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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Localization does not equal straight translation

That's right folks - localizing text, in particular marketing and promotional copy, is not simply a matter of finding a competent translator who has native fluency in both source and target languages. And I'm sure many of my readers already knew that.

So why mention it here? Because I've entered the land of SEO, particularly in the context of a multinational company where most localization starts with a central (and usually English language) source which is then adopted by a subset of our countries. An organically search engine optimized English web page will not be automatically optimized in the localized version.

In other words, having the most effective keywords determined for the source language cannot and will not absolve the page owner of the localized version of ensuring that someone performs keyword research for this content.

To delve further into the best practices of text localization, I've found that it involves a profound knowledge of how one can realistically or typically expect a culture to think. Are they taught critical and skeptical thinking in their education system? Do they belong to a dominant economy, or are they dwarfed by a superpower neighbour? Do high level concepts appeal to their thought processes, or meticulous, quantifiable data? Understanding what motivates and interests a collective of people, the target audience, and implementing these insights through writing is, in fact, crucial to successful localization.

It wasn't until I began exploring the differences in conducting business in Austria and Germany, who presumably share a common language, that this truly came to light for me. But, more on that in a later post.

About Mayo

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Professional: As "Senior Enterprise SEO Strategist" in IBM's Digital Marketing division, I provide consulting and training services for both internal and external clients. Formerly I was involved in Natural Language Processing, software localization, quality assurance and documentation authoring.
Personal: INTJ Nikkei Nisei ex-patriated Canadian who takes photographs and enjoys Baroque through late Classical music. The G+ page shares some of the "best of" photos.