Localization within the USA

Here at Lionbridge, we talk about localization quite a bit.  I’ve only been here a few days and I’ve already heard the term quite a few times.  That’s because it’s one of the most important aspects of what we offer here: not just translation, but also localization.

What is it? Localization (sometimes shortened to "l10n") is the process of adapting a product or service to a particular language, culture, and desired local "look-and-feel" .

Ok, so what does that mean?  Basically, here at Lionbridge, you not only get a human translator to help your document actually make sense to the reader, but we can also localize your document to make sure it reads well to the audience you are trying to reach.  There are differences between Spain Spanish and LATAM, within the many dialects of Chinese, and of course differences between American English and English spoken in Europe.

But what about right here in our own US of A?  Maybe by learning about localization within our own country, we can understand its importance in global translation?

I was born and raised in a suburb of Boston Ma, where “wicked” and “packie store” are well known colloquialisms.  But when I moved to a small town in northwestern Virginia, I didn’t realize how different things would be.  One day, someone asked, “Do you want some pop?” It took me a minute to realize they were offering me a soda.

Another time, someone had brought donut holes into work, and I asked my friend if she had gotten a “munchkin” for herself.
She looked at me like I had just said something inappropriate.

“A munchkin?” she asked. “Like, a midget? A little person?”
“No, a little donut thingy! You’ve never heard the term munchkin?” I replied. She shook her head at me.

Being my nerdy self, I looked up the term “munchkin” as it relates to donut holes, and learned that it was a marketing term created by none other than Dunkin Donuts.  Dunkin’s Munchkins—great slogan, I think – had caught on.  So much so that, in New England (where there is a DD within a five mile radius at all times), everyone knows what you mean when you say you ate a munchkin for breakfast.  But in Virginia I had to explain to my friend that no, I did not eat a little person for breakfast that morning.

On yet another occasion, a coworker asked my boyfriend (who was also raised in Mass) to “get the worsh.” He stared at her in confusion as she repeated herself a few more times.  He shook his head and said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

“Get the worsh out of the worshing machine, the laundry” she said, and finally he understood.  Of course, that scenario only applies to sound and accents, which Lionbridge also offers under our video and audio selection.

These are just a few examples of localization, and may not be very important in your particular translation needs.  But I hope my experience might help you understand the confusion that goes on even within the confines of American English, so that we can understand how important localization is when dealing with international translation across numerous dialects and languages.  So check out some of the things we offer here at Lionbridge, and make sure to remember localization in your translating needs.