Localization: Culture and Context Cuts Both Ways

We often make the mistake of assuming that all source material intended for localization for a target country or region is in English and that conventions from the source locale content can be easily accommodated in localized versions.

But, here’s an example from Nintendo to show the kind of problems that can arise when localizing for another country, in this case for the US market localization of Tomodachi Life.

Nintendo came under fire from fans and gay rights organizations this past week after refusing to add same-sex relationship options to the game "Tomodachi Life." (Source:  CNET)

Nintendo came under fire from fans and gay rights organizations this past week after refusing to add same-sex relationship options to the game “Tomodachi Life.” (Source: CNET)

We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life,” Nintendo said in a statement released Friday. “Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to change this game’s design, and such a significant development change can’t be accomplished with a post-ship patch.”(Source: AP via NPR)

What internationalization (i18n) teams need to watch out for to enable localization for global markets increases all the time.

The message is assume nothing, which is what i18n and its neutral code approach is all about. Investing time in knowing your market’s cultural, social, and political dimension pays off when developing an architecture that easily accommodates adaptations and changes for target markets.

Reverse engineering is expensive sure, but a loss of revenue from an inability to deliver a localization suitable for the target market and being on the receiving end of negative customer feedback is worse in the long run.

 

Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

Ultan Ó Broin

About Ultan Ó Broin

Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally. Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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