Why localisation in translation is vital for your communications

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Why localisation in translation is vital for your communications

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When you’re translating your communications, particularly marketing communications, it’s essential to consider not just accurate translation, but localisation. Without localisation in translation, you could be missing out on opportunities to connect with your target audience, or confusing people about your message. Even worse, you could find yourself at risk of committing a ‘translation fail’, where a message that works perfectly well in the original language makes no sense, or means something different – potentially risqué or even offensive.

What does localisation in translation mean?

Language localisation (or translation localisation) means adapting your text to suit the needs of the target audience in a specific language, country or region.

What’s the difference between translation and localisation?

Localisation is different from translation, because it’s not a direct or literal translation, but takes into account how different languages or cultures use and understand words, and whether certain phrases do or don’t work to get across your meaning.

Why does language localisation matter?

Language localisation is important because it’s a way of making sure that your message continues to resonate with your target audience across global markets, whilst taking into account cultural preferences in different regions. By speaking your customers’ language, you show them that you understand their needs and preferences, and are committed to meeting them, helping you to build trust and stronger customer relationships.

Brands which reach across regions and cultures often find it challenging to deliver consistent global experiences, and language localisation can help.

Whether you need to localise a particular translation will depend on the source material and audience. Legal or technical documents, for example, (including those related to particular industries or sectors, like finance, aviation, medical or military) might need less localisation, as the accuracy of the direct translation might be the most important thing. But marketing campaigns, which need to resonate and connect with local audiences are more likely to need localisation to ensure that your audience ‘gets the message’.

What are the risks of ignoring localisation in translation?

On a communications level, ignoring localisation can result in:

  • Ineffective campaigns – with the need to immediately capture their attention, without a localised message, your audience may not understand it.
  • Causing misunderstanding or offence – a catchphrase, headline or product name which packs a punch in one language could be a bit off-colour or even deeply offensive in another, giving rise to negative publicity.

Neglecting localisation can damage your reputation in certain target markets, stunting your growth potential, or even setting your business back.

By taking the needs of your localised markets into account, you can tap into new customer bases and revenue streams.

How can translation localisation impact consistent brand messages?

This is a good question. Most brands understand the importance of using consistent messaging and language in order to build recognition and ensure that all their communications remain ‘on-brand’.

So how does that work if you need to adapt your messaging for different regions?

We had a tricky job recently, which involved translating a disaster recovery handbook into seven languages for a global bank.

On the face of it, it should have been straightforward! Much of it was technical language, and we had a glossary of agreed terminology to work with.

The problem arose when local country managers got hold of the translations, and had different opinions as to how the language should be localised.

When you took generational style differences and preferences into account, the localised translations were in danger of creating message drift.

How did we ensure the global brand maintained a single voice across different countries?

By using translators who were native speakers in the target languages, as well as being experts in the subject matter, we were able to maintain quality control across all the regions, and check that the client’s brand voice was maintained.

How do we resolve the problem?

Always use a translator with expertise in the subject area as well as being a native speaker.

Ways to approach localisation in translation

Remember that the objective is to communicate a message to your audience. Their needs – how they will receive, understand and interpret your message are the priority.

  • When you need to translate source text into the language(s) spoken by your target audience, ensure that the translation is done by a native speaker who understands not only the language but also the culture, and can pick up on the nuances.
  • Brief your translator carefully, so that they are aware that you want them to tailor the localised translation to local cultural norms and idiomatic expressions.
  • Make sure your localised messages incorporate regionally relevant cultural references where appropriate, and respect local sensitivities.
  • Ensure that you work with an experienced translator who is proficient in the local regulations and legal requirements governing the material they are translating (for example, marketing practices) as well as the technical aspects.
  • Ensure that you, and your translator, are familiar with, and understand the preferences and behaviours of your target market.

And don’t forget, that you may also need to adapt any imagery and visuals to resonate with and respect the cultural preferences and sensitivities of your target market.

Remember also, that although an experienced translator will query something in the source language which they don’t understand, or which they think might be wrong, they won’t re-write, edit, proofread or correct the original text. So you’ll need to ensure that you brief them clearly to localise the text, rather than provide a direct translation.

How do I find the right translator for translation localisation?

That’s simple. Contact a reputable, experienced translation agency, like Language Link UK. We provide certified translations and interpretation services with a reputation for quality and accuracy. Many embassies recognise our Certified Translation and only require translations that are certified by Language Link UK, which means legalisation or notarisation is often unnecessary.

With 35 years’ experience in the industry, over 5,000 translators native in over 200 languages and dialects, and industry-specific expertise across numerous sectors including finance, law, technology and medicine we’re your go-to service for translation, interpretation and transcription.

Contact us to discuss your next project.