What does localisation involve?

What does localisation involve?

The general definition given for localisation is usually something like:the process of culturally adapting a product or a service from one language to another.

Published 5/4/2015


Localisation involves linguistic and cultural adaptation to suit local conditions. This means using the right forms of address, the right associations and the right cultural impressions for the target group you want to reach.


In this post we will focus on localisation, the adaptations carried out on a product or a text for specific, local markets and for target groups and language groups. Localisation is sometimes abbreviated as L10N (the letters L and N with 10 letters in between).

Localisation for language companies

As a language company, localisation involves the cultural adaptation and translation of software and websites. Materials can be localised for a specific region or a specific country. For example, different dialects of Spanish are used with different local expressions, styles and cultural phenomena in Latin America.

In purely concrete terms, this involves for example:

  • adapting the stylistic level and form of address according to the target group
  • ensuring that the right character sets and writing directions are used
  • translating or adapting according to local date and week formats, telephone numbers, address formats, currencies, time formats and sorting orders
  • adapting the layout, colour and choice of illustrations.

All these changes are carried out in order for the product or text to have the right feel for the local target group. The aim is to avoid things that sound or feel ‘wrong’ and to ensure that the product or text instead appeals effectively in the right way, to the right target group, in the right market. The term locale is often used to refer to the parameters that form the basis for localisation.

How to prepare for localisation

Localisation requires a little extra work, but you can make the localisation process easier by preparing for this when first creating a product or a text. Here are some suggestions for things to think about in order to facilitate localisation.

  • Identify target groups for the text, the desired ‘locale’.
  • Remember that product names, symbols, icons, colours and sounds can be interpreted differently and have different meanings and associations in different cultures. Bear this in mind, and try to find something that works, avoid things that don’t work or prepare for alternatives.
  • Illustrations should also be adapted in order to make the right impression on the local target group. Depending on the context, good and completely globally suitable illustrations may be available, but it can often be worth preparing alternatives in advance.
  • Bear in mind that shortcut commands, shortcut keys, presets and even keyboard set-ups often differ from one local operating system to another.
  • Units, dates, quotation marks, times, currencies, etc. are often written differently.
  • Try to avoid materials that are hard to translate or could possibly cause offence locally. Humour, for example, can be tricky as it is so culturally based, as are idiomatic expressions and puns.
  • If you will be printing all or part of the material, or if the end-users will be able to print it out themselves, it is worth thinking about page and paper formatting.

One useful tip is to let a language company work together with your local contacts to produce a template.

Useful links

Not sure where to start? Semantix has extensive experience of adaptation for international markets – we can help you to identify what needs to be done.

Contact us
Synnöve MT.