Localization – what is it and what stages does it involve?

Wikipedia states that the meaning of this term originates from the Latin localis, which means local. This suggests its main purpose: to adapt the content or product so that to “blur” the cultural differences between the original creators and the audience. This requires an integrated approach and is carried out in several stages:

  • Adapting the text to the cultural specifics of the target country of translation. Localization problems are often caused by the fact that native speakers are not involved in the work. This is a fundamental mistake. Only a good translator who is a native speaker knows the language better than just a good one.
  • Adapting the text to legal aspects. To avoid “sticky situations”, it is advisable not to bring up the nationality, religion, and gender topics. In Switzerland, for example, homophobia is a criminal offence. In Germany, the use of Nazi symbols is prohibited. Neglecting such aspects can lead not only to financial losses, but also to court proceedings and, in some cases, even to “expulsion” from the local market;
  • Adapting the text to stylistic peculiarities. Understanding the domain is of utmost importance. Localization in medicine requires no ambiguity at all, as a person’s life may depend on the accuracy of the work. And translation of video games requires good gaming experience and basic knowledge of code and macros;
  • Adapting jokes. This is probably one of the most delicate moments, requiring excellent knowledge of the mentality and the realities of the country of translation. Literal translation of Russian anecdotes into English will not be understood by the Englishmen, just as their puns may seem senseless to us. One should work with humor very carefully: a badly localized joke can cost you reputation.

Compared to internationalization, localization involves adapting to the market of a particular country/region or to the characteristics of a certain population group rather than features of the international arena. Therefore, the plan should always start with identifying your target market and calculating your potential income. The subsequent stages depend on the type of product to be translated and people to be involved in the process.


Technically, a website can be translated in several ways. The simplest one is to work in excel or doc files. A more time-consuming process is adaptation in the CMS system (e.g. WordPress, OpenCart, Joomla) or directly in code (HTML, javascript, etc.). Regardless of the structural complexity and the web resource type, there are four aspects, which should always be agreed upon when delivering the site “to the operating mode”:

– compiling and coordinating the dictionary with the site terminology;

– approving the style of presenting information and the form of addressing. A test translation usually helps clarify this issue. Depending on the product, field of activity and target audience, the material may be presented in an informal, official, or other style;

– approving the length of text to be processed. This aspect covers all additional materials related to the website: videos, presentations, images with text, advertising materials, etc.;

– approving the deadline and the format of presenting the work. Translation of the site, at least into English, opens a door to the global market and provides for a significant advantage over competitors. In addition, a multi-lingual site will always receive more traffic than a site operating in only one language.

According to statistics, 68% of visitors leave the site in the first 10 seconds if it is not translated into their native language or if this translation is of poor quality. Therefore, it is essential to cooperate only with professionals, as the quality of work will determine the conversion level and site traffic. When finding out the cost of website adaptation, do calculate the return on this adaptation. As a result of competent translation, the number of potential clients usually increases and so does your income.

We would like to remind you that according to the draft law on languages, the Russian version, unlike the Ukrainian one, is not mandatory for online platforms. Therefore, if you have not yet managed to translate your website into Ukrainian, now is the time. 

Mobile application

No matter how unique the development is, it will not be profitable if it is not available to potential users in their native languages.

For the application to be successful and take over the ratings of App Store and Google Play, it must be localized into at least 3-5 languages. FYI: translation into English, Spanish and Russian will already cover 1.3 billion people.

In the process of adapting mobile applications, it is essential to provide a familiar user experience for the residents of the target country of translation. The user should not have any difficulty in understanding the product interface or its functionality. This can only be achieved if a team of specialists employs an integrated approach. Typically, a programmer, layout designer and editor are also involved in such projects in addition to the translator and project manager. The whole process can be divided into the following stages.

1. Selection of the target languages. The main selection criterion should be the target audience of your application. If you are launching a mobile game, you need to check which countries/regions have more gamers; in case a tracker is developed for dogs, look for “dog fanciers”. By a reversal of logic, you can immediately exclude local markets which do not have your target audience. For example, the Icelanders will have absolutely no interest in the application scaring away mosquitoes. Due to the special climatic conditions, small needle-nosed pests cannot get acclimatized there;

2. Application description in the App Store and Google Play. A small but very important text which contains basic information on the functionality, purpose, and peculiarities of the product. Google Translation can contain a lot of inaccuracies and distort the meaning, so it is better to provide for the time and budget for professional translation;

3. Translation of interface and texts. At the beginning of this stage, a list of frequently used terms and notions should be compiled. This will help optimize the translation process and avoid ambiguity problems.

4. Design adaptation. Even one word on a button translated into another language can cause a need to redesign the button itself. The length of the texts is different in each language version, so the design should also be adapted to each of them.

5. Cultural adaptation. In the process of application localization for a specific country of translation, its language and national peculiarities should be considered. For instance, when adapting dates, the American version of the application will show “July 3” as 07/03, while in Ukraine it will be read as “March 7”.

Computer game

All the requirements for translation of games are quite comprehensively described just in a few words: shorter and more entertaining. But in order to meet these requirements, specialists should do a good job on various processes:

  •   translation from source to target language;
  •   change in the artistic and expressive means of game;
  •   creation of new packaged files, instructions and guidelines;
  •   recording of new soundtracks;
  •   hardware modification;
  •   changing individual fragments of the computer game according to the cultural characteristics of a particular region;
  •   adding new sections to move the cut-out content.

Ultimately, the foreign version should provide the end user with a pleasant and comfortable gameplay experience. At the same time, the original concept of the game must be preserved with all its special features. Computer game adaptation has the following main stages:


“Box translation”

Video game box and everything written on the physical medium should also be localized. At this stage, the page, description and screenshots of the shop or platform where it is offered for sale are also translated.

User interface adaptation

Each computer game has a unique interface (buttons, menus, status bars, maps, informational and other windows), which should also be translated. Unofficial translations can often be recognized by the English menu in combination with the Russian plot and voice-over.


Text translation

A glossary of game terms is always compiled at the level of the game text component translation. The purpose of this is to avoid confusion between everyday words and words with local meaning. When the translation text is overlaid on the visual graphics, only the font used in the game’s original version can be applied. If a special alphabet is used in the game, the version for the target language is developed separately.


It is one of the most difficult stages. To convey original intonation, emotional pattern and accent in another language, engaging other actors is really a tough call. The translation and voice-over often take place simultaneously with the game development itself. As a result, localizers have to re-record soundtracks several times, adapting to the original developers.

Translation of graphics

Almost any game has graphic elements containing drawn text. High-quality language adaptation requires translation of shop signs, newspaper headlines, fence and door inscriptions and even product labels.

Cultural adaptation

This stage takes place if a game without such adaptation cannot be perceived by the audience and sold on the local market. In this case, even the storyline, character dialogues and models, as well as textures may change. Historical games can serve as an example of such “alterations”.


Localization of software to a foreign language includes comprehensive work on adapting the user interface as well as related documentation and files. In order to avoid problems with product launch dates and other work costs, all processes require great coordination and control. The process of program translating is quite time-consuming and includes the following basic stages:

1. Ensuring language support and state standards. Software targeted adaptation should take all the legal requirements and specific features of the country of translation into account. This is a mandatory stage so that the program can become fully operational in another country.

2. Translation of the program interface text component. In the process of translation into the target language, the informational message lines and other text elements may have different lengths and even different directions. As a result, redesigning is often necessary in addition to aligning and correcting the placement of interface elements. All soundtracks and images should also be adapted to the target language.

3. Cultural adaptation to the target country. In the process of software adaptation, not only set expressions and word forms, date and time format, units of measurement, printed content, etc. are developed and corrected. A high-quality localized program should also include adapted clipart libraries.

The need for software translation should be taken into account at the development stage. We are used to finding software that is adapted to Russian at the first or second level; there is actually no complex software with comprehensive Russian adaptation.  A good example of profound multi-layered adaptation is Apple’s Mac OS X operating system, the localized versions of which often also include nationally oriented icons.

Language localization of any type of content (text, images, soundtracks, video) is the main direction of Workogram’s activity. You can find out the cost of translating a website, Android and iOS applications, software, games and interpretation via the feedback form. You can also specify all details of the terms of business by contacting us in any other way convenient to you.