Localization is mainly about customizing products and services like software, documentation, online help, websites, training materials, contracts, etc., to the target market in business. In this process, language problem is the first barrier to break through. At present, translation technology is playing a significant role in localization, because it will definitely improve the efficiency and quality of translation, which is the most direct way to solve language problems. This paper is going to explore localization and translation technology in the Chinese context and take a look at their future.
2. LOCALIZATION: PAST AND PRESENT
With the development of science and technology, people from every corner of the world come into contact more than ever before. Due to the distinction of language and culture, when products and services are introduced from one nation into another one, which has a different language and culture, they should be adapted so as to be accepted by the people and culture there. Hence, there comes the need for “localization”, which is defined as “the process of modifying products or services to account for differences in distinct markets” (Lommel & Ray, 2007:11). Through localization, a company can distribute its products and services in a target market where a different language is spoken, so as to increase its sales and receive considerable profits.
2.1 Historical Sketch
The history of localization can be traced back to the 1980s, when it became necessary for computer software to be adapted to suit the target market. Computer software, unlike other physical products, is easy to carry to the target markets around the world. The main media through which the user could contact with the software system was usually the textual contents. They read instructions and help files, feed the software with some input or give it some instructions and finally get some output. Therefore, computer software has to be transformed to fit in the local language context at the least. In the 1980s, other industries did not have their products or services sold in other markets using different languages, so the computer software industry happened to be the first to call for localization.
For years, software manufacturers have taken advantage of localization to promote their products and services in the global markets. Meanwhile, a great number of companies that provided translation services and technical adaptation such as resizing dialogue boxes, adapting user interfaces, etc. came into being. This process is called “localization” in order to make it different from translation, which is about the transformation of meanings from one language into another.
In 1990, The Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA hereafter), the first non-profit organization on localization, was founded in Switzerland. At that time, localization mostly took place in the computer software industry, while in some other industries, where software technology was being used increasingly, e.g., consumer electronics, medical equipment, localization also took place.
Before 2001, most of the localization service providers (LSPs) mainly came from computer software and hardware industries. As information technology was applied increasingly in products and services, localization became more and more commonplace. Some top companies in other industries were also being attracted by the benefits of localization in terms of “increased sales, lower support costs and the ability to access new markets more quickly” (Lommel & Ray, 2007:7).
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