“I bought a 25-pound bag of …” – Why Content Localization Matters

Statisticians estimate that, as of late 2021, between 4.8 and 5 billion people around the globe now use the internet. That’s about 62% of the world’s population. In just one year, 222 million new users joined the internet community. This means that, other than a few penguins and some elves, the internet reach truly is global. Who knows, Santa/Papa Noel/Дед Мороз/… may soon install his own personal web connection.

For website operators, this growth represents a significant opportunity to broaden their influence. Entrepreneurs and those hoping to have an international social impact can now speak to local communities around the world that were previously inaccessible. Virtually no one is out of reach.

The Intricacies of Content Localization

We see it every day. Many operators and translators trying to reach these new audiences in their native languages take a “one-size-fits-all” approach – they simply translate their content into another language and leave it there. So, for example, they translate their English content into Spanish, and then assume that their Spanish content is “good enough” for native Spanish speakers worldwide – whether in Spain, Mexico, or any of the countless Spanish-speaking Central American or South American countries.

But “good enough” is, quite simply, NOT good enough. With the numerous significant regional and local distinctives – especially among more widely-used languages – the success of a website demands not only accurate translation. It also requires effective localization – understanding the more narrowly-targeted audience and the nuances and subtleties of their “version” of their language, and creating content that speaks to those local distinctives.

Examples… and Why You Might Be Confused

Consider, for example, a simple English phrase… “I bought a 25-pound bag of potatoes.” What does that mean? Well, quite honestly, it depends on where you live. In the US, the reader’s immediate response is, “Oh, that’s how much it weighs. What did it cost?” But… in the UK, the reader’s response is EXACTLY the opposite… “Oh, that’s how much it cost. What did it weigh?”

This is a classic example of why content localization (or, to some in my audience, localisation) is an essential part of good translation. A term that relates to weight in one community but money in another. A simple use of a “z” rather than an “s”. These are just a few of the countless nuances that determine whether something speaks only to the mind of the reader, or whether it reaches to their heart as well.

Similar distinctives exist in every widely-spoken language around the globe. And when it comes to the internet and search-engine optimization (SEO), a strong content localisation strategy becomes even more critical. If you want to reach a particular target audience, but you don’t use the localized terms that they will most readily search, they will not easily find you. That’s why it is important to hire writers and translators that have a keen understanding and appreciation for localization.