The Secret of Localization Behind Translations.

By: Rafael Nieves, Translator-Copy/Editor

In a warm-sunny afternoon, a New York tourist arrives at this local bar in Texas, and...

New York tourist [as he enters inside the Texas “cowboy region” establishment and approaches the bar]: “Good afternoon Sir”


Texas bartender: “Howdy partner, are you looking to wet your whistle today”?


New York tourist: “What??” [Reacting perplexed and confused].


Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you –sort of- speak the same language but cannot get the message across? Where you need to ask for clarity on what you were told? Sure, we have all encountered this situation every time we travel to another region or country (even in our own country – speaking the same language). In the above conversation, the bartender basically greeted the NY tourist by saying in his local English dialect: “Hello Sir, are you having a drink today?” Being the NY tourist unaware of the town’s expressions in such region, he gets confused since he is not familiar with the local’s particular jargon. He is not “localized” with that area. And that’s when we translators step in to rescue a “NY tourist” or a completed translation intended for a specific region.


In the translations world, this is what is known as Localization. Is the process in which a translation professional researches the intended recipient’s culture, dialect and regional characteristics to adapt the translated content into that specific locale or market. This process includes, among other tasks:



To achieve accuracy on translations, this process is essential and it’s part of the research we do when we receive a translation. We need to ensure that this is done by gathering all the information necessary from that specific country, region, city, rural area etc., in order to adapt everything to the best of our abilities. This includes consulting with people from the region and/or acquiring valid references (glossaries, style guides, local literature, audio-visual resources etc.) pertaining thereof. After this is done, it is recommended to “run” the translation through a proofreader (preferably a native speaker from such region) who is familiar with the locale to “fine-tune” and modify the translation as needed.


In my research, I obtained some –English into Spanish- examples from different Spanish speaking countries to show why this process is vital in translations. (See table below):




This is why localization can be a very challenging task when implementing a “neutral” Spanish translation that resonates with every Hispanic living in the US. Nowadays, we use technology via CAT tools (Computer Assisted Translation tools) that help in many aspects since some of them filter the language by country. However, it is (and, in my opinion, it will forever be) vital to have a professional human translator double-checking everything for accuracy, specially in the United States; where we need to apply a Spanish “happy medium” translation that reverberates across all Hispanics originating from the 20+ nationalities residing in the US. In addition, when translating and localizing, it is essential to employ words with an insightful transcreation and marketing point of view aimed towards attracting the Hispanic consumer while maintaining the message’s intent, style, tone and context.


In summary, before delivering any translation, we have to do our “homework” and make sure that we accurately identify our target audience’s region/locale in order to adapt their content accordingly. With the variety of cultures comprising the world, we need to be careful and avoid any misunderstanding, offense, and mistakes that can result in the loss of clientele, loss of business relationships, bad reputation and/or even a lawsuit.


Nevertheless, we have to be grateful and feel fortunate to be part of a diversified world with so many customs, traditions and wonderful people full of invaluable multicultural experiences to be exchanged with each other. And that’s what makes us special, regardless of being a Wandering NY Tourist or a Hospitable Texas Bartender!


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