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Why Culture Is an Important Factor in Localization

Language is a living thing, always changing and evolving, taking on new elements and sloughing off old ones. And in a world that is increasingly globalized — where it is easier than ever to learn a language and practice with native speakers — it can be easy to mistake competency for fluency.

Words might have similar formal meanings in two languages or cultures, but an idiom or colloquialism is much more difficult to perfectly translate. Marketing and advertising continue to change to reflect how consumers are changing (more media consumed online, more advertisements reflecting the changing humor of the time). So, it can be more important than ever to make sure that you get the culture right when you localize a product or service.

Localization is the process of adapting your content or product to a specific market locale. But it isn’t just about explaining your product or service in a different language — it’s about making sure that your imagery does not offend and that any words or phrases do not translate strangely. Localization is about interpreting intention more than it is about interpreting words literally.

The unique thing about cultural signifiers is that slang and colloquialisms are often generation-specific. So the process of localization is not something that happens only once — it must be done over and over to ensure that the product or service you’re attempting to market keeps up with the times.

Cultural sensitivity is important regardless of what type of business you’re conducting. But it is of particular importance when you are trying to market a foreign product to a new region. Because what’s at stake is so much more than just a narrow profit margin: it could be the reputation of your company around the globe. So whether you are working in translation or interpretation, culture is a vital element that must be considered at all times.

Translation: Getting it Right

Photo credit: Himanshu Singh Gurjar

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About Jennifer Bustance

Jennifer Bustance is a California-based freelance writer, playwright, and novelist. Her plays have been performed all over the country, and her prose has appeared in various online and print publications. Jennifer is a teaching artist with the Playwrights Project, San Diego Writers, Ink, and UCSD Extension. She is the Playwright in Residence at the Scripps Ranch Theatre and a founding member of their New Works Studio. She has an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College.

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Meet the Authors

Brian Gruters

In addition to writing blogs for us, Brian Gruters manages translation projects for corporate clients. He started with Language Translation in 2015.

Brian brings several years of experience as a Spanish to English translator to his work. He has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the University of Arizona and a master’s in Environment and Resource Studies from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

As a writer, Brian is mostly interested in language, science, and environmental conservation issues. He writes for various publications, as well as his blog, briangruters.com.

Jennifer Bustance

Jennifer Bustance is a California-based freelance writer, playwright, and novelist originally from Troy, Michigan. Her plays have been performed all over the country, and her prose has appeared in various online and print publications.

Jennifer is a teaching artist with the Playwrights Project, San Diego Writers, Ink, and UCSD Extension. She is the Playwright in Residence at the Scripps Ranch Theatre and a founding member of their New Works Studio. She has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College.

Chris Maroulakos

Chris Maroulakos has worked at Language Translation since 2007, and he is currently the director of operations. He has been a blogger and managing editor for the San Diego music blog Owl and Bear since 2008, and he also worked as a blogger and associate editor for NBC San Diego's SoundDiego music blog.

Chris holds certifications in SDL Trados Studio for Translators (Advanced Level), SDL Trados Studio for Project Managers, and SDL MultiTerm for Translators and Project Managers. He is Inbound Certified by HubSpot and also has certifications in Localization and Localization Project Management from California State University Chico, the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA), and the Localization Institute.

He graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a BA in Communications and with minors in Italian and International Studies.