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Be Mindful of Cultural Boundaries

Last updated on October 17th, 2016 at 01:30 pm

Cultural boundaries and translation servicesWith the increase of globalization, it has become more important for businesses to understand the culture they are entering. Localizing to that culture is very important to business’ survival. You wouldn’t want to offend someone in another country, just like you wouldn’t in your own country.

Marketing internationally is not just about translating words on a page or any other medium that is being used. You could have every word translated perfectly, but your approach or message of the marketing piece might be offensive to a particular country. Your marketing efforts would be wasted because you didn’t consider the culture.

There are many languages and even more cultures. Languages may be the same, but the cultures within them are different. For example in the U.S, using the term “quite good” means that something was very enjoyable.  However, using the term “quite good” in the UK, means something was average and could be better. This would be important to localize because you wouldn’t want your company or product to be “quite good” in the UK.

Examples of Cultural Boundaries

Therefore, it is also extremely important to localize images.  For example, in the Muslim culture the sole of a person’s shoe is considered extremely dirty and unclean. Thus, showing the sole of your shoe to someone is considered an insult. Similarly in Muslim cultures, an image showing the sole of shoes will not be met with a positive view. Localizing the image to one without the sole showing is a simple way to bring about a more positive response to the content.

Let’s look at another example of image localization in the Arabic culture. If you have a picture of a woman who is just wearing a Bikini, it would be seen as very offensive in that culture and the marketing would not be successful. This is because the picture was not localized. While the image may be seen as acceptable in the U.S, it would not be acceptable in conservative Arabic culture.

There are more detailed parts to localization that you might not always think about, such as hand gestures. An example of a hand gesture that should be localized is the American “peace out” sign. In the U.S. it is seen as a normal gesture. However, using it in the UK is near equivalent to sticking up a middle finger in the U.S. It is swearing and the British won’t respond well to it.

Localization to other cultures is essential in today’s world.

There are many differences from culture to culture that require more than just the translation of languages. Phrases might need to be localized, as do images, colors, and even signs. They all must be checked to avoid offending someone in another culture, which is the last thing you want to do. Remember- you are trying to attract them to your brand and products or services but in another language.  Take a moment to think of your experiences in other cultures and you will understand the importance of localization.  Mindfulness of cultural boundaries is especially important in translation of marketing material.

Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie was born in Venezuela. Jackie has a BS in computer engineering; As President of JR Language, she spends time researching new technology and productivity tools for the Company. She holds a certificate of Localization and Project Management- Localization. Through her many years of experience working in multilingual corporate environments, she understands firsthand the value of bridging language barriers in creating smooth communication that allows for productive and happy work environments. She is fluent in Spanish and English, and is a frequent contributor to both our English and Spanish blogs. Jackie loves nature and to be outdoors.