Website localisation is the activity of translating and adapting the content of a website for a target audience different from the original one. Requests for website translation are becoming more and more frequent due to the internationalisation of companies and the drive towards globalisation.
To sell in another country, companies need to ‘speak’ the language of the target market; this is when localisation comes in.
Although the two terms may seem similar, there are important differences between the process of localisation and the translation activity.
The first difference between the two is the ultimate goal: localisation is about selling.
“Localising” means positioning a product or service in a specific market or country and adapting its functional properties to different linguistic, cultural, political, and legal contexts.
Localisation is often confused with translation, the process of converting a text from one language to another. Although these terms may be somehow similar, translation is only one aspect of the localisation and the latter is the more complex of the two processes.
In addition to translation, localisation involves other elements that are considered during the process. For example:
- adaptation of images and graphics to the target market;
- variation of content based on the tastes and consumption habits in the target market;
- modification of the design and layout for the correct display of the translated text;
- conversion into local currencies and units of measurement;
- use of appropriate local formats (dates, punctuation, symbols, telephone numbers, addresses);
- enforcement of local regulations and compliance with relevant legal requirements.
We are reading a Chinese novel and, at a certain point, we find this sentence:
24寸的行李箱 [24 cun suitcase]
The translator, in this case, may opt to not translate the Chinese unit of measurement cun; in the context of the novel, the size of this suitcase may not have much relevance to the overall story. Therefore, in the translation process, the focus is on the message.
The same choice could be made by a Spanish, a French, or a German translator; in the different languages, we could always find the Chinese term cun.
If, on the other hand, I represent a company that produces suitcases and would like to sell my products abroad, I must translate the unit of measurement. How many Europeans would be able to understand the size of this case without the reference in centimetres? Or in inches, for American people?
Therefore, in localisation, the focus is on the product or service.
Here is another example, this time a more practical one, taken directly from a well-known e-commerce platform. The tables below show the specifications of the same product – a trolley suitcase – in Chinese, English, and Italian.
Apart from some translation mistakes, do you notice any errors strictly related to localisation?
Localisation means offering multimedia content which must necessarily be different depending on where it is offered.
Translation alone will not be sufficient for the success of your business in local markets – much less the machine translation using online tools.
Designing a multilingual site requires a lot of work and special attention not only to the linguistic features but also to the technological aspect, such as SEO optimisation for search engines, programming codes, etc.
So why do all companies that operate internationally localise their websites? Because there is a strong connection between content in a particular language and the likelihood that the consumer will make a purchase.
A research conducted by Common Sense Advisory into how language influences purchasing behaviour has revealed that:
of consumers spend most of their time on websites in their language.
of consumers are more likely to buy a product that includes information in their language.
of consumers agree that getting information in their language is more important than the product price.
Just by looking at these percentages, you can see how important the language factor is for many users while making a purchase, and how crucial it is for companies in different sectors to rely on professional linguists who can help them communicate with audiences in a different language.
You will need to localise your content in the target language to gain the trust of the local audience.
Localising a website means thinking about both the UX, the user experience, and the UI, the user interface; this means considering the colours of your site, the images, the layout, and the graphics of all content.
No matter how good your product or service is, your brand will only be able to expand globally when you can communicate with customers in your target market and the audience can understand your message and the solutions you propose for their problems or demands.
That is why it is important to invest in localisation at an early stage in your internationalisation process: it will help you reach more potential customers, offer a better customer experience, and increase your profitability.
Are you ready to face the linguistic challenges in a new market?