Translation is the text transfer from a source to a target language; texts are everywhere, in laws, news, literature, advertisements and so on. Besides, pictures, animations, logos, diagrams, and other visual effects often accompany that text. The main principle that localization means: it goes beyond the translation and adapts the source content to the culture of the place where the translated text is to be used. I believe that all languages are unique; they are unique due to different reasons like culture, geographical location and history. Localization focuses mainly on adapting a text to regional or local consumption. Translation gives an original text version in a target language; localization modifies a text to fit in the culture of a target language.
Localization involves target-language content to be adapted to more effectively convey a similar meaning or connotation in the target culture. Idiomatic expressions and marketing material generally fall into this category. The key point here is that your target-language version will often not be a literal translation. For example, if you want to translate the phrase «Like father, like son» to Chinese, you would get something like «Tigers do not breed dogs». Although this is not a perfect match for the source content, it has the same connotation in the target culture. Culture is the main key in decoding translation into localization. Every society has its own set of habits, value judgements and classification systems which sometimes are quite different. Modern literature on translation draws heavily on the important role of a cultural gap between SL and TL communities. As Javier Franco Aixela (1996, p. 54) notes, «cultural asymmetry between two linguistic communities is necessarily reflected in the discourses of their members, with the potential opacity and inaccessibility this may involve in the target culture system». He considers translation as a means which provides the TL society with a variety of strategies, ranging from conservation to naturalization, against the backdrop of the sense of otherness, which covers this difference with a set of cultural signs capable of questioning or even denying our own culture. The choice between these strategies is a function of the degree of receiving society's tolerance and its own solidity. What is especially important in the translation of culture-specific items is the significant loss and gain in their connotations. The very meaning of the original is at stake. Aixela's attempt to clarify the notion of culture-specific items, therefore, leads him to the following definition of them: " Those textually actualized items, whose function and source text involve a translation problem in their transference to a connotation in a target text, whenever this problem is a product of the non-existence of the referred item or of its different intertextual status in the cultural system of the readers of the target text» (ibid, p. 58). «One country, one language, one culture» was a common motto many years ago particularly in terms of historic matters. Nowadays the motto of the Asia Online company is «The World speaks one language — Yours» implying that every language should have penetration in every aspect of life, everywhere in the world, and the Web is an effective means to achieve that. Locale is a combination of language and culture where localized digital content, products, and services are used and sold. Neither a language nor a culture alone can form a locale. There can be a language spoken in more than one country that means that there are many different languages in one single country. Moreover, there can be more than one different culture in the same country. For example, Kazakh is spoken not only in Kazakhstan, but also in the countries where Kazakh are immigrants. That means that we do not have a Kazakh-locale or a Kazakh language-locale, but a Russian-Kazakh locale or a Chinese-Kazakh locale, to name just a few. Kazakh language and culture are influenced by the local Russian and Chinese language and culture. In different locales there are different linguistic, cultural, and technical matters. Although English is spoken in both the United Kingdom and the USA, there are some differences in spelling. UK spelling of «localisation» and US spelling of «localization» serve as an example. The adaptation to the target product or service is important in order not to offend the local audience or overstate a situation. An example of a cultural non-adaptation is the «Ben & Jerry» Black & Tan ice cream which introduced and quickly removed this flavor from the Irish market in 2006, apologizing to their Irish customers. Black & Tan in the US means a mixture of Guinness and cream; in Ireland, however, Black & Tans was the name of a particular vicious invasion army, which occupied the country in the early 20th century. This situation shows us the importance of localization in marketing. A locale provides cultural conventions which are data formats, dates (full and abbreviated names for weekdays and months), number formats (symbols for the thousands separator and decimal point), times (indicators for 12-hour time), and currency symbols. Just to provide an example of how important the measurement conventions are, «Gimli Glider» was a Boeing 767 jet which in 1983 ran out of fuel in mid-flight because of two mistakes in figuring the fuel supply of the airline's first aircraft to use metric measurements.
The need for localization nowadays is immense from every aspect as it brings benefits to industries, customers, and government, simply to everyone. Even more importantly, many times localization saves lives in countries where people have limited or no access at all to life saving information in their native language. Industries need localization as their products should be sold everywhere in the world. The profit is much more higher when the product is adapted to the needs of a locale. On the other hand customers will buy a product more easily if the website and the user manual of the product are in their own language. The websites should not only be multilingual, but need to be personalized for each culture representative.
The urgent need for localization in areas, both geographical and domain specific, which are currently ignored by mainstream localization. For example, signs warning children in Afghanistan of land mines are written only in English which is unfamiliar to the children playing in these areas. In healthcare important information, from the description of medicines to medical equipment user manuals, is just not available in a sufficient number of languages. In many countries, foreign healthcare workers must orally translate surgery manuals, so that local medical teams can understand them. Moreover, information about preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV is unavailable in many local languages. Very often, young rural mothers lack access to health and nutritional guidelines in their language, so they cannot combat malnutrition in their children. According to the former director of UNICEF, James Grant, two billion people today lack access to healthcare. As a result, 17 million people die each year and 80 % of these preventable deaths occur because of a lack of access to healthcare information.
Furthermore, in 2008 it was announced that some 5,500 patients had received overdoses at a French hospital between 1999 and 2006; 715 had received dangerous doses and five had died. A report by the French Nuclear Safety Authority blamed the overdoses in part on the French technicians who had incorrectly calibrated radiotherapy equipment when working from untranslated English operator guides. The urgent need for localization on healthcare example, emphasize the fact that localization may save lives. To give just an example, the number of people in Mozambique on anti-retroviral treatment, the life-saving medication for people living with HIV and AIDS, was 86,000 by the end of 2007, up from 8,000 in 2004.
Localization could be regarded as a «high-tech» translation, as it transfers not just textual elements, but any type of digital content to the target language or locale. The spelling, the colors, and the measurement conventions are some of these characteristics. Localization helps enterprises to increase their revenues by selling their products in more countries and customers by adapting these products linguistically and culturally.
However, currently mainstream localization efforts focus on profitable markets and ignore those who are most in need of access to knowledge and information. Many people die because important medical information is not translated into their language. Doctors without Borders is one of the not-for-profit organizations which helps people in need; Translators without Borders is a not-for-profit organization translating many documents for Doctors without Borders. In order for these organizations to scale up their services and make vital information available in more languages, they need access to better technology and linguistic resources.
Localizers can help people realize their entitlement to health, education, and water and health service, provide security from violence, and end extremes of discrimination and inequality. Information about and knowledge of these areas is already widely available, but not in the languages spoken by those who most need to have access to it. Charitable organizations and social entrepreneurship in localization and translation, open-source platforms, and volunteers willing to do humanitarian translation can end global information poverty.
- Akbari, Monireh. “The Role of Culture in Translation”. Journal of Academic and Applied Studies (Special Issue on Applied Linguistics) Vol. 3(8), (August 2013): 13–21.
- Bassnet, Susan. Translation Studies. New-York: Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005.
- Sandrini, Peter. “Localization and Translation”. MuTra Journal, Vol 2 2008. Vienna 2007.
- Pym, Anthony. “What Localization Models Can Learn From Translation Theory”. The LISA Newsletter. Globalization Insider, 12 2/4, (May 2003): ISSN 1420–3695.
- Anastasiou, Dimitra. “The Impact of Localisation on Semantic Web Standards”. European Journal of ePractice, Volume 12, (2011): 42–52.