In Translation/Localization

Without context, you cannot communicate effectively. Let’s look at a simple example:

I read the book.

How did you read the word “read” in this sentence? Let’s add some context:

I read the book last week.   -vs-   Before I watch the movie, I read the book.

With the tiny additions above, we now know from context that the first phrase is in the past tense, while the second phrase is a declaration.

Setting Context

Context is set by the words around the words in your content, like in the above example, but also by the visuals that accompany the words, your color and font choices, and for audio/video, tone of voice and body language. Context goes even further. Your audience’s past experience with your brand creates context. Pop culture, current events, historical references, and so much more all help set the stage for delivering the totality of your message.

Linguists do not have a crystal ball ready to reveal the intended meaning of your content. When it comes time to localize your content for a target audience from a different culture, your linguist needs more than “I read the book.” During localization, linguists transfer meanings, concepts and ideas into other languages and for other cultures. To be successful, they need the full picture – the context – of your message. Often, the words, alone, just cannot paint the full picture. You can maximize the credibility and receptivity of your messages through localization by providing your localization team with context.

Avoid the Crystal Ball

There are many ways to provide the linguists on your localization team with the context they need to truly transform your message to resonate in another language. If you’ve localized your content lifecycle strategy, as discussed in our recent blog, you’ve already taken the most crucial step: involving your localization team at the content creation step to ensure “localizability” of your content. Beyond this important practice, there are several things you can do to help set your linguists – and therefore yourself – up for success:

Terminology List

Linguists are most successful when given the best tools with which to work. Your industry – and even your individual brand – has its own, unique terminology. You differentiate yourself from your competition by using different terms or naming conventions. Your unique terminology, terms and naming conventions must be translated in each target language. Provide your linguists with a terminology list that includes the term and its definition. Your linguist can then chose the best option for translating that term in your content to deliver the same message, and ensure that the same terminology is used consistently across the translation.

Style Guides/Branding Guidelines

In addition to unique terminology, your brand guidelines set your brand identity and brand voice to position yourself in your market.  Your brand guidelines underpin your content strategies. Your localized content must preserve your brand identity across different languages and cultures. Providing your linguists with your brand guidelines is a great start. But developing style guides for each language/culture to define how localization is conducted for that specific language takes you to the next level.

Localization style guides address things like language/culture regional differences, general linguistic rules, content types, fonts, tone, references, formality level, numbering, calendars, brand names, social and geopolitical considerations. These guides often include specific choices for how different terms, thoughts, ideas, or concepts will be translated into a specific language (which, of course, should also be included in any terminology list). Localization style help ensure global brand consistency.

Reference Materials

A great way to set context for your linguists is to offer them reference materials. If, for example, your linguist will be localizing a new ad campaign for your #1 product, he/she can understanding the context by:

  • Reading or watching the previous ad campaigns for this product,
  • Looking at audience comments and feedback on the prior campaigns,
  • Perusing your website and social media pages,
  • Reading through the user manual, and/or
  • Going through the product/software demo.

Let’s say you provide your linguist with the past three ad campaigns and links to your website and social media pages. She learns last three campaigns have been quirky, fun, hip, and modern, and that your website uses direct, bold word choices. So, when localizing the campaign for a Spanish-speaking audience (a language that includes formal and informal forms), your linguist will know to choose the informal and be bold and direct.


Yes, that heading looks a little odd. But access to you is the #1 context resource you can provide your linguists during the localization process. You and your team know your brand inside and out. You live your brand guidelines every day. You’re familiar with all of your product/service offerings. In short, you know your brand’s context. Provide a communication channel for your linguists so they can avoid guessing about your intended meaning.

Vocalink Global’s TheGlobalBrand and Localization solutions are designed to create a collaborative approach to translation and localization to ensure your success. Want to learn more? Connect with us today!

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