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Term of the Week: Localization (l10n)

What is it?

Adaptation of content to make it more meaningful, appropriate, and effective for a particular culture, locale, or market.

Why is it important?

Localization increases the relevance of the content for a particular target audience by ensuring that it meets the needs of the local market. Localization is a US$40 billion industry and growing[GALA 2018].

Why does a technical communicator need to know this?

Localization, sometimes abbreviated as l10n, is an essential process in the content lifecycle. More than just an add-on at the end of the content development cycle, localization requires careful planning and strategy right from the start.

To be effective, content must be relevant and meaningful to the target audience. Localization is the process by which content is made more appropriate and more meaningful for a particular culture. Without localization, content developers would be spinning generic pablum in the hope that users (near or far) will recognize a scintilla of meaning, latch on, and perhaps buy the product, heed the warning, or swallow the pitch.

Localization is strategic: it requires a comprehensive, planned approach in which all parts of the content system – the messaging, technologies, and audience – come together in a dynamic, creative process, producing what can best be described as an aha moment. Localized content taps into the power of local culture and uses it to project and amplify its message to create a deeper, more resonant message.

Localization is about producing an aha in any language, culture, or medium. A content strategy that doesn’t lead to an aha falls flat. On the other hand, a localization-driven content strategy is capable of producing meaningful content experiences for its audience(s), creating aha moments in Anchorage, Andorra, and Anhui.


About James V. Romano

Photo of James V. Romano

Ever since he was a small child trying to understand his Italian grandfather at the dinner table, James Romano has been trying to unravel the mysteries of languages and cultures. For 30 years now, his company, Prisma International, has been helping clients communicate with their global customers, audiences, and users.

Term: Localization