Common Localization Mistakes

If your organization has decided to undertake a localization project, you’ve already taken an important step toward expanding your reach to a global audience.

But, as we all know, the best-laid plans can come undone in the execution. Taking a few steps ahead of time to prepare your content to be translated and localized can help you avoid frustrating delays or costly oversights.

Here are the 7 mistakes we see most often:

1. Not Allowing for Text Expansion

Whether you’re localizing a website, another digital asset, or a paper document, it’s critical to leave enough space to fit the text of your target language. Having to cram your newly translated text into a tight space isn’t fun for anyone, and reading the tiny text without enough white space is a terrible experience for your readers.

Tip: Assume your English text will expand 20-30 percent when it’s translated. This is because some languages require more words or characters to convey the same message.

2. Choosing Poor Graphics

Don’t overlook graphics as you’re preparing your content for translation and localization. Some graphics don’t translate well across cultures. Refrain from using graphics that could be confusing or misunderstood and avoid text graphics that will need to be translated. Screenshots are an exception. If you are localizing software, you likely have a number of screenshots that will need to be regenerated once the software has been localized.

Tip: Save screenshots using a logical naming convention so it will be easy to recreate them.

3. Using Fonts that Are Hard to Read

Not every font is supported in every language. Although the underlying translation may be perfect, what prints on paper may be a mess. We suggest sticking with conventional serif fonts (such as Times) for body copy, and sans serif fonts (such as Helvetica) for headings.

Tip: If you do use a custom font, be sure to share it with your localization provider. This will save time and money while also ensuring branding consistency.

4. Overcomplicating Your Content

When it comes to both font styles and content, it’s best to keep it simple. Your English teacher might have given you extra credit for finding new and creative ways to say the same thing, but when you’re undergoing a localization project, those variations will cost you. Repeating common words and phrases often within your text will lower your per-word translation costs. It also increases clarity and understanding for your readers.

Tip: Take the time to simplify the language of your content before sharing it with your localization provider.

5. Failing to Consider Cultural Context

Your marketing materials may require special attention because they are not as easy to localize across cultures and languages. Some names and slogans may even need to be revisited.

A classic example of this is Braniff Airlines, which launched a marketing campaign in 1987 with the slogan, “Fly in leather.” The Spanish translation for this, “vuelo en cuero,” was misunderstood by many as “vuelo en cueros,” which means “Fly naked.”

Tip: If possible, create your marketing materials with localization in mind. Make sure your localization provider uses translators who are native speakers and work closely with them to understand the exact tone of the translated messaging. You may need to have them help you choose a new idiom in the culture you are targeting.

6. Forgetting to Keep a Glossary

Although your localization provider is the expert in making your content accessible for your target audience, you are the expert in your industry and your organization.

Common industry terms you take for granted may be difficult to understand when translated. Make sure your localization provider is aware of these terms and what they mean.

Tip: Keep a glossary of key terms that are unique to your industry or organization and share it with your localization provider. Be sure to write out acronyms and define them on first reference.

7. Failing to Define Style Guidelines

The style and tone of your content is a key part of your brand. Having clearly defined style guidelines will help you maintain brand integrity during localization. These guidelines should address important elements, including:

  •         The desired tone of your brand (formal versus conversational)
  •         A list of terms that should not be translated
  •         Rules for capitalization, punctuation, and grammar that are specific to your brand
  •         A list of acceptable fonts
  •         Cultural conventions, considerations, and taboos

Tip: Develop style guidelines with input from key stakeholders within your organization. If you don’t have existing guidelines, work with your localization provider to create them.

Read Our eBook

Our eBook, Preparing for Localization, is designed to assist you in defining the scope of your localization project. It will help you ask fundamental questions, avoid common mistakes, and save costs from the outset.

It will also walk you through the steps to localizing your content for diverse audiences while creating new revenue opportunities.

About LanguageLine® 

LanguageLine has been the world leader in innovative language-access solutions since 1982. The company sets the global standard for phone, video, and onsite interpreting, as well as translation of the written word. LanguageLine is trusted by more than 30,000 clients to enable communication with the limited English proficient, Deaf, and Hard of Hearing communities. LanguageLine provides the industry’s fastest and most dependable access to more than 35,000 professional linguists in 290-plus languages — 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Please do not hesitate to contact us.

Translation & Localization - Get the expertise you need to communicate clearly at any scale in over 290 languages. Download the guide