What is localisation in practical terms?

Although two or more countries might share the same mother tongue, the language itself can vary, not only in the way it’s spoken but also written. The locals may use different vocabulary, grammar or spelling rules, and you may need to take various cultural considerations into account, depending on the locale – hence the term localisation.

You need to think about your target audience – will your readers be in Brazil or Portugal, for instance? A marketing text translated by a Portuguese speaker from Portugal will sound foreign to a Brazilian reader, since many subtle variations in meaning, vocabulary and tone will not be fully conveyed in the text. It’s not just marketing, though – even slight differences in vocabulary can cause errors when it comes to international trade. These mistakes will invariably cost extra time and money due to changes in import/export documents such as invoices, permits, licences and certificates.

When it comes to localisation, you need to think about the language (and locales), as well as other aspects. Would a brochure on winter clothes have the same effect on a Brazilian as on a Portuguese audience? Would consumers in Rio require the same level of winter protection as those in Lisbon? Should you use the same photos for both countries? Can you sell the same colours? Could certain symbols have a positive connotation in one country and a very negative one in another?

What are the most common languages requiring localisation?

We find that the most common languages requiring localisation are:

  • Portuguese: Brazil vs Portugal
  • English: UK vs USA
  • French: France vs Canada
  • Dutch: Netherlands vs Belgium
  • German: Germany vs Switzerland
  • Spanish: Spain vs Mexico
  • Chinese: Hong Kong vs mainland China – taking into consideration whether the requirement is for traditional or simplified Chinese.
  • Arabic: Egypt vs Saudi Arabia – taking into consideration which variation of Arabic is required: Levantine, Egyptian or Gulf.

Of course, there are many more places ripe for localisation, including all the other countries where these languages are spoken and where there are cultural aspects to be taken into account.

India requires extra attention since, although it is only one country, there are many languages spoken – Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Urdu, Kannada and Gujarati are just a few that spring to mind – and, therefore, many linguistic and cultural differences that will need to be addressed.

When should you use localisation?

If you want to add more value to your business, it’s highly advisable to localise your website, brochures and any other marketing and communication materials.

Please check out our Transcreation service if you want to take the next step into the UX (user experience) world.

With Mundus Verborum, you not only speak the language of your client, you speak in their own accent.