The Ultimate Guide to Content Localization

May 28 2024 VITAC
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In today’s digital landscape, content is king. Business leaders and content creators around the world understand that generating high-quality, engaging digital content is one of the best ways to build a brand, entice new prospects, and build an audience. But how do you ensure your content stands out from the crowd?

Thanks to the ever-evolving powers of the internet, consumers are more keyed-in than ever to content and products that originate from places beyond their immediate geographic locations. Subsequently, one of the best ways to deliver on-target content and communications to members of the global community is to tailor information to the linguistic needs of diverse audiences while considering the specific expectations of consumers from different regions. In fact, research suggests that content that is locally targeted has six times more engagement than posts that were generally designed for the global market. Let’s take a closer look at the process of content localization and explore how employing localization solutions can help brands deliver more engaging, equitable experiences.

What is content localization?

Content localization refers to the process of adapting and tailoring content to comply with the linguistic, cultural, and contextual nuances of a specific target audience. Many business leaders are already familiar with the benefits of translation, but content localization takes it a step further. While translation focuses on roughly converting text or audio from one language to another, localization focuses on fine-tuning a translation to reflect the local vernacular of a target audience.

Just because two people speak the same language does not mean that they communicate in the same ways. People from different regions use different phrases, idioms, and colloquialisms, even if they generally speak the same language. In many cases, terminology differs between countries, even if the overall language spoken is the same. Viewers from one country may refer to an object by one name, while viewers from another country may use a different name from the same language. For example, translating a video from Spanish to English would make the content more accessible to viewers from English-speaking countries, but a viewer from the UK might imbue certain words with different meanings than viewers from the United States or Canada. That’s why it’s so important to consider your specific target audience and adjust your translation and localization processes accordingly.

Two men sit on a couch watching a video on a cell phone

What are the benefits of content localization?

Research consistently shows that localization can have wide-ranging benefits for content creators and business leaders across a variety of industries and genres. A few of the most significant benefits include:

  • Enhanced user engagement: Users are more likely to interact with and respond positively to content that speaks their language and accounts for subtle differences in cultural norms.
  • Broader reach: Localized content can more effectively reach global audiences and encourage them to engage more fully with the information being shared. Localization can also be a valuable tool for building public confidence and trust in your brand.
  • Enhanced accessibility: By tailoring information to specific populations, creators and business leaders can provide more equitable experiences to audience members of diverse backgrounds. Consumers want to feel included and considered, and localizing content can ensure all audience members receive equitable messaging, regardless of their geographic region or cultural environment.

Types of content that benefit from localization

In our content-driven culture, it can be hard to know exactly what kinds of content need to be supported by localization. Many popular types of assistive technologies can be used to support content in multiple languages, and localization plays a critical role in further tailoring these resources to the needs of specific audience members.

A black and white image of a man in a recording booth, a large microphone on a boom is in front of him. for the localization blog

Dubbing

Dubbing is a process in which the original dialogue in a video or audio recording is re-recorded in another language and dubbed over the original audio track. Voice actors perform the translated script and aim to meticulously time their delivery to match the delivery of the original performers.

The dubbing process

  • Script translation: The original script is translated into the target language.
  • Casting voice actors: Voice actors audition and are hired to record the new, dubbed version of the audio track. Many casting professionals aim to hire voice actors who sound like the original performers.
  • Recording: The actors perform the new translated dialogue while trying to sync their speech to the original actors’ lip movements. The audio is captured and recorded in a recording studio.
  • Post-Production: The dubbed audio track is edited and mixed with the original background sounds and music to ensure the audio quality is on par with that of the original audio track.

Localization comes into play early in the dubbing process. During or immediately following the initial translation phase, professional translators can review and edit the initial translations to better reflect the common vernacular of different target audiences. Voice actors may be asked to record several different versions of the script during the recording process so different dubbing tracks can be incorporated into content shared with viewers from different regions. Streaming platforms, for example, can then offer users the ability to choose between different dubbed versions of their desired content, so they can enjoy the most engaging, equitable viewing experience possible.

Translation

As previously discussed, translation involves converting written text from one language to another while maintaining the original meaning, tone, and context. Localization can play a critical role in the translation process in situations where information is ultimately going to be shared with a large, diverse population. Offering localized transcripts for different audiences can help to ensure more equitable messaging across the board and cut back on the potential for miscommunications or misunderstandings that may arise as the result of subtle differences in language usage and meaning.

A closeup of a remote control with the buttons marked 'lang' and 'subtitle' prominently displayed showing how to access content geared for localization

Captions and subtitles

First, let’s briefly discuss the differences between captions and subtitles. Captioning refers to the process of converting audio to on-screen, readable text. Subtitling is a form of captioning that seeks only to produce textual representations of spoken dialogue. Closed captions are a popular accessibility tool because they deliver equitable content experiences to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing by representing both spoken text and non-speech audio elements. Subtitles, on the other hand, are used primarily for making content inclusive of audience members who are watching a video in a non-native language.

Localization can be used for both subtitles and captions. Essentially, subtitles and captions deliver on-screen, real-time translations of video content, so it stands to reason that these assistive technology solutions could also benefit from the aforementioned benefits of localized translation. For example, if a media company invested in content localization, they could give viewers the option of choosing between the US, UK, or Canadian versions of English subtitles. This would help to deliver more equitable content experiences and ensure that all viewers are able to follow along seamlessly during their viewing experience.

Most accessibility requirements overtly highlight the need for high-level caption accuracy, and localization can play a role in strengthening the overall quality of the captions provided to viewers. Tailoring the text of your captions to the needs of a particular audience can help to ensure that all viewers receive equitable experiences, regardless of their reasons for consuming content with the captions enabled.

Where do we see localized content?

Localization can be a valuable tool for professionals across a wide range of industries. Here are a few of the most common places we see localization come into play:

Media

With the rise of streaming platforms, the demand for localized content has surged. Viewers around the world are now binge-watching programming that may or may not have been produced in their immediate region. As content becomes more globalized, it must also be more localized. By investing in content localization, media companies can more effectively support audience members from all over the world and deliver more consistent content experiences to diverse audiences.

Business

Recent research shows that most companies are now hiring employees in more than one country. Given the global nature of our workforce and economy as a whole, localization can be a valuable tool for supporting employees and customers alike. Content localization is essential for multinational companies that need to engage customers and employees across different regions. Localization can be employed for both internal and external communications to ensure more equitable messaging for all community members. Localization can also be used to boost the reach and efficacy of marketing materials like video ads, social media advertisements, blog content, and more. Localizing these kinds of content and communications can build public trust in your brand and lead to higher click-through and conversion rates.

Education

Canada hosted more than 1 million international students in 2023. This means that students from all over the world are coming together to further their studies. Given that many international students are completing their studies in non-native languages, localization in education can help to support the needs of international students and ensure higher rates of student success. By adapting written materials, lectures, and other educational content into different vernaculars, academic institutions can more effectively meet the needs of their ever-diversifying student bodies.

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A powerful tool

Content localization is a powerful tool for delivering more engaging, equitable content experiences to people from all over the world. Whether localization is employed by a media company or local school district, the benefits of this solution are far-ranging and encouraging for thought leaders invested in diversifying and expanding their brand presence.

As the demand for localized content continues to grow across media, corporate, and educational sectors, businesses and institutions that invest in localization will be well-positioned to thrive in an increasingly connected world. That’s why companies like VITAC are committed to delivering top-tier localization and translation services that are tailor-made for the industries they support. By incorporating the best-available technology solutions with the expertise and input of experienced human professionals, VITAC can help creators and business leaders more effectively meet the needs of their global employees, customers, and communities. Reach out today to learn more about VITAC’s localization process and to discover all the ways localization can help you build a more inclusive, accessible brand.