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How to Localise: Choose your English right!

The term ‘localisation’ is often used in conjunction with translated texts and refers to the technique of adapting the language of your text to best suit a specific country or region.

When it comes to writing or translating a piece of text, one of the very first things you have to consider is your audience. Who are you writing for, and where in the world are they based? Answering these questions is the first step in successfully localising your text. The English language in particular can be tricky to get right; the differences between American English and British English, for example, can be vast, before even considering the many nuances of language and dialect within each area of those countries! Here at SwissGlobal, we want to help you localise your text and connect with your clients across the English-speaking world.

What is language localisation?

The term ‘localisation’ is often used in conjunction with translated texts and refers to the technique of adapting the language of your text to best suit a specific country or region. Whilst this method is most often used with languages that are spoken in more than one country – such as Spanish, German or English – it is actually hugely important to localise any piece of text. This will help give your content context and meaning for your target market, allowing your reader to connect with your message on a more personal level.

More than simply considering differences in spelling, localisation can also take into account the following aspects of a text:

  • Local slang and idioms
  • Turns of phrase and informal language
  • Cultural differences and sensitivities
  • Imagery and graphs
  • Measurements and distances (e.g. imperial vs. metric)

If you’re looking to really level up your localisation, try to do some research into the specific idioms and dialects of each region, narrowing down your target audience and speaking directly and personally to your customer. For example: when targeting a UK market, the use of metric system measurements could confuse your reader, thus losing their attention; however, if you’re aiming towards a more international audience, then the metric system is more widely-recognised.

Remember also, if you’re planning to use your text on a website or blog, that it needs to be SEO-friendly, too. If you think about it, this in itself is a kind of localisation for the digital world! Here, you should consider and localise aspects such as:

  • Which devices and platforms your target group will be using
  • How your keywords translate in your target language (hint: usually not literally!)
  • The backlinks your blog/webpage is linked to, and whether these are still relevant in the target language

For a more in-depth look at the mistakes you could be making when it comes to localising your SEO, take a look at our full blog post: “Is your multilingual SEO ineffective? Fix it by avoiding these 5 mistakes

Let’s look at an example: the 2020 European Football Championship

With the long-awaited 2020 (now 2021) European Football Championship, or the ‘Euros’, just around the corner, we wanted to focus particularly on the way that English can differ between three of the UK’s countries: England, Scotland, and Wales. As supporters from each of these countries get ready to cheer on their national football team, we wanted to delve deeper into the nuances of British English, and the localisation required when it comes to each of these nations. Good examples of localisation at play can be found within the entertainment industry. Have you ever wondered why film and book titles can be vastly different from one language to another, when the plot is identical? The short answer: localisation!

Take the award-winning French film Intouchables, for instance. Its English title has simply been directly translated into The Intouchables, and is said to possibly refer to the class difference between the protagonist and his carer, as well as the way those with disabilities are viewed by society. However, the Italian title is Quasi amici [Almost Friends], placing a greater importance upon the relationship between the two characters which develops over time from carer and patient into a deep-rooted friendship. The decision to localise the translated titles in this way stems from the varied priorities of the viewers across countries, and proves that the same content, when placed in different cultures, can take on an entirely different meaning.

Why does localisation matter?

Let’s take the UK, for example. Although a single country, the United Kingdom is made up of 4 nations – England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland – each with distinct cultural, traditional, and, of course, linguistic differences. But if everyone speaks and understands English, why does localisation matter?

With any piece of text, the aim is to invoke feeling and emotion within your reader – whether you’re writing a blog post, a tagline, or even naming a product. By using language that feels homely and familiar to your reader, you will speak to them on a personal level, encouraging them to trust you, and therefore buy your product or use your service. For these reasons, the use of localisation in marketing and business-centric texts is incredibly important. Below are some examples of the way English slang can differ in these three different destinations – although, of course, Wales does have its own language.

stupidhuddytwp [pronounced like ‘took’ with a ‘p’ at the end]
fizzy drinkjuicepop
babybairn/weandwt [rhymes with ‘put’]

As you can see, the English spoken even within a single country can be vastly different across regional and national borders, with the English slang of Wales particularly drawing inspiration from its official language.

By knowing your audience, and ensuring that your text is expertly-localised, you will begin to build the foundations for a deeper, more long-lasting relationship with your customers. Luckily, at SwissGlobal, we have just the service for you! Get in touch with one of our experienced professionals and perfectly localise your text for your target market.