The Role of Localization in Advertising Research for Businesses

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If you have a company who sells or advertises globally then you’ve probably heard both these terms before. But that doesn’t mean you understand their significance or, for that matter, what the difference is. That’s what we’re going to look at today so that you can decide if this is something that your company will benefit from.

In a nutshell, translation is – as the word implies – taking a text from one language into another. For this to happen, you need a translator with an understanding of both languages as well as how people understand the two languages (which isn’t exactly the same thing, due to cultural variations).

‘Localization’ is about adapting a product or service to another language or region. This means that you don’t just focus on the language but everything around it as well. Yes, this includes culture. It also includes such things as keywords (which are naturally different as people search differently in different parts of the worlds) and understanding of how society is divided and what people are focused on.

Got that? Now let’s take a more in-depth look.

What is a translation?

The goal of translation is to take a source text and put it across to another language. If you’ve never had anything to do with the translation you might think this is a straightforward process.

Much like in mathematics you could write 1 +  1 = 2, you can take any statement in one language and put it into another. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Translation is exceedingly difficult. This is because languages aren’t just divided by words, but also by regional differences and cultural considerations, translations is a process that involves choosing between literal accuracy and the soul of what you’re trying to say.

For example, if I were to take the (originally) German word ‘Schadenfreude’ would  I translate it literally as ‘damage enjoyment’ or would I translate the actual meaning, which would be ‘pleasure at other people’s misfortune’? 

This back and forth between the two camps is a constant tug of war that goes on in translation. Is it the spirit or the words that should stay the same? And is it every possible for a translator not to inject their own personality into the text they’re translating?

Whichever camp is winning during a specific moment in time, the main focus of a well-done translation is always accuracy. This is particularly true when considering legal documents and similar pieces of text.

Localization

Localization requires translation. This much is true. After all, in the process of localizing you almost always have to change the language of the website (unless you’re, say, moving a text from the US to Australia).

But that’s hardly the whole of it. Localization is also about understanding a lot of culturally important ideas. For example, Google might dominate searches in the West, it doesn’t do so everywhere else. For example, in China, the main search engine is, in fact, Naidu. In Japan Yahoo somehow holds that title. While in Russia when people want a piece of information they Yandex it.

This is hardly the only place where people turn to an entirely different service. In the news people similarly turn to entirely other platforms. CNN might rule in the English-speaking world, but it doesn’t hold a candle in the Spanish speaking world.

If you’re trying to localize your content into another region and another language, these are things you’re going to have to take into account. You’re going to have to turn to different sources, rank on different platforms and even understand how the different algorithms on the different search engines work (as far as that is possible).

Nor does it end there. It doesn’t just require an understanding of the online culture of these different places, but the offline culture as well. Who do you market your product to? After all, what might be a middle-class product in the US or in Europe might be out of financial reach of the middle class in poorer regions of the world.

Or there might not be any middle class at all to speak of!

Similarly, there are the legal concerns to consider. What do the rules say and are you complying with them? Is it easy for people to buy products online or use the systems you’ve set up to buy them?

All these kinds of questions have to be considered, weighed and answered before you can create a similar service or product in a different place.

Internationalization

For companies that are serious about translating their content into another language and localizing it for new places, a new concept has arisen. It’s called ‘internationalization’. And in short, it means preparing your content for translation and localization into different areas.

  • Basically, this process means making things language ready. This can range from:
  • Making sure that texts are easy to access by translators
  • Making them simple and sentences short, so that translation is easier to do.
  • Not using a lot of slang and area-specific content
  • Creating and using software that easily supports multiple languages and users who will work in them.
  • Having people on board to make sure that what you’re creating for one region will both be culturally interesting and legal for the different region you’re planning to work in.

Though initially, this might take a lot of work to implement, by moving your localization and translations efforts higher up the food chain, you’re going to make sure of a number of things. For one, you’ll make it easier for your content to be translated and localized. And the easier that becomes, the cheaper it becomes.

For another, you’ll change the mode of thinking of your organization. Now, because the considerations of what can and can’t be localized will be had much sooner, content is more likely to take on a more international feel.

Are Localization and internationalization actually worth it?

I wish I could give you a one-word answer. The thing is, it depends. There are huge benefits to be had from localization and by extension by internationalization. This is particularly true if your home market is already saturated or the competition is particularly fierce.

This is because in some areas the internet has not yet penetrated particularly deeply. For example, while Spanish is one of the most spoken languages in the world, its online presence is tiny – with it ranking behind Russian, Japanese, and German. And that while there are nearly three times as many Spanish speakers as Russian speakers. That should mean there is a huge market there for service providers.

At the same time, the costs will be markedly higher. For not only will you have to translate everything across from one language to the other, you will also have to pay significantly more to market your product. After all, you’re now approaching the second market.

Even worse, if your product is a service then the service itself will also have to be offered in another language.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

To help you figure out whether localization and internalization are worth it for you, consider these questions:

  • Is the competition less fierce and/or less sophisticated than you are used to? If they are, well then it might be interesting to get into the market. If they are not, then you might end up fighting the same war on two fronts. That might well not be worth it.
  • Is the market big enough to support you? You might think ’400 million Spanish speakers’ and therefore think you’ve stumbled upon a gold mine. The thing is, will all Spanish speakers be interested in your services? Will they have the money to pay for them? Such considerations will shrink the market considerably.
  • Will you be able to find the staff or the service providers to easily translate your websites and will they not break the bank? There are a lot of translation services out there. Some cost an arm and a leg other translation or writing agencies like Supreme Dissertations are cheaper. Of course, it’s not only about price but also quality. Do they live up to the standards you need? You should probably try out a few before you even think about whether you want to localize your products.
  • Is there serious growth potential? Some markets might not be that exciting now but could have serious growth potential, which means that if you position yourself well now then down the line you might make serious money. Others are entirely saturated. Which one does your product belong to?

If you can answer these questions in a positive manner, then you should consider localization. If not, then not.

A final warning

Another thing you’ll carefully want to consider – do you understand anything about the language or the culture that you’re planning on moving into? Does anybody on your team? Consider this very carefully as when nobody does then it is rather easy for people to make you look like a fool.

And though sometimes that can be funny for outsiders, for your company that can lead to some serious reputational damage. So don’t leave yourself at the mercy of strangers.

 

 

 

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