A 3-Week Journey into Localisation

September 28, 2015

Week 1: What is localisation?


Localisation involves taking a product and making it linguistically and culturally appropriate to the target country/region and language where it will be used and sold.


I am going to associate localisation with commercial spheres, which is where the ideas come from. Companies localise to show commitment and communicate effectively with international customers.


Microsoft Word or Trados Studio not only want to sell in many languages other than English, they want to sell in numerous varieties of various languages: some 20 regional varieties of Spanish are listed in that menu, and 17 varieties of English. There may not be much difference between those dictionaries of Spanish, but the desire remains.




Click around the various web pages of an international site like Coca Cola and you will easily realize that some pages are “localised” rather than “translate”.

The UK and Spain have clearly localized sites, that is, website localisation, targeting the local markets:






Coca Cola has completely different colours and presentation, in accordance with consumers habits in the UK and in Spain respectively.

The goal of the two websites is clear: encourage drinking Coca Cola products. The website in the UK is using the 2015 Rugby World Cup as the perfect scenario to enjoy a Coca Cola, while the Spanish website is matching the coming autumn with the best time to drink AquArius.


I also visited www.coca-cola.com.ar (site in Argentina) and www.coca-cola.com.co (site in Colombia), and the websites are “translated” rather than “localised” in a broader sense:



Coca Cola has exactly the same format in Argentina and Colombia, but still some elements, like monetary units, need to be localise for every country:



It would not make sense to say the prices of a coke in Argentina using the Colombian currency, as Argentinians are not going to pay using the Colombian Peso.


Let us say that translation is the replacing of words or sentences. As such, translation is a linguistic part of localisation, which consists in rendering the same “idea” from one source language to a target language.


According to my experience as a professional translator in the marketing and legal sectors, the localisation process is necessary in almost every translation.

Some localisation elements this blog will cover are: cultural references, colours, monetary units, numbers and units of measurement.


Cultural References


In order to get your message across in the target language, you will need to prepare your product for a new location, culture and audience. I am going to illustrate a few examples of what is localisation and how to localise.


At Home


Take the following Recycling Flyer:



At first glance, it seems quite an easy flyer with common vocabulary; however, if we stop and start localising the text for Spain, how do you say “cartons” in Spanish?

My suggestion is “envases de cartón”, but there is not actually any difference between “cardboard” and “cartons” in the target language. Still we will need to “create” a new word to fit it in the picture!


In the same text, I came across a more difficult localisation challenge:



Do you know what it is?


This element of new food packaging is known as “food sleeve”. I have lived abroad for 5 years now, so it may be the case that when I left Spain, food sleeves where not as trendy as they seem to be now.


I opted for “etiqueta de alimentos”, but I was not satisfied with my solution. Probably, something like “envase de cartón” would fit better. I think this is the case where there is not a right answer, and it “depends” on the client preferences and the target audience. Could you share how would you call it in Spanish?


I will keep my posts coming on a weekly basis but you can always subscribe via the form at the bottom of this page if you do not want to miss anything.


I hope that the first part of my blog has given a clear idea of what is localisation and its relationship with translation.  Next time, I will share some more relevant cultural differences to keep in mind.


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