Why Localization is Important: Lost in Translation from Spain to LATAM

First Thing's First, What is Localization?

The translation and adaptation of material for foreign-language markets is what we formally know as localization. Localization adds a significant amount of value to a translation by:

  • Ensuring the translated material is not only correct, but culturally appropriate
  • Appearing custom-built to better the end-user’s understanding
  • Not changing the original meaning; nothing will get “lost in translation”

Localized material is translated to meet the needs of the target foreign market. This means that above all, localized material is culturally sensitive. A commitment to cultural sensitivity for your target market can bolster your global brand image as well as build trusting, loyal customers all while avoiding costly misinterpretations.

To ensure your translations are culturally sensitive, considering the different dialects of a language, spoken across different borders or seas is necessary. Language and culture are not synonymous; language is just an element of culture. Take for example, the generic “Spanish” language versus the cultural variations Spanish-speaking-country-to-Spanish-speaking-country (i.e. Spain, Mexico, Argentina, The Dominican Republic, and Cuba, just to name a few). Here are some things to think about when considering localization for Spanish-language translations:

  • Spanish is one of the top five languages spoken worldwide, there are twenty official Spanish-speaking countries globally
  • There are two key variations of the Spanish language: Spain (European) Spanish and Latin American Spanish
  • Within Latin American Spanish, there are even more sub-dialects that develop on a country-to-country basis; localization can tailor content and messages right down to these specific sub-dialects or it can help create a generic message understood by all, the choice is yours
  • Differences in each linguistic variety can occur in pronunciation (accent), vocabulary, and grammar. The latter two play an important role in quality of a translation
  • Interesting and unexpected differences in local dialects emerge in places such as Peru, a country with an Asian-influenced culture. Over time, many Chinese and Japanese words have been Hispanicized and are recognized as a part of everyday Peruvian Spanish.
  • Moreover, a costly misunderstanding may arise from the use of the verb “currar,” a colloquial word of European Spanish meaning “to work,” but directly translating “to rip somebody off” in sub-dialects of Latin American Spanish

Remember: translation does not equal localization and language does not equal culture. Localization and culture are unique in that they contribute greatly to the understanding of your foreign target audience and allow for personal identification with the content of your message.