What is localisation?

Localisation is a hot topic in the translation industry. This is the definition preferred by the Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA): "Localization involves taking a product and making it linguistically and culturally appropriate to the target locale (country/region and language) where it will be used and sold."
I came across this sentence in a translation:

Even if you’re not interested in visiting the very first Starbucks – after all, it’s just a Starbucks – there are plenty of things to see and do in Seattle.

The client had made it clear that the site should be accessible and engaging for a French audience. The problem here was that Starbucks, which is ubiquitous in England and the USA, is actually not well-known in France. There are just 3 Starbucks in France, all in Paris. The first one opened this year, and although there was much publicity around it, I don’t think your average French person would know that Starbucks is a coffee shop (yet!). I brought this to my client’s attention and she advised me to change the source sentence to "Even if you are not interested in the many famous coffee houses the city is famous for, there are plenty of things to see and do in Seattle".
In doing so, the text became more appropriate for a French audience. My role, as well as being a translator, was also to recognise the cultural implications of the original document. Instead of "sticking to the text", I tried to gauge how it might be received by a French person and adapted it to reflect the target language culture.

By | 2016-10-18T15:51:42+00:00 November 3rd, 2004|Freelance Translation|3 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Zak Braverman November 4, 2004 at 2:16 am

    I consider this an integral part of providing a good translation, and I know that my clients thank me for it.
    However, you’d be surprised at how many translators vociferously decry this kind of thing as “taking too much license” or “going beyond the text.”
    I can’t think they provide very good translations…

  2. Phersu November 16, 2004 at 4:14 pm

    Nitpicking : Actually, there are at least three Starbucks in Paris already : one at Opéra, one at Montparnasse and another at Odéon. 🙂

  3. céline November 16, 2004 at 4:23 pm

    They’re multiplying already!!! I knew it would happen! Thanks for that Phersu, I’ve amended my entry.

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