Localization refers to adapting a product or service to a language or culture according to the needs of the target market or ‘locale’.

For example, localisation aims to offer country-specific websites (and/or printed advertising material) to companies planning to expand into other markets. Indeed, a large part (and cost) of localization involves the translation of content from one language to another.

However, in addition to translation (and of course the implementation of linguistic differences between national varieties of the same language, e.g. UK/US/CAD English), the localisation process often includes: adapting visual elements to the local context (images, colors and graphics), adopting local currencies, using proper forms for dates, updating addresses, phone numbers and maps, etc.

These changes aim to recognize local sensitivities, avoiding costly misunderstandings or conflicts with the local culture and enabling entry into the local market by merging into its needs and desires.

The localization process may include:

Linguistic Elements

  • Translation of content, including local or local varieties of the same language
  • Editing graphics containing text (for print or digital media)
  • Translation and recording of audio
  • Video subtitling
  • Adapting encoding: alphabets/scripts; most recent systems use the Unicode standard to solve many of the character encoding problems.

Cultural Elements

  • Images and colors: resolving issues of comprehensibility and cultural appropriateness
  • Updating names and titles (employees, representatives, diplomats, etc.)
  • Updating government assigned numbers (such as the Social Security number in the US, or the National Insurance number in the UK)
  • Updating telephone numbers, addresses, international postal codes and maps
  • Converting currency (symbols, positions of currency markers)
  • Converting metrics (weight and measurements)
  • Converting paper formats.

Writing Conventions

  • Formatting the date and time, including the use of different calendars
  • Conversion of time zones (UTC in internationalized environments)
  • Formatting of numbers (decimal separator, digit grouping)
  • Updating other conventions (e.g. converting double-quotes (" ") to guillemets (« »), adapting abbreviations, titles, etc.).

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