Localization or translation
Localization and translation are both services that are provided by translation agencies, which is why there's often confusion surrounding these terms. Translation is about transferring the text from the source language into one or more target languages. Localization, however, is not only about translating the text, but also about making it easily accessible to the target language readers.
- For example, this can mean that text passages that are not important for the target language are omitted (e.g., dealer addresses in the country of manufacture).
- It can also mean that the translation agency adds information in order to explain content that is not self-explanatory for the culture of the target language through a pure text translation (e.g., a short summary of what an English standard requires for which there is no counterpart in the target language).
- And, last but not least, it can also mean that content is replaced with other content that is more suitable for the target country (e.g., instead of the original illustration of the device, an illustration with the country-specific power sockets).
Localization in technical writing
These examples show that localization is also important in technical writing. Basically, localizing a text is much more expensive. This is quite understandable because, when localizing, analysis, research, and creation are altogether much more time-consuming. The cultural differences must be identified, researched, and then reflected in a localized version.
Ideally, a technical writing department will therefore try not to include cultural nuances in the source text in the first place. Overall, it is more cost-effective if the writing department, for example, already states the requirements of a standard in the English version as well, instead of just referring to it. Or if illustrations are always made without plugs as standard.
An efficient terminology management system is also helpful for localization. This is because device labels or user interfaces also have to be adapted to the target language. Terminology management ensures that it is clear which term in the user interface should be used in which language.