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Website localisation services

Posted 03/03/14

Website localisation services are a major area of better languages translation work. Localisation is an oft used term within the translation industry, but what does it actually mean? Essentially localisation 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, but actually we are all influenced by factors such as race, religion, local culture and customs. 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, whilst in reality consumer needs may be different in different markets.
  • With language, its easy to assume that translation is “localised” when the text is in the language, or languages of the country, but it is important to also look at content. For example are things like case studies culturally relevant to your target audience? A case study about the brewing industry won’t be related to by an Islamic audience 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, one of our “trophy clients” is Mothercare, we have worked with them since 2006, and they are a major multi-national company, but – to date they have no US presence, so a US customer would probably have never heard of them, and in Canada the name “mothercare” is owned by a charity, so has nothing to do with the retailer. At minimum for the US market, we need to explain who Mothercare are, and maybe give a link to their website, but much more powerful, would be to use a case study of one of US clients.
  • Translation is not necessarily localised simply by being in a language which is spoken in a country, is it in the correct form for that country? For example there are two written forms of Chinese, both helpfully referred to as Mandarin. Simplified Chinese is mainly used in the Peoples Republic of China, whilst Traditional Chinese is used mainly in Hong Kong and Taiwan. 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 important differences. It’s a bit like UK English and US English, both are mutually intelligible, but there are some important differences.
  • Other aspects of website localisation may include the look and feel of the site, for example are any pictures or other embedded images culturally appropriate? Will the website design and choice of colours appeal in the target language? In different countries sites may also be accessed differently, for example in China the majority of internet searches are on mobile, so if your site isn’t mobile friendly, you will have a problem.

When localising language content on a website, it is also important that the site is properly tested in the target language. Even big companies get this wrong, for example I was recently surfing looking for an example of a site in Canadian French, I went to the homepage of a very large multinational company who should have known better, and when selecting the Canadian French homepage, an English language page appeared, this was a fault with the site’s navigation, as if the user selects the language, the correct language should appear. If I was a Canadian French native, I would have felt very offended, and navigated straight off the site. Web developers love things like geo-targeting content, probably the site served the English page, because my IP address was in the United Kingdom, but this is no excuse, it patronises site users as if I want the Canadian French page I should get it.

There are many issues involved in website localisation, and this article is just a brief introduction. If you are looking to localise site content into another language, speak with betterlanguages.com today. Fill in our contact form, or give us a call on + 44 115 9788980 to discuss your requirements for website localisation services.

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