals

welocalize November 15, 2022

McDonald’s, Subway, KFC, Starbucks, and Burger King are the biggest fast-food restaurant chains in the world. And localization plays an enormous role in their success. Each adjusts its menu for local tastes. Marketing campaigns are specific to the culture of each country where it operates. The brands are global but the consumer experience is local. They have different versions of their websites and apps for every country, with different content and design.

The impact of localization is everywhere, whether you realize it or not.

What Is Localization?

Localization is adapting content, products, or services to a specific market’s language, culture, and needs. It includes text, visuals, and videos for print and digital content and campaigns. And it involves offering products or services relevant, and in some cases, unique, to each local market.

The goal of localization is to make your brand feel homegrown. Instead of just translating text, your content and campaigns look like they were uniquely written and designed for each local audience.

Benefits of Localization

English is spoken by around 1.5 billion people worldwide, making it the most common language. English is also the most used language on the internet, representing 6 out of 10 websites. However, with a global population of around 8 billion, these websites reach only 20% of internet users.

A study by CSA Research revealed that:

  • 75% of consumers are more likely to buy products from websites in their native language.
  • 40% of internet users would never buy from websites that aren’t in their native language.
  • 65% of non-native English speakers prefer content in their native language, even if they are proficient in English.

Localization can address the needs of the vast majority of consumers and internet users to consume content and transact online in their native language. And it likewise benefits businesses in several ways:

  • Wider reach. Global brands can reach more markets when their content is localized.
  • Faster time to market. When localization isn’t treated as an afterthought but planned from the start, it is easier and faster to launch in new markets.
  • Better customer experience. Localizing content in different languages relevant to each culture not only increases usage but customer satisfaction as well.
  • Improved marketing performance. People are more likely to click ads, search results, and emails that they understand and resonate with.
  • Lower cost. Localization cuts the cost of translation mistakes and online support.
  • More revenue. With most consumers preferring to purchase products on websites in their native language, brands can expect higher revenues.

Localization vs. Translation

Localization (L10N) goes beyond translation. While translation is part of the localization process, they are not the same.

Translation is converting text from one language to another. If you have used a tool like Google Translate, you know translations aren’t always perfect. But machine translation tools such as DeepL and Microsoft Translator are fast, cost-effective ways to translate language pairs. Localization teams and language service providers (LSPs) augment machine translation with professional translators to correct translation mistakes.

Localization takes translation to the next level. It considers local context, cultural nuances, linguistic differences, and legal requirements. Some elements localization addresses include:

  • Linguistic references, such as idioms, slang, and naming conventions
  • Visuals like photos, symbols, colors, icons, and emojis
  • Numerical differences, including units of measurement, date and time formats, local currencies, and paper sizes
  • Spelling differences between American English and British English
  • Cultural differences, such as Spanish content for Mexicans versus for Spaniards
  • Script direction, such as from left to right for most languages to right to left for languages like Hebrew and Arabic
  • Text length for languages that expand or contract when translated from English

Simply translating and not localizing content can lead to misunderstanding and a lack of resonance. Worse, the wrong translation or inappropriate imagery can be deemed insensitive or offensive.

What Is Globalization?

Globalization (G11N) is the concept of expanding to and operating in different markets worldwide. It is the business strategy that drives the need for localization. Globalization involves strategic activities, such as:

  • Establishing in-market experts or setting up a local office
  • Selecting and adapting products or services for target markets
  • Partnering with local suppliers, agencies, linguists, and other resources
  • Investing in software, tools, and other technologies for content production and localization

What Is Internationalization?

Once a brand decides to pursue a globalization strategy, the next step is to perform internationalization (I18N) before rolling out its localization process. Internationalization is preparing the codebase of your website, software, and apps to support multiple languages and formats.

Instead of manually translating and localizing every language, currency, number, layout, and other elements, internationalization sets up source files and code to automatically display the correct text and other elements for each target market.

Internationalization involves:

  • Separating elements that can be localized from the source code
  • Providing support for Unicode character encoding, bidirectional text, and other international typographic features
  • Preparing content to use simple, neutral language and examples that are relevant regardless of culture
  • Setting up number formats, numeral systems, units of measurement, and currencies to adjust automatically
  • Designing user interface elements to adjust for text expansion or contraction after translation
  • Supporting local, regional, and cultural preferences

Localization Process

After the prep work of internationalization, translation, and localization can commence. This involves several steps:

  • Determining your localization strategy, including your stakeholders, goals, approach, and KPIs
  • Setting up your localization team and sourcing an LSP to partner with
  • Choosing localization tools, such as a translation management system
  • Extracting and managing source files to be localized
  • Translating the content using neural machine translation (NMT) and localizing using human linguists, SMEs, and domain experts
  • Reviewing and editing the translations and performing quality control and language quality assurance (LQA)
  • Preparing the localized content for publishing
  • Go live: Launching or publishing

Read here how Welocalize helped one of the world’s largest audio streaming and media providers expand its international footprint through localization.

Work With Welocalize

Global brands can expand their international reach faster if they work with an LSP for their global growth and localization projects. Welocalize offers professional translation and localization services for over 525 language combinations.

With a global network of more than 250,000 linguists, reviewers, and subject matter experts, we can handle any volume and speed. Our language professionals are in-country, native-level speakers with certified experience or advanced degrees in linguistics.

Contact us to start a conversation on how we can help you with your localization requirements.