Why should writers care about language localisation?

Effective language localisation is essential for publications published in a language different from the one in which they were originally written. It adapts the cultural references and other elements of the source text to the translated context so the text is also relevant and relatable to those reading the translated version. Simply put, localisation answers the question: Will the target audience understand the text’s terminology, cultural references and style? For global businesses, brands and organisations, it is essential and widely practiced when breaking into new markets, ensuring that a product or a service feels natural to the new client base. Writers considering publishing the manuscript’s translated version must ensure language localisation is on point to attract readership in the new geographical location.

However, writers might not always consider it when working on their book manuscripts. Language localisation evaluation should start much earlier, before writing, when thinking about who the book is intended for. Thus, this post is looking at language localisation, the key considerations for its effective implementation and its importance for authors.

What is the difference between language localisation and translation?

Language localisation and translation are two different stages of preparing a text for publication. It takes place after the text has been translated and is part of translation editing or copyediting. Translation focuses on the message, i.e., transposing the text’s message from one language to another. On the other hand, language localisation adopts the audience’s experience to make it authentic and relevant to their cultural background.

What is the role of a copyeditor in language localisation?

Language localisation can be part of either editing process: translation editing or copyediting.

During copyediting, it adapts the text to a different audience that uses the same language. For instance, when the written in UK English and set in Britain, language localisation took place when Harry Potter manuscript was adapted to the US readers. During translation editing, the editor implements language localisation when the source language and the language into which the text has been translated are different. Analogically, this process also took place when Harry Potter was published in other non-English-speaking markets.

In either case, the editor must have an in-depth knowledge of the target language and culture. For instance, spelling is one of the essential factors in localisation, particularly when switching between British and American English. The most common example are the verbs, using ‘-ize’ in American English (organize) and ‘-ise’ in British English (organise). Cultural nuances and phrases are other important elements that need to be addressed in the process of language localisation. This part of the process will include the following (and more):

  • turning idioms into content that is clearly understood,
  • converting date and time formats and currencies to match local conventions,
  • adapting cultural references to sports, entertainment, brands and products to the target audience.

Why is language localisation important?

There are two fundamental reasons why the language localisation of a book manuscript matters. Firstly, it removes the assumption that regardless of geo-cultural context, readers worldwide will respond to the same language and references. Secondly, it makes the text relevant and relatable to the new, broader audience, showing that the author, publisher or brand care for the readers in that specific market.

It removes the clunkiness of the one-size-fits-all approach

Just because a country speaks a certain language does not mean it is identical to the language spoken elsewhere, as with English or Spanish. By no means readers in the UK and the US or Spain and Venezuela will respond to the references to the same TV show or sweets brand. A language spoken in multiple countries offers a wide variety of grammar, spelling, slang and other location-dependant idiosyncrasies. (Although, admittedly, internationalisation and globalisation have diminished these differences.)

It makes the text authentic

By implementing localisation, writers have the opportunity to show their future readers they understand them and the idiosyncrasies of their language and culture. This, in turn, makes the text more authentic, relevant and relatable to the audience. And it will invariably help with the sales numbers, too.

On the contrary, mistranslations, incorrect use of words, lack of consistency or idioms and baffling references can widen the distance between the author and the reader. They will make the text less readable and, more broadly, less relevant to the target audience.

Conclusion

Something as simple as language localisation may not seem a priority on the ‘building a relationship with the audience’ to-do list. However, it will systematically show the target readers that the author made an effort to understand them.

By the very essence of their work, editors usually stay up-to-date with any changes in the language they work with. So, for effective language localisation, working with a copyeditor or translation editor is crucial. Contact me to discuss the localisation of your manuscript (and remember to use my early bird discount). For more self-editing and writing tips, follow me on MastodonTwitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or join my newsletter.

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Magda

I am an editor, indexer and a lifelong lover of literature with a PhD in literary history. I am an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), a student member of the Society of Indexers and a vetted partner of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).