The world of translation is a fascinating one, and definitely way more complex than simply taking a text and just converting it into another language. There are other aspects that a professional translation agency will always take into consideration – namely, the details of its target audience: what countries will that document reach? What regions within those countries? In what context will it be read? What will the average age of the reader be? The gender? Social class?
No amount of information is too much when it comes to translation. The reader of the final text not only wants to read it in his or her own language, but also wants the text to feel familiar, close. That makes it more trust-worthy and valuable. And that is the magic of localization.
Patrick Donahue, in his article “The Importance of Localization Engineering”, explains the concept clearly enough: “As a key part or the localization process, localization engineering makes it so that the final version of the content:
  • ·         Appears custom built for the target audience’s cultural and linguistic background
  • ·         Maintains its original meaning
  • ·         Is appropriate for the target locale business and cultural norms.”

This is especially important when a company wants to launch a product on a global market. Even in the countries where supposedly the same language is spoken, some words have simply different meanings and/or connotations. Something as simple as selling “pants” in England could end up in a hilarious misunderstanding, and that is just one innocent mistake. Many cases could potentially lead to offensive and negative outcomes.
Perhaps the main difference between localization and translation is that, in the former, one should not be afraid to take a little “poetic license” and completely change words in order to avoid these situations. And the best mean to explain this is by way of providing funny examples. In the 1950s, a Swedish car magazine titled “Speed” made its way out of the country, looking for “greener” pastures. Problem was, they didn’t want to change the registered trademark. And… Well, guess what the Swedish word for “Speed” is. Fart. Just what you’re looking for in your monthly car magazine.
Other commonly known examples are the bakery company called Bimbo, which in Spanish sounds nice but in the US it sounds… Well, not like bread, precisely, and Coca Cola, a name that, transferred to Chinese, turned out to mean “bite the wax tadpole”. Quite the unfortunate slogan.
To sum up, whereas all of this is golden material for analysis and for a few laughs within the translator community, I’m sure that no businessman would like to be taken as a future example of how NOT to globalize their products. Not to worry, though: the trick is to choose a translation agency that will take care of all this with maximum efficiency and professionalism.
iwl is there for you.