Culturalization in the context of localization


Whether offline or online, we’re constantly exposed to a dazzling array of customs, beliefs, and traditions. But how do we navigate these differences and ensure meaningful communication? Through something called culturalization. And as you’ll soon find out, this goes beyond mere awareness.

What is culturalization?

To culturalize is to “to expose or subject to the influence of culture.” So in a general sense, culturalization refers to the process of being influenced or shaped by a particular culture. It’s about how someone or something becomes integrated into a specific cultural context.

In the context of globalization, culturalization refers to the process of adapting something – a product, service, message, or even yourself – to be more sensitive to the cultural context of a specific audience. It’s about going beyond simple translation and ensuring your offering resonates with the target market on a deeper level.

What is localization?

Localization, as you may already know by now, refers to the process of adapting a product or content to meet the language, cultural, and other specific requirements of a target market or region. It goes beyond simple translation to ensure that content is appropriate and relevant for the local audience. This can include adapting text, graphics, and interfaces to conform to local norms, regulations, and cultural sensitivities.

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Similarities between culturalization and localization

As you can see from the definitions, culturalization and localization seem to have a lot in common. So let us expand on this. Both focus on making content relevant and accessible to a specific audience. They aim to enhance user experience by considering the target market’s preferences and expectations.

While language translation is a significant component of culturalization and localization processes, they extend beyond this to include visual elements, user interface design, and other non-textual content. Both processes require a deep understanding of the cultural context to avoid misunderstandings or offense. They aim to respect and reflect the cultural norms and values of the target audience.

Differences between culturalization and localization

Despite the similarities, we should acknowledge that culturalization and localization have their fair share of differences, one being the scope (and depth) of these processes. Localization primarily focuses on making content linguistically and regionally appropriate. But culturalization goes beyond surface-level and considers deeper cultural factors such as societal values, historical context, and regional sensitivities.

Then we have the focus areas. While localization tends to concentrate on practical and functional adjustments, culturalization involves a more profound integration of cultural elements. It can include rethinking storylines, characters, or themes in games and media, or redesigning products to align with cultural aesthetics and practices.

When it comes to implementation, localization often involves a more standardized process with established methodologies and tools. Culturalization, on the other hand, requires a more nuanced approach and may involve collaboration with cultural experts, anthropologists, or local influencers.

Let’s exemplify…

Let’s say you’re a video game developer. Localizing that game might mean translating in-game text, changing currency, and ensuring that game instructions are understood. Going through the culturalization process, however, can mean modifying game content to avoid cultural taboos or including culturally significant elements that resonate with players in different regions.

In marketing, localization could imply adapting advertisements to local languages and adjusting visuals to reflect local aesthetics. But with culturalization, you would have to work harder on crafting marketing messages that align with the cultural values and emotional triggers of the target audience. Think of transcreation.

To localize or to culturalize?

Choosing between localization and culturalization, or deciding how to balance them, depends largely on the nature of your product or content, your business objectives, and the target market. Generally, you want to focus on localization when it comes to software and apps, e-commerce platforms, and technical documentation.

Culturalization may be a better choice when dealing with consumer products, educational and training materials, as well as media and entertainment. But in many cases, a hybrid approach that combines both localization and culturalization is the most effective strategy.

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