In this third part we are going to concentrate on some linguistic and cultural aspects of website localization. As we have already mentioned, localizing a website implies adapting it functionally. This however, is not enough; it also needs to be adapted linguistically and culturally so that it is acceptable in target locales.
Translating a website from one language into another is not always as straight forward as it might seem: there are a number of factors to be taken into account when translating the content. First of all, it is necessary to examine the content of the original page in order to decide what is going to be localized and how. Depending on the target culture, certain information will have to be modified or suppressed, or the focus might have to be changed completely. For instance, if you are presenting company information, certain cultures value academic titles and professional merits as positive, while other cultures might consider such information as pedantic.
From the linguistic point of view, there are six main aspects to be considered:
- Professional translators working in their mother tongue should always be sought and used in any localization project, since only these professionals can guarantee a sound knowledge in the language, the culture and, if it is the case, the specific terminology and style of a certain project. It is advisable that these native speakers are living and working locally, for this is the only way to be aware of the nuances and ongoing changes in the language and the cultural languages of the target market. Good quality assurance processes should also be guaranteed, so that the final version is completely error-free.
2. It is important to create and maintain terminology from the start, particularly if the website contains specific terminology, or if the project is going to be shared among different translators. This will make translators jobs much easier, since they will not need to spend time in terminology research when translating. It will also guarantee consistency among the different pages of a site and with other product or company documentation, which in turn will contribute to a better corporate image.
3. When translating into another language, it is essential to consider regional variants or locales. For instance, is it a website in Arabic that is to be aimed at Algerians or Egyptians? If, for example, it is to target Arabic speakers in all locales, it is advisable to use standard language to avoid misunderstandings.
4. As a general rule, it is advisable to avoid slang, jargon, idioms, puns, colloquialisms and jokes in the source language, since especially these elements can be very difficult to translate into other languages and cultures.
5. The style of the language must be analyzed: if the website is intended for businesspeople as target audience, the vocabulary, grammar and punctuation must reflect this. In the same way, if the audience is informal or young, then a different style must be used, always taking into account the cultural differences.
6. Presenting a product in a foreign market may require dramatic adaptations, and it is worth considering developing some local or country-specific content that provides added value to the localized product.
Apart from all these aspects to be considered, localization also implies using the appropriate format for numbers, time, currency and measurements. For instance, in a webpage intended for the Arabic market, the distance must stay in km, and not in miles. In the same way, it is necessary to guarantee that users will be able to process the information correctly regarding rendering, sorting, spelling and hyphenation.
Linguistic issues are not the only ones to be taken into account: content is an essential part of a website, but it is not everything. The way this content is presented, including which colors, sounds, or symbols are used, will greatly influence the way in which the audience perceives it. Localisation issues can be divided into technicalities (engineering aspects such as layout, window resizing, date, time, number and address formats) and cultural issues. Although the latter might also influence the engineering of the web site, they are mainly related to the conception of the site as a means of communication. Cultural issues include information regarding traditions, habits, politics etc; and are usually presented as either text or pictures with colors, symbols, icons, sounds or any other media.
When designing a web page, it is important to be aware that the layout might have to change completely. This might be due either to size changes when translating into another language, or to cultural aspects that make it necessary to design the page differently. Therefore, layout must be flexible and modular so that it can be changed if necessary. All graphics and tables need enough space to resize them if necessary for a certain language.
This is the final part in Website Localization article.