Culture and Website Localization through Multilingual Translation

By Slava
Sep 2, 2009 · 3 min
Internet usage and computer ownership is growing every day. Because of that, the worldwide web has indeed become a chief channel and information hub of interconnectivity, communication, commerce, and other related online services. Furthermore, a lot of Internet and PC users are increasingly originating from non-English speaking countries as well. The impact it has on ecommerce is particularly obvious: in order to truly harness the potential of a global audience, English-speaking businesses need to adopt a more international, culturally aware mindset when it comes to marketing and promotions. As early as the end of 2002, an estimated 32% of online surfers were non-native English speakers, and this outdated figure has undoubtedly risen in a dramatic fashion in the last few years or so. The answer that companies big and small have for this growing trend is a little concept known as website localization. This is a process wherein a website is modified and altered to accommodate the culture of its target market so that it becomes culturally suitable, usable, and accessible to them. The Process of Website LocalizationWebsite localization is a complex and multi-tiered procedure that requires both linguistic and cultural expertise as well as programming prowess. If either is lacking, then your company's localization project will probably encounter problems and difficulties from the very beginning. More often than not, the lack of cultural or linguistic input is the main reason why a half-baked website localization project inevitably fails. Therefore, a professional translation firm or even a freelance translation service must have a deep insight on the impact culture has on the website localization process. Nothing short of a solid comprehension of a target culture will suffice in human translation work. Because of this x-factor of adaptation and accommodation, translating a website from English to another tongue isn't as simple as it may appear; culture serves as an important consideration when translating a webpage's material. Website Localization Linguistics and ExecutionFor all those translation service agencies out there, here are the important issues you need to address when localizing a website:
  • Do all metaphors, sayings, phrases, and words translate straightforwardly to the target language?
  • Should a professional translation company translate the saying, "Every man for himself" if its target audience has a highly collectivist culture?
  • Should a human translation company translate the humorous material—a highly relative concept—of a website and risk having the target culture not grasp its locale-exclusive context?
Local alternatives to humor, style, figures of speech, political points of view, and the like should always be obtained and utilized in website localization to make it effective instead of alienating to the market you're trying to target. Also, when translating from one language to another, you must take into consideration dialects and other lingual variants. If it's a Chinese localization, find out if you're targeting "Simplified Chinese" readers/writers or "Traditional Chinese" readers/writers as well as Mandarin speakers or Cantonese speakers. In turn, for Arabic localizations, you must decide if your target audience is composed of Yemenis, Egyptians, Iraqis, or Tunisians. If the answer is all of the above, then make sure you're using Modern Standard Arabic.

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