Communication is key in international business, but to really make headway into a specific market and distinguish oneself from competitors, one must speak in “the language of the people.” This entails not only translating one’s messages from one language to another to market your products and services, for example, but also considering cultural aspects and adapting your message and how you deliver it, so it resonates with your audience in a more impactful way.

As the world becomes more connected through global supply chains, e-commerce, and increasing access to the Internet, businesses need to become savvier about international communication. In light of this, translation localization has become an extremely valuable tool in international business and marketing.

Understanding Translation Localization

What exactly is translation localization and how can it help a business successfully internationalize its products or services?

To answer the first question, it’s helpful to understand the interrelated yet separate terms, “translation” and “localization.”

Merriam Websters’ Dictionary defines translation as the act of “rendering from one language into another.” Translation aims to convey the meaning of the source-language text into the equivalent of a target-language text. Indeed, translation is essential to grow a business in the international market. For example, businesses will typically need to translate manuals, warranties, advertisements, and packaging. However, translating a message without taking cultural differences into account can quickly change the meaning of a message and reduce its impact. This is where localization comes in.

Cambridge Dictionary defines localization as “the process of organizing a business or industry so that its main activities happen in local areas rather than nationally or internationally.” Simply, it’s about adapting a product or service to a particular language, country, or culture.

Unlike mere translation, the localization process goes beyond simple word-by-word translation and focuses on adapting content and messages to a local culture. This can mean changing details to fit the cultural norms of a target audience, including through the presentation of:

  1. Date formatting
  2. Currency conversion
  3. Phone numbers
  4. Imagery

Businesses that neglect localization may set themselves up to be misunderstood and misinterpreted. Beyond losing potential customers, this can also lead to a poor reputation in a particular location and severely cripple your business plans there.

Translation Localization in Action

Many companies have begun to implement translation localization strategies in their efforts to go global. They can be as simple as modifying website content and language so that it appeals to a particular culture. For example, businesses can reorganize and refine their websites, so it connects on a deeper level with an audience in one location, and adapt it again to connect with an audience in another location.

Localization strategies can also go deeper. One example is when fast food companies introduce specific products, such as “rice meals” or versions of popular dishes in one country to suit cultural tastes, which aren’t offered in other countries.

However, many companies have also experienced missteps in their efforts to localize products or services. These usually arise when strategies are implemented without a deep understanding of a specific culture’s expectations and preferences. To ensure the success of your localization efforts, be sure to start from a place of respect for the culture.

The Critical Role of Translation Localization in International Business

 Now that we understand the difference between translation and localization and the meaning and purpose of translation localization, let’s examine how translation localization can help your business penetrate and sustain a presence in international markets.

To compete internationally, your business, of course, needs a global presence. When you enter international markets, you need to make sure that you are building key relationships with local partners and stakeholders. Knowing how to manage the delivery and content of your message across frontiers to create a strong and meaningful path to customer loyalty will be key to international expansion. Thus, the importance of translation localization cannot be overstated.

In fact, the need for translation localization is increasing as more companies become involved in global communications. A survey conducted by CSA Research reported that over 70% of shoppers who shop at non-localized websites said they wished the website used their local language. Additionally, the survey showed that most people respond more positively to information, advertisements, and product descriptions in their native language.

Translation Localization is a Strategic Marketing Tool

Translation localization is crucial to the success of international businesses and can significantly impact consumers’ decision-making and their perceptions of a brand. By leveraging an understanding of cultural nuances and references, business can more strategically create customized and relevant customer experiences.

Companies must also understand that translation should not be a “one size fits all” process. Instead, it should be an individualized process that intentionally serves each culture to which it is applied. Translations must be adapted to the culture of the target audience if they hope to meaningfully communicate and engage.

This makes translation localization a critical element towards achieving your objectives in the international marketplace. The effectiveness and impact of your message can be significantly undermined when it is presented in a format or package that is not culturally relevant or feels alien to your audience. Here are some key elements that should be considered when localizing content:

  1. Colors and images
  2. Flow
  3. Vernacular equivalent expression
  4. Industry terminology
  5. Cultural norms

In a Nutshell: Localize to Internationalize

Language is deeply rooted in local customs. It reflects a culture’s history, attitudes, beliefs, and instincts. However, localization is not simply about academically translating words from one language to another. It requires a strong, almost emotional, understanding of the target language, culture, and tone.

Businesses looking to crack international markets and to expand brand awareness and customer relationships should identify culturally relevant references to increase its relevance to new clients. Localization is a vital element of international business as it can help you reach new customers, connect, with them, and provide an experience that makes them feel as though your products and services are specifically catered to their needs.