key elements for effective Localization

When you go global with your business, it is important that the product you market blends with the intended country. Suppose you create courseware for Company X, based in Egypt in French. Company X also has its presence in Dubai and Saudi Arabia and needs course material in English or Arabic. The company wants to train its employees on the same course across various locations. Will the courseware created in Egypt help Dubaian or Saudian employees? Obviously not. So, how will Company X train its employees in Dubai and Saudi Arabia on the same course?

One option is to translate the French elearning courseware to the target language. Translation simply means changing the source language of the software, documentation, learning material, user manual, etc into a target language of the intended country. The disadvantage faced during word-for-word translation is that it yields many funny and offensive literal changes.

The other alternative is localizing the product for the intended country. So what is localization?

Localization, abbreviated as L10n, is the course of action of translating documentation, software, learning materials, user manuals, etc for a foreign market. It involves translating and adapting the text from the source language (including spelling issues and grammar) to the target language, semantic analysis of the source content, support of different character sets, as well as handling the formatting of the information such as date, time, local culture & habits, addresses, phone numbers, local colors and currency… By localizing the product, the company markets the same to the target audience by integrating both the culture and language of the intended country.

During the localization process, the linguist is the most important person to have onboard. He is the native speaker and regional expert of the proposed country. He/she must be aware of the verbal characteristics, cultural differences, language specific humor, forbidden subjects, etc of the targeted country and know how to deal with them accordingly.

At the end of the L10n process, the product should:

1- Be appropriate for the target business/country
2- Appear custom-designed for the end user’s cultural and linguistic background
3- Retain the original meaning of the course/product.

Though many companies claim to offer translation and localization services, Localization of content is best done by experts in linguistic services having years of experience and a stable team of cross-country expert linguists. Failure in accurate localization can have dire effects, such as insulting the culture of the targeted country and its people, apart from causing embarrassment to you.

Here are a few tips to avoid common localization pitfalls:

1- Write and/or create materials using simple terms and words, to render easy localization of the same.
2- Do not embed text in an image. While localization, the same image would have to be re-created with text superimposed on it. Create text and graphics on different layers.
3- Write properties for fonts in an external XML file like a style sheet. A CSS will allow you to define properties for font for individual languages in one accessible place.
4- Applications handling localizable content should support the character set of your target language.
5- As with fonts, do not embed text in script. Also avoid language constructions that combine text and numbers.

Minimize integrating content by using a mix of different technologies, formats and tools. The more complex the creation process, the more complex the localization process will be.

When a company localizes its content to meet the demands of the business abroad, it adds a personal touch and comforts the end user to read and interpret the product/courseware in his/her own language. The need to train a culturally and linguistically diverse workforce effectively is very important and using the targeted country’s own language as a medium is considered the best way.


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