Guide for Inclusive Localization and Translation

Inclusive localization

Inclusive translation helps to ensure that customers aren’t excluded from your product experience due to language issues. Good inclusion keeps your language respectful, friendly and impactful so everyone can have an amazing user experience.

Learn how to build genuine connections with customers all over the world by localizing for inclusivity.


Best Practices for Inclusive Localization

Inclusive language seeks to treat all people with respect, dignity and impartiality. It’s built to bring everyone into the group and exclude no one.

Similarly, inclusive localization can help you ensure your translated content is welcoming, respectful, and accessible to people of different groups and backgrounds.

Before you translate your site, app, or product into another language, read these best practices for inclusive localization.

Use Plain Language

When it comes to writing in English or translating to different languages, the best course of action is to keep it simple. Different languages translate differently, so the simpler the English you use, the easier it will be to adapt it to other languages. We recommend using plain language to keep your content inclusive and easy to read for everyone.

Here are some best practices for plain language:

  • Write clearly and concisely.
  • Steer clear of long or compound sentences.
  • Avoid homonyms.
  • Employ a glossary and style guide to keep your writing consistent.
  • Use the following sparingly:
    • jargon
    • slang
    • idioms
    • internal language
    • acronyms

Use Gender-Inclusive Language

Gendered language is another area of concern for translation and localization teams. Grammatical conventions for gender vary widely between languages. When possible, it’s best to make your language gender-inclusive.

Here are 3 tips for inclusive, gender-neutral language.

1. Use Gender-Neutral Nouns:

Some gendered language in English involves nouns that refer to specific people or types of people, like “policemen.” Replacing an outdated, gendered term with a gender-neutral noun is an easy swap. This makes a text more inclusive without losing the original meaning.

Before:

The stewardess gave us instructions.

After:

The flight attendant gave us instructions.

2. Use Gender-Neutral Pronouns

Gendered pronouns like “he” and “she” are perfectly normal in cases where the subject’s gender is known. But in most other situations, it’s best to opt for gender-neutral alternatives.

“They” and variants like their/theirs are a great replacement for gendered pronouns since they are inclusive to everyone including nonbinary people. While some English speakers think of this usage as a neologism, the singular and gender-neutral “they” can be traced back to Shakespeare.

Before:

When a customer calls, you should ask for his email address.

After:

When a customer calls, you should ask for their email address.

3. Include Multiple Variants

Working with gendered terms is particularly challenging in languages like French, which contains lots of gendered words with no gender-neutral alternative. Some writers use dots to include all possible variants and avoid referring to any specific gender.

For example, the word “élus” (elected representatives) might be written as “élu·es” to talk about both male and female representatives. In the same way, some Italian speakers choose to add an asterisk or @ symbol to convey gender-neutral language in the singular or plural. In other languages like German, you can choose a gender-neutral variant of a word to boost inclusivity.

Before:

wähler (“a male voter” in German)

After:

wählende (“a voting person” in German)

Translate Slang Very Carefully

When localizing content, it’s easy to directly translate words from the source language to the target language. Some words are clear—most instances of “lac” in French will be written as “lake” in English translations.

Other words and phrases that involve nuances are more difficult to neatly communicate in a different language. Slang expressions, for example, often have a specific meaning that may not make sense to speakers of other languages.

Even if you come up with a technically accurate translation of slang, it might miss some of the meaning or style of the original text. Translators need to be aware of linguistic and cultural norms when working with colloquial terms or informal expressions.

Pay Close Attention to Translation Context

Context is one of the most challenging aspects of language translation. All languages are fluid, so the meaning of a word can change frequently. Words go in and out of fashion, and people adapt meanings. And a word’s meaning may vary based on the location or identity of the reader.

For example, some words that seem innocuous may be offensive in a different culture. Think about when Puffs brand tissues tried to launch in Europe. Unfortunately, they failed to realize that in German, puff sounds like the slang word for a brothel. Having a local expert review their content could have prevented this less-than-ideal customer experience.

Reclaimed terms are another good example of how the same word may have a different meaning when used in different contexts or by different speakers. Just because someone uses a word or phrase in one situation doesn’t mean they’ll be comfortable hearing or reading it in your marketing materials.

In some cases, you’ll find that there is no cultural equivalent to the word you’re trying to translate. You might be able to provide more information in a footnote or parentheses, or you might simply use the word you think a speaker of the target language would be most likely to use in the same situation.

Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all way to achieve an inclusive translation. The right approach comes down to the intention of the original content along with the cultural and linguistic preferences of your target audience. You may need to reach out to local consultants who can help you find the right way to translate potentially sensitive content. Transcreation is also helpful for avoiding potentially offensive terms and making sure your messaging lands well in any region.

Don’t Forget About Subtitles for Multimedia Content

If your company has videos, webinars or podcasts, consider translating and subtitling them for your audience. According to research by Verizon Media, 80% of people are more likely to watch an entire video when subtitles or closed captions are available. Around the world, most people prefer subtitles. Although English subtitles are a great start, foreign language subtitles can expand the reach of your content even further.

There are many accessibility benefits to subtitles. Namely, they make your content more accessible for Deaf and hard of hearing communities—comprising of more than 360 million people all over the world. Plus, subtitles have been shown to increase concentration and comprehension, which is beneficial for everybody, including people with learning disabilities like ADHD or dyslexia.

 


More Resources

These were just a few examples of ways to make your localization and translation process more equitable and inclusive for everyone. If you’re ready to dive deeper and learn more about crafting inclusive content in different languages, check out these resources:


About Localize

Want to make your next localization initiative more inclusive for a global audience? Localize can help.

Localize is a user-friendly TMS with built-in tools that provide clear and consistent translations every time. Our collaboration features make it easy to share feedback and context with translators as you coach them on writing for inclusion.

To learn how to make language translation easier than ever, contact Localize today.

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