Importance of Cultural Context in Localization

Importance of Cultural Context in Localization

The exponential growth of regional language internet users has helped make localization a significant part of a company’s global expansion endeavors. It might not appear new to many, especially those considering translation and localization the same. While it is true that both are interconnected, the latter is a much broader phenomenon requiring high levels of accuracy across factors like language, context, and culture.

Culture, in particular, is a highly sensitive and intricate concern. Cultural inaccuracies in localization can cost companies business and reputation. Hence, it is imperative that companies account for cultural context and accuracy while localizing content. Let’s delve into some of the vital aspects associated with the cultural context in localization.

The Profound Relationship Between Language and Culture

Language is an integral part of localization. So, when you talk about language, you cannot discount culture. It is also because language is the outcome of culture and the medium via which a particular culture is inherited by posterity.

Language signifies the customs, values, beliefs, traditions, etc. of the people who speak it. For instance, some words in a particular language are specific to the respective culture. They do not have a synonym in another language, as that specific word that pertains to something exclusive (like a ritual, religious element, etc.) is nowhere related to or used in the target language and culture.

In such situations, localizing that word or phrase is challenging. Here, localization experts should know the cultural context to ensure they localize the word or phrase without losing its original meaning and while retaining its original integrity.

In addition, language is also significant as the medium of cultural expression. It can impact the way people speak, behave, and conversate. Hence, while localizing a particular text, you should consider the cultural context in which the source language was written or spoken. It is because that can impact the text’s meaning and context, making it appear inaccurate and in some severe cases, offensive!

Addressing Cultural Nuances in Localization

Cultural nuance is another crucial area companies should remain aware of while localizing their content. Why? There isn’t one reason but many.

The most fundamental one is the use of a particular phrase, word, etc. While it could mean something pleasant and welcoming in a particular culture or language, it could refer to something opposite in the target culture. A single mistake could make all your efforts go down the drain!

Accordingly, localization experts must consider this part seriously and work on it to ensure that the original meaning remains intact and that the translated phrase doesn’t hurt anyone’s cultural feelings or offend them.

For instance, let’s consider the idiom, at the drop of a hat. It is unique to English. Hence, localization experts cannot transliterate it to another language while retaining its meaning. In another language, it could either seem meaningless or irrelevant. In situations like these, they will have to find an idiom with a similar meaning.

Similarly, a phrase or an idiom used in any other language might be specific to it and not used in any other language. Here, localization professionals should explore an idiom close to the original one to match the cultural context. Translating it as it is can leave the user clueless or require them to make the effort to search for an equivalent in their language or culture. It could royally affect user experience.

Another critical area is taboos. Talking about something considered a taboo in a particular religion or culture could have severe implications. They might be normal in the source language or culture. But users of the target language might feel offended and confront the company in situations like these.

How to Maintain Cultural Context in Localization?

Maintaining cultural context isn’t rocket science. But by no means is it a straightforward job either. Maintaining cultural context requires an extensive and unfathomable understanding of the target culture, people’s preferences, taboos, etiquettes, nuances, etc. Thus, the understanding of a particular culture goes beyond language expertise.

Of course, it takes abundant effort and years of qualitative interactions with the target culture and its followers. But doing as much also isn’t sufficient. It is because, while comprehending a particular language and decoding its various aspects, a localization professional should also be able to apply them and ensure their accuracy while articulating the content.

Considering cultural contextual accuracy, the nucleus of localization, you should remain extra careful about its nuances and implications. It can make or break your foreign venture!

Culturally accurate localization can help you connect better. But on the other hand, inaccuracies can cause irreparable damage to your local reputation.

One of the critical aspects is building a team of localization professionals. But doing it in-house incurs time, effort, and money. Hence, partnering with professional localization companies like Filose can help.

We are one of the leading translation and localization companies with expertise in 100+ Indian and foreign languages and experience localizing websites, mobile applications, books, videos, and web applications for various business domains. Our team of in-house language experts have a deep understanding of various cultures and that reflects in the accuracy of our work.

Please email us at to learn more about our localization expertise and offerings for your business.

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