eWorld Translations, Chicago

What is Localization?

Language localization can be defined as the second phase of a larger process (Internationalization) of product translation and cultural adaptation (for specific countries, regions, groups) to account for differences in distinct markets.

excerpted from Wikipedia


Local Differences are Important

Common examples cited include US vs UK spellings (gray vs grey) and regional terms like “pop” vs “soda”. When it comes to Spanish Localization for instance, there are numerous regional differences when it comes to vocabulary; here are a few examples:

English Spanish
computer ordenador (Spain)
computadora (Latin America)
car coche (Spain)
carro (Latin America)
avocado aguacate (Spain)
palta (Latin America)
peach melocotón (Spain)
durazno (Argentina)
skirt falda (most of the Americas and Spain)
pollera (Argentina, Panama, Bolivia)
butter mantequilla (most of the Americas and Spain)
manteca (Argentina)

In addition to  grammar and spelling issues that vary from place to place or from country to country where the same language is spoken, the localization process might include:

  • adaptation of graphics
  • adoption of local currencies
  • conversion to metric system
  • use of proper forms for dates
  • addresses and phone numbers
  • choices of colors and many other details

All these changes are implemented in order recognize local sensitivities, avoid conflict with local culture and habits and to enter the local market by merging into its needs and desires. For example, localization aims to offer country-specific websites of the same company, different editions of a book depending on the place it is published and software adaptation to the linguistic, cultural and technical requirements of the target country. Moreover, document localization makes your target audience feel like they are dealing with “one of their own”. Today, many companies claim that they offer localization services but actually don’t.

Our localization teams consist of highly trained professionals familiar with all aspects of the overall process of internationalization, globalization and localization. They can help you enter markets abroad, introduce products and services from abroad to the domestic market. They can also provide testing to make sure your, products and services are ready to be launched without a hitch.

eWorld Translations can assist you in revamping certain aspects of your existing product that would help to lower the costs of breaking into new markets. Alternatively, if you involve our localization specialists right from the start, you can expect considerable cost savings when entering new markets since your products and services are then designed for ease of localization right from the ground up.

International Brand Research

Let eWorld Translations do the Research for you

When spreading your brand geographically or to other target groups you need to assure that your brand is a good fit with the location’s conditions while balancing this issue with your effort towards consistent branding across markets. We will research your brand and slogans for potentially unwanted connotations, including insults and religious overtones and – if necessary – provide you with recommendations for the localization of your brands.

What Happens when you don’t Localize?

Given the various (in)famous examples where multinational companies failed to properly research their brand’s localization for some of their new markets, are you sure that your brand will not conjure up similarly loaded and potentially negative connotations?

  • Ford found out when the Pinto flopped in Brazil that its name was slang for “tiny male genitals” and subsequently rechristened it Corcel, meaning horse.
  • General Motors initially introduced the Chevy Nova in South America unaware of the fact that “no va” means “it won’t go”. Once the company renamed the car “Caribe” in its Spanish markets, its sales improved.
  • Gerber Baby Food was not aware of the common practice in Africa to feature a picture of what is inside on the product, and as a result ran into a problem with its depiction of a cute Caucasian baby on their label.
  • KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) advertising slogan “finger lickin’ good” initially was published as a Chinese translation of “eat your fingers off.”
  • Mitsubishi, in Australia and in Europe, markets a four wheel drive named “Pajero” but encountered some embarrassment in Spain as the name means “Masturbator”.
  • Panasonic developed a web browser and licensed Woody Woodpecker, the cartoon character, as its user-friendly “Internet guide”. The day before their ads were going to be released for a world version of the product, the product launch was delayed indefinitely once an American staff member at the internal product launch pointed out what the ad’s slogan “Touch Woody – The Internet Pecker” might mean to English speakers.
  • Pepsi ended up with a translation of “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”, even though the company spent a lot of money for their “Pepsi gives you life” advertising campaign in China.
  • Perdue’s slogan “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken” allegedly got mangled on billboards all over Mexico as “It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused”, featuring a photo of Frank Perdue with one of his birds.
  • Salem cigarettes’ American slogan “Salem – Feeling Free” in its translation for the Japanese market ended up as “When smoking Salem, you feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty”.
  • Schweppes Tonic Water, in a campaign in Italy, was translated into Schweppes Toilet Water.
  • The connotations of the name that the Japanese company Daihatsu gave its “Charade” are quite similar in a variety of languages.

Ultimately it does not matter whether a lack of qualification of the translator(s) or insufficient international brand research were the culprit, in either case the company ended up with a certain amount of egg on its face.

Examples of Bad Localization

Here are some examples where someone screwed up in the localization process:

The download manager that came with Adobe Reader 9.3 in its Russian version informed the user “загрузить и проводка прогресс” which is balderdash in Russian (something along the lines of “to download and wiring, progress”). The original text likely was “Download and installation progress”, but this is not at all evident to an average user.

Or imagine the bad publicity and drop in sales caused in the following case.

For both a chuckle and food for thought, please take a look at our examples of bad translations, too.


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