A mere translation is not enough: When is localization a lifesaver?

A mere translation is not enough: When is localization a lifesaver?
The market is currently saturated with individuals and agencies that offer "guaranteed" translating and localization services. Now I'm firing into my own ranks, because this is exactly the field we operate in and by which we not only make our living, but we also enjoy doing it!

Many articles have been written about translating and they keep talking about the same thing over and over again - what a translation is. Many of us mistakenly believe that the words "translation and localization" have the same meaning, that they are synonyms. But it's not so.

What's the difference?

A translation takes a word or entire text and converts it from one language into another with regard to grammar, terminology, stylistics and much more.

So what is the role of localization? Let's take a look at national currency. In the Czech Republic you will find prices primarily in the Czech koruna. Polish citizens pay with zloty and the Swiss pay with francs. The same product but a different currency. Without realizing it, this is localization, i.e. adapting to the given market.

Localization is not only about converting the text into another language, it must also take into account the specifics, rules, restrictions, customs, traditions, etc. of the country for which the text is primarily intended.    

Practical examples:

  • Colors – In Iran green evokes joy and success, while in China it is a symbol of shame
  • Zucchini – A vegetable that is called a courgette in the UK, and zucchini in Australia or America
  • 05/01/2016 – Is this date January 5 or May 1?
  • Chips – The British use this word for French fries, and the Americans use it for potato chips
  • Adapting correct measure units according to individual countries – 1 yard = 0.9144 meters = 36 inches
  • Visual metaphors – In some parts of Europe the owl is a symbol of wisdom, while other cultures associate this animal with death and witchcraft

As you can see, you must take into account many hidden difficulties and intricacies when localizing a text.
Take time to consider whether you will localize the text yourself, or entrust someone more experienced and competent with the task, giving you time to do something more pleasant.