Many website translation projects which language service providers such as Vocalink are completing today require a process known to the language industry as L10n. The L10n (localization) process of a document may be just as important in the translation process as the translation itself. If prepared correctly, L10n is process that can be done very easily, however if companies have not prepared their product for L10n, then the process is very difficult with many steps.

L10n is defined by Bert Esselink in his book A Practical Guide to Localization as the process in which a product is made linguistically and culturally appropriate for the target locale (country/region and language) where it will be used and sold. L10n is especially necessary for the translation of websites, software and video games as well as documents that have many graphics and/or are cultural specific to a certain country.

I will give you an example of what a localization process may entail.  If you were an American company selling baseball equipment and wanted to sell your equipment in Germany, all you should need to do is translate the English to German and the website should be acceptable for Germans, right? Wrong. Why? Well, one perfect example of why L10n is needed is the payment page.  The necessary information required in the American website (such as state, zip code and phone number) is not applicable for someone buying your product in Germany. Not to mention, currencies and payment methods vary from country to country.

The best way to prepare a website for L10n is to know upfront what makes this process easier. There are many ways that can ease this process. First off, when writing the context for your text, leave out any cultural specific references.  These are especially difficult to translate because cultural ideas do not always transfer from one country to another. Another practice to consider is date formatting. In the United States, abbreviated dates are written as month/day/year. However, in many other countries the date is written as day/month/year. A very simple idea, yet it can cause many problems (especially for a company selling tickets for events and other time specific areas). Lastly, a practice that makes L10n easier is to always allow room for textual expansion. Textual expansion is a very important factor in L10n.  Most languages expand (as in there are more and/or longer words needed to transfer the English words into the target text) when translated from English. A basic example is leaving enough space so that when translating the word “OK” to “Aceptar” the “Aceptar” is completely seen.  You can find a list of the textual expansions of languages here.

As stated before, L10n is a very important process within a translation project. There is more to come about L10n! In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments go ahead and jump in right below in the comments section or give me a call. I’ll get right back to you!