Written by our terminologist, Stine Jensen.
But first, let us answer a few questions!
What is Localisation?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, localisation is ‘the process of making a product or service more suitable for a particular country, area, etc.’
Field specified: Marketing (please take note of that).
So, it is more than translation because the process of adaptation to the cultural code, etc., is key and there is a promotion and branding objective but is normally connected to translation given the foreign aspect of the original product.
Your localisation and marketing strategy therefore go hand in hand but the localisation process does not happen ‘automatically’ just by translating the content as marketing is a field that, in particular, uses figurative language, play on words, humour, cultural references, irony and sarcasm to be ‘catchy’ and ‘smart’ in, for example slogans. In addition to this comes terminology, and these are all elements that traditionally constitute what we call ‘translation problems’ as they are not always translatable and what is culturally acceptable in the country and culture of origin might not be in the country, culture and language that you localise into.
What is Terminology?
Terminology, on the other hand, is not necessarily connected to translation as it is, according to the same dictionary, the ‘special words or expressions used in relation to a particular subject or activity’.
No field specified (please take note of that too).
This is because terminology is the industry specific vocabulary and we talk about terms when they differ in meaning from words. When terminology might pose a translation problem is when the word and term is the same, but the meaning is different. Let us take an example from the translation industry, ‘CAT’ in capital letters is not a pet but is the tool used for translation in its abbreviated form. The term is ‘Computer Assisted Translation Tools’. ‘CAT’ in general language could be the animal or an exclamation of someone seeing an actual cat, for example a child, ‘CAT!’
Terminology is therefore not consolidated and standardised per se even if we see it to some extend in traditional fields, such as medical and legal. For it to be standardised, terminology work needs to be carried out by or in collaboration with you to consider the preference of your organisation. Just as words matters, terminology matters!
Another aspect to consider is that terminology is not necessarily accessible to people outside that industry – should it be that? Or should mediation come into play? All this needs to be worked out with your localisation partner.
Using pure terminology would be addressing only people with access to it. Mediation would include people without. Therefore, it is so important to get terminology right in the localisation process as a first step or at least approve it before it is published.
To the Point – Why Localise?
You can choose not to of course and decide to have all your content in English, which you consider an international language. It is seen. And you can choose to install machine translation on your web page to immediately translate everything at the same pace as you change it. You could even take it as far as installing a bot, for example a chat bot, that interacts directly with your costumers in their language.
JOB DONE, why bother?
We could stop it here…
But let us rather not!
It is quite simple, really: We like to read and be approached in our native language if, and only if, there are no noticeable grammatical mistakes and errors not proper for native speakers – and we want to be understood. That leaves out the bot. The same regards, terminological errors. That is the first thing people notice.
Correct use will create a feeling of reliability, trust, ease, etc., whereas incorrect use creates the opposite!
Just think of the connotations that incorrect language awakens in you. It can mean many different things here depending on you as a person, your beliefs, experience, and your cultural background.
Localisation and Terminology
Remember the marketing aspect? Language use is key to the way that your organisation is perceived. You therefore need to consider aspects like style, tone, and terminology, preferably as a first step. If you do not speak the language of your visitors, if you do not use the right terminology, you will directly damage your brand.
And once something is published, it is published!
So, get it right from the beginning, instead of performing damage control later!