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What is localisation (or localization)? How do I localise documents?

24 Aug

I’ve been doing some localisation for some new customers recently and, mentioning this on my Facebook page, etc., I realised that this isn’t a well-known process.  So, for those of you who are interested, and people who might have documents they would like to work in different regions of the world (there’s a clue!), here’s a quick guide to localisation.

One of the dictionary definitions of ‘localise’ is “to make local in character”, and that’s basically what it’s all about. Say a website, or a brochure, or an advert, or even a novel, has been produced in America. Obviously, the language is going to be American, rather than British English. Eggplant, freeway and optimize, as opposed to aubergine, motorway and optimise. Now, sometimes, the company or publisher putting out that document will want to adapt it for different markets, so that the reader feels comfortable with the text and can understand it without any strain. If the markets are in countries that don’t speak English, then a translator will be called in to translate it for their country.  And if the markets are in countries that speak English, but slightly differently, then someone like me is called in to “translate” the text into British, Australian, Canadian (etc.) English.

It’s not just a matter of turning all the “ize”s into “ise”s. There are grammatical differences (“different from” vs “different than”), spellings (“colour” / “color”, “anaesthetic” / “anesthetic”), and terms (“pavement” vs “sidewalk” and so on).  Then there are trickier things – would a British reader understand immediately what “resumé boosting” or other very American terms mean? The aim, as with editing in general, is to make the reading experience smooth, so that the reader absorbs the words and their message, rather than being jerked into consciousness that they’re reading a created text, and coming out of the immersion.

Not every editor, or every translator, can do this work. It’s more like translating than editing, and I can do it because I’ve got particular and useful experience working for the UK office of an American company, where I dealt with the two Englishes almost every day for a good few years.  Add to that my editorial experience and general language skills, plus attention to detail which means making a list of the words I’m looking out for and making sure I change them all – and that’s why I’ve been praised and will be used again by the two companies I’ve completed localisation projects for so far.

It’s fun, too!

Read more about localisation as a career

 

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19 responses to “What is localisation (or localization)? How do I localise documents?

  1. Nic

    August 24, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    I wish someone had localised the book I’ve just read – the author was talking about very British authors and locations, and used “ornery”, “hardscrabble” and “brownstone” (about a building in an upmarket London location) and it took the edge off what was a very interesting book!

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    • Liz at Libro

      August 25, 2011 at 8:40 am

      Yes, that can be annoying! But I suppose with the lack of editorial work now done, a lot of places aren’t going to look at that kind of thing. I think you should write in to the publishers and mention it, though!

      Like

       

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