What is Localization?

Garry Crystal

Localization is the term used when a product is introduced to another country. It is not simply a case of translating instructions and text on packaging into the language of the intended country; it is a way of marketing the product to the target audience of the country. Localization integrates the product into the both the language and the culture of the intended country.

Businessman giving a thumbs-up
Businessman giving a thumbs-up

If localization has been successfully implemented, then a Swiss or French purchaser will now own a product that they will perceive as having been developed and produced in their own country. The product may have originated and been exported from America, but the foreign purchaser will assume that it is a product of their own country. Localization is a tool that helps in the sale of the product.

A product must be highly attuned to the expectations of the target audience and those who influence that audience. To be successful, localization must pay particular attention to the age-range, language, and sub-culture of the audience, and to the nature of the product itself. There are numerous factors to consider for successful localization.

One of the most important people to have on board in the localization process is the linguist. This person should be a current native speaker of the intended country and a regional expert of that country. He or she must be aware of linguistic idiosyncrasies and cultural differences that might affect the localization process. For example, does the intended country have humor that is language specific? Are there any forbidden subjects regarding sex and violence which may come into play when marketing computer games? The linguist should be aware of all these factors and know how to deal with them accordingly.

An expert product manager is also a must-have. He or she needs to know the product and industry inside out. This person should have expert judgment in what will work regarding localization of the product to a particular country, and how best to use the company’s resources to achieve this.

There should also be experts on hand to advise on the differences in technical specifications from country to country. A computer game’s key controls, passwords, and so on will have to be localized to the particular country it is intended for. Also, do not forget that the European electricity plug points system is different from the American system.

Localization cannot be left to chance. Only a bank of specialized staff can implement a successful localization strategy. You can change a hundred things about the product, but there may still be one simple thing you have forgotten. Delays and mistakes are not just financially costly; they could ruin a company’s reputation.

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Discussion Comments


I found your post very interesting, thank you. For everyone reading this trying to understand why localization is important, a piece of advice: don't start your software localization before you do a little research.


I didn't know anything about localization earlier, but this simple tutorial has taught me a lot.


It's very helpful for me to know about localization. Thank you.


Very helpful to get introductory knowledge.


"He or she must be aware of linguistic idiosyncrasies and cultural differences that might effect the localization process."

Should be "affect"!


It helped me a lot, thanks a lot for the information! -- Himanshu bansal


Good one. Learned a lot about localization. Thanks

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