Media localization is a process by which content (such as films, television shows, video games, advertisements, etc.) are adapted to align with the respective cultural and linguistic demands of a specific region. Localization, in its basic form, involves translating and adapting the content – both audio and video, in the case of media localization – to make it more relatable and appealing to the target audience. The ultimate goal of localization services is to ensure that the content is understandable, culturally relevant, and enjoyable for viewers or consumers in different parts of the world.
Though there are some commonly shared human experiences, our individual perspective is largely based on and influenced by where and how we live. A Tibetan Buddhist monk likely has little in common with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, living in New York City; their respective lived experience is polar opposite in an extreme case. Not only is the language different, but the customs, culture and how people interact with one another may also differ drastically.
Create Culturally Appropriate Content
For this reason, one of the biggest challenges for a media localization company is translating idiomatic expressions and jokes when the cultures are significantly different, so that they remain relevant and meaningful to the target audience. For example, certain gestures or symbols that are commonly used in one culture may not be understood or accepted in another culture. In these instances, the localization agency is required to find culturally appropriate alternatives that will still convey the intended meaning of the content.
Certain languages, such as Japanese and Chinese, are known to have complex idiomatic expressions that are difficult to translate into other languages. Translators often struggle to maintain the humor and wit of jokes while also ensuring that they are culturally appropriate and understandable in the target language. Of all the world’s languages, among the most difficult to translate are Mandarin, Arabic, Korean, and Thai.
Mandarin is a wonderful example of why localization services are so important, and localization done properly by a professional localization studio can determine the reception of any content. Mandarin has 80,000 characters – compared to the U.S. Alphabet containing 26 letters – and even the slightest change in pronunciation of one word can alter the entire meaning of a sentence. Therefore, a deep understanding of the culture and history is necessary when attempting to translate Mandarin media into any other language.
Avoid Errors in Media Localization Services
When localization is done incorrectly or not at all, the consequences can be disastrous for a businesses’ profit margins. A famous example of localization gone wrong occurred in the 1980s, when the popular Japanese video game, “Super Mario Bros,” was released in the United States. The game’s original Japanese script was translated poorly, without the target culture in mind, resulting in awkward and confusing dialogue that made little sense to American gamers. This led to widespread criticism and negative reviews, and the game’s sales suffered as a result.
On the other hand, there are instances where localization has actually improved the quality of the content. An example of this is the popular TV show “The Office,” which was adapted for an American audience from the British original. The American version of the show features many changes from the original, including changes to the characters, plot-lines, and humor.
Some British fans have criticized the American adaptation, which is actually a sign that the localization was done properly! What is meaningful or interesting to a British audience may not be significant to an American audience so the changes that this adaptation went through were necessary in the end. Now, “The Office” is widely appreciated and some even consider the American version to be just as good as the original, if not better.
Avoid Complexities of Content Localization
Media localization is a complex and challenging process that requires translators and localization agency experts to have a deep understanding of both the source and target cultures and languages. While there are many challenges and potential pitfalls of localization, when done with the help of a Localization company, like SPG Studios, the resulting content is not only understandable but also culturally appropriate and enjoyable for viewers and consumers in different regions of the world.
If you have a project in need of localization, SPG wants to help! With experience in different types of content, ranging from eLearning courses and corporate presentations to feature films and episodic projects, we are comfortable working with tight budgets, short timelines, and demanding quality standards. We will go above and beyond to make sure your creation is accessible to any audience you request. Contact us to see how we can meet (and exceed) your needs!
Why SPG Studios is Your Reliable Media Localization Agency?
SPG Studios specializes in localization services, working exclusively with professionals who are native to the country in which the target language is spoken. Because of their native status, they are knowledgeable about the customs and traditions that are being emulated in the localization process. If the project is focused on a specific subject matter, SPG will go the extra mile to hire and work with a professional translator who not only lives in the target country, but also has expertise in that field so that the translations are as real and accurate as possible.