Recently I’ve been working on some website localisation projects with a core of 5 translators. The work has been fun and rewarding, not least because we’ve been lucky enough to work with a few great clients who involved their creative team right from the start. In fact, it was working with two of these clients which inspired me to write Why You Need A Language Partner To Take Your Business Global (nobody’s going to plagiarise that bad boy, huh?!) for the Huffington Post. It was also made immensely fun by the interactive, team approach that was adopted for the project; producing a real sense of camaraderie and resulting in some great work because of the collaborative manner of working.

Localising content

To be honest though, the project might not have gone so well if the client hadn’t been clear from the start on the process of localising their content. Back when the project was first mooted, I provided some hints and tips about localising; which I now provide to many prospects. It’s a bit of a cheat sheet and helps clients figure out how to work with their language professionals to achieve a result that everyone’s happy with. It might result in business for me and my company, or it might not. The client might take the information and go to another provider, they might use it as a dartboard or they might give me a call back. That’s a risk I’m willing to take, as when it comes to something as niche as localising (well, translating too) I feel that the more information out there, the better!


So, here’s a (slightly edited) version of the hints and tips on localisation I’ve given to clients.

What’s the difference between localising and translating?

The truth is you’ll find that these terms are used interchangeably a lot. When it comes down to it, though, translation deals with translating a text from one language into another, e.g. English into French. Localisation, as its name might suggest, will take care of the “local” part – to use our French example, it will make sure that the French content is appropriate for the country it will be consumed in, so it could be localised for the French Canadian market.

Handy Hints for Localising Your Website

Decide your target markets – chat with your web team, they’ll be able to provide insight into where your visitors are coming from and terms they are searching. You can use this information to choose your languages/language variants appropriately.

On that note, be aware of language variations and variants – US English and UK English can be quite different, just like the Portuguese spoken in Portugal differs from Brazilian Portuguese. Make sure you are localising for the right country!

List your prices in the currency of the country you’re targeting, or, provide a currency converter on the website – you want customers to stay on your site!

Think about the working week in the country you’re localising for and provide appropriate support during their business week. For example, in some countries the weekend falls on Friday and Saturday. If your support is remote, consider time zones. Another useful thing to research is the expected working week duration!

Use slang and colloquialisms carefully (and perhaps sparingly) – think about how your content sounds as well as looks. There have been many humorous incidents when content that looked perfectly sensible on the page was transformed into less…appropriate language when read aloud.

Make sure you localise your images, buttons and embedded content. Clients will be put off if they read everything in their own language until they reach the big red BUY NOW button.

Think about getting your language professional to assist with the translations and/or localisation of SEO terms – it’s not much use having a website in 5 different languages if nobody finds it in the first place.

Buzz Word Lingo

Source text or source language: this is the language your website content is already in. For example, the source text of this post is English (UK).

Target text or target language: the language into which your content is being translated. For example: Hello! > Hola! The source language is English, the target language is Spanish.

Word count: your translator or localiser might ask you for a total word count for your content. For a document, that’s usually easy (and they can probably do it) but for a website, it might be trickier, so it’s easier for you to put them in touch with your web team.

Glossary: you might be asked if you would like to receive a glossary of terms from the project. This is a really handy text to have and ensures continuity when you come to update your content. Sometimes this is included in the overall price. Request one!

Output: this is how many words can be translated or localised in a day. This usually produces the draft version and then the content will be proofread. A rule of thumb for output is around 1500-2500 words per day, but this can vary based on content and complexity.

Document type: This is a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning that providing a document that’s editable will make everyone’s lives easier!

Above all, get a global price for the project and double check what that includes. There are lots of extras which can be really useful for you, especially long term. As a minimum, the quote you receive should include: PROJECT PRICE, PROJECT TIMELINE, DRAFT, PROOFREADING AND FINAL VERSION.

To help you get all of this, what should you provide? In a nutshell – as much information as you can! What’s the translation/localisation for? Is it time-critical? Do you have lots of company-specific acronyms? Which countries is the content intended for?

Information Overlord

And that’s it. As I said, it’s a bit of a cheat sheet. For many translators and localisers it might seem a little simplified (perhaps it is!) but I think that blinding prospects with science and terminology which, frankly, is probably only interesting to translators, is counter-productive if we want to appear open for business! They say that information is power, so by that token if we’re the ones providing the information, then that must make us practically superheroes.

How do you present information to your clients? Do you like them to know a lot or a little about your processes? Let me know in the comments!

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Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Anthony says:

    That’s a good introduction to the concept of localisation!
    I think the key is really to get linguists on board as early as possible, especially when it comes to local conventions.
    As a developer, you definitely don’t want to find out at the last moment that such or such country uses different units or has its weeks starting on Sundays.

    • Jo Rourke says:

      Thanks for your comment, Anthony. I think sometimes, especially when linguists are just starting out, they don’t ask nearly enough questions (usually because they don’t want to appear inexperienced!) and clients assume that their translator/localiser knows everything. Communication between the two parties is essential so that everyone gets a result they are happy with!

  • […] A cheat sheet for localising content – aimed at informing clients and making the localisation process easier.  […]

  • Daniela says:

    Nice summary for your prospects, very clear and to the point. And good insight from Anthony the developer here, too!

    Being an Argentine translator, I find myself localizing translations into our Spanish variant very frequently. And quite frequently too, I have to explain to somebody the difference between translation and localization -not the specifications, of course, but the cultural aspect of it. I do tell clients, esp. web designers, about how I work (and what I need from them.) In general, they like to know about it. A client in this area once got so interested in the process itself that he taught me to use their software, so I ended up translating on their platform, almost at the same time the page was being built. It was a very nice experience, truly collaborative, and totally time-saving.

    I’m new in your place, and I like it very much!
    Nice to meet you!

    *Off to read your Huffington article now*

    • Jo Rourke says:

      Hi Daniela! Encantada 🙂 A collaborative approach is truly a joy to be a part of; I have been on board with a couple of “desde cero” projects for websites and it’s been amazing, as it felt like each language had a website in its own right, it wasn’t just a matter of trying to make do with the existing site.

      I’m delighted you like the site, thanks for commenting! 🙂

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