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5 things you didn’t know you should localize

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I don’t know how many times we’ve emphasized localization on this blog but let me repeat it for the people in the back; localization is a crucial part of going multilingual! The more cultural familiarity you can provide, the more you’ll connect with your global audience.

You might already be localizing the apparent aspects, such as the language, images, and formats — go you! However, to truly grasp the cultural nuances, you might find it beneficial to localize even the slightest details. 

Some are so tricky that you might have no idea you even needed to localize them. Therefore, in this article, we’ll share with you 5 things you didn’t know you should localize. By covering every detail, including all these aspects, your global growth will be unstoppable!

1. Punctuation Marks

What’s the difference between Hello!, Bonjour ! and ¡Hola!? Yes, the obvious answer is the language, but if you look closely, you can see that the exclamation point is used differently. Something you probably thought was universal!

Punctuation marks are quite important when it comes to conveying your message correctly. In fact, their origin goes back to ancient Rome and Greece, where marks were used to indicate where and for how long a speaker should pause. However, they evolved differently in different cultures, and as a result, the rules of punctuation vary significantly among languages today.

Here are a few examples to blow your mind: In modern Greek, the question mark is the semi-colon, whereas the semicolon is a raised dot in the text. Japanese, on the other hand, uses open circles for periods rather than a solid dot. And finally, all punctuation marks in Arabic are mirror images of the English version due to the language’s right to left nature! 

Different punctuation rules among languages

Although punctuation marks are used differently in different languages, they all have one thing in common: they are crucial for giving your sentences their intended meaning. So beware of your target language’s punctuation rules to ensure your message is delivered correctly.

Let's eat Grandma punctuation saves lives

2. Idioms

When you translate an idiom word for word, people will “only understand the train station” — a German idiom that means not understanding what a person is saying. These expressions are so closely linked to the culture that they might even differ among cities of the same country. And due to this, it’s probably one of the most challenging aspects of translation. 

For example, the Japanese are known for their love for cats and as a result, many of their idioms involve cats. Can you guess what “To wear a cat on one’s head.” means? Well, it’s used to say that someone is pretending to be a nice and harmless person when in fact, they’re not. 

Because it takes great knowledge of the culture to use idioms, it’s an effective way of showing your audience that you really speak their language. On the other hand, you can make a fool of yourself if you miss the point.

A scary example was when Pepsi claimed that it “Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave.” in China. The slogan was originally “Pepsi Brings you Back to Life,” but things obviously got lost in translation. So make sure you translate your idioms correctly before causing a panic over a possible zombie apocalypse. 

However, it might not always be possible to find an equivalent in your target language. You can still go for something alike in meaning. But if there is nothing that works, removing the idiom altogether might be your safest option. 

3. Colors

If you think that colors are pretty straightforward and the way one perceives them wouldn’t be affected by culture or language — think again! Even better, let me show you. One of the green squares in the image below is slightly different than the rest, can you tell which one? 

identical green squares with one slightly lighter - Himba Test

Don’t feel bad if it took you some time — or you just couldn’t tell, they look the same to most Westerners. However, the people from the Himba, a tribe from northern Namibia, can spot it immediately because they have more words that define different shades of green in their language. 

Perhaps an extreme example, but this shows that the connotation associated with each color can vary significantly depending on the language and culture. By being aware of how your target audience perceives different colors, you can prompt the desired effect with the right usage of color. You can influence people into making certain connections and affect their emotions and mood with colors. 

Take red, for example. It’s an important color for the Indian culture, and it holds many meanings. It symbolizes purity, fertility, seduction, love, and beauty. Besides, it’s also representative of certain life events such as marriage. 

Whereas, in Thai culture, red is associated with Sunday. In fact, the Thais have a specific color assigned to each day of the week and it’s an important part of their culture. Think about the effect you can have on your target audience by using these colors mindfully! 

Although it might seem simple, it can end up being what sets you apart from your competitors. So make sure to know what each color represents to your audience and how you can use this information to enhance your message. Oh, and for those of you who are still trying to find the different green square, here is your answer

4. Links

Links are a great way to enhance your content and provide resources for readers that want to learn more. But imagine reading an article in French and finding that all the links are leading to German websites. It wouldn’t create the best user experience for your website visitors and doesn’t offer the same personalization you’ve given your original site readers. 

The inconsistency between the language of your page and the language of the link can disrupt the seamless user experience that you worked so hard to provide. So make sure that all your links are in the same language as your translated website.

Moreover, consider providing locale content to make sure that it’s relevant to your audience. You can translate your external links easily with Weglot and make sure that your international visitors have a seamless experience on your website. 

This one can be a bit time-consuming, but in the long run, it’s one that’ll show you care just as much about your new website visitors than your original ones. 

5. Emojis

We’ve come a long way from : ) to 🙂 and now emojis are everywhere! 76% of Americans say emojis have become part of the lexicon in their professional communication. Especially now, we rely on them more than ever to express our emotions in the absence of face-to-face interaction.

Quote on the importance of Emojis and exclamation points

However, you might be surprised to hear that emojis aren’t universal. A study found that the usage of emojis varies significantly among different languages and countries. For example, the UK, USA, Canada, and Australia, showed quite distinct habits when it comes to emojis, despite speaking the same language. 

According to the study, the UK prefers the good old winking emoji, while Canadians use money-related emojis twice as much as the other nations. And the USA is taking the lead when it comes to food emojis by using mostly the meat, pizza, cake, — and well, yes, the eggplant emoji.

The rest of the world also has distinct emoji preferences affected by their culture. For example, the French are living up to their reputation and go for the most romantic emojis. In fact, 55% of the total emojis sent by French people are hearts! 😍

If you’re still not convinced that culture impacts emoji usage, hear this; Russian speakers use the snowflake emoji the most, whereas, for Arabic speakers, it’s the sun emoji — any idea why it might be? 

On the other hand, you risk sending an unintended message with your poor choice of emoji. People from different cultures might associate the same emoji with different meanings — and sometimes even the exact opposite!

For example, in China, the smiling emoji (🙂) a sign of distrust or disbelief and not happiness. And the classic thumbs-up emoji might be perceived as offensive by visitors from Greece and the Middle East, even though it’s a very classic sign of affirmation in the West.

So don’t make the mistake of thinking that emojis are perceived in the same way across cultures. Do your research before using an emoji and be mindful of the message you’re sending to your target audience. You can check useful websites like Emojipedia to make sure what an emoji represents.

Most used emojis of Weglot

Conclusion

Having said all that, these elements don’t necessarily have to be a priority on your localization list. It’s not as significant as localizing some other elements, considering that not everyone might have the time for it. By covering the fundamentals carefully, you’ll still have a great multilingual website.

But for those of you who’d like to take things to the next level, paying attention to these small details will get you there! 

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