Website localisation services are a major area of better languages translation work. People often talk about Localisation, but what does it actually mean? Essentially it is the process of preparing a product or service for the “local” market. This simple concept can actually be quite complex for a number of reasons:

  • Its easy to assume that all people are the same. However, factors such as race, religion, local culture and customs. affect all of us. A UK audience may react completely differently to a product than an audience in China. Businesses often assume that reaction to their products or services will be the same everywhere. However, in reality consumer needs may be different in different markets.
  • When the text is already in the local language, its easy to assume that your task is complete. However, it is also important to review content. Are things like case studies culturally relevant to your target audience? An Islamic audience probably won’t relate to a brewing industry case study for instance. Even if you aren’t directly talking about selling alcohol, your audience won’t identify with the case study.
  • Likewise audience awareness and perception in different countries will be different. For instance, we have worked with Mothercare since 2006. They are a major multi-national company, but – to date they have no US presence. A US customer would probably have never heard of them. A local charity owns the name “mothercare” In Canada. It therefore has nothing to do with the retailer. At minimum for the US market, we need to explain who Mothercare are. We should probably also give a link to their website. However, it is much more powerful for a US audience, to talk about our US clients.
  • You haven’t necessarily localised your translation simply by it being in a local language. Is it in the correct form for that country? For example, Chinese has two written forms. Mandarin helpfully refers to both. The Peoples Republic of China mainly uses Simplified Chinese. Hong Kong and Taiwan are the main users of Traditional Chinese. A text in Simplified Chinese would not be suitable for Taiwan. There are other languages which have important variants. For example we translate into both European Portuguese, and Brazilian Portuguese. The languages are clearly very similar, but there are also important differences. It’s a bit like UK English and US English, both are mutually intelligible, but there are some different words. The style and tone of the text will also be different depending on the localised form of the language.
  • Other aspects of website localisation may include the look and feel of the site. For example, you made any pictures or other embedded images culturally appropriate? Will the website design and choice of colours appeal in the target language? In different countries, you may also access sites differently. For example in China the majority of internet searches are on mobile. Therefore, if your site isn’t mobile friendly, you have a problem.

Issues with website localisation

When localising language content on a website, it is also important to properly test it in the target language. Even big companies get this wrong. For example, I was recently surfing looking for a site in Canadian French. I went to the homepage of a very large multinational company who should have known better. When I selecting the Canadian French homepage, an English language page appeared. this was a fault with the site’s navigation. If you select the language, the correct language should appear.

I would probably have felt very offended, if I was a Canadian French native. I may have navigated straight off the site. Web developers love things like geo-targeting content. The site probably served the English page, because my IP address was in the United Kingdom. This is  no excuse though, it patronises site users. If I want the Canadian French page I should be able to get it.

Next steps

This article is just a brief introduction, to the complex subject of website localisation. If you are looking to localise site content into another language, speak with Better Languages today. Fill in our contact form, or give us a call on + 44 115 9788980 to discuss your requirements for website localisation services.