Localization is the adaptation of a product — be it a game, a software application or a website — to the needs and conventions of a target language locale. Localization covers a variety of text types, all of which require a different translation strategy and adherence to different industry standards. Different translation requirements apply to software strings, different to help files and user manuals and still different to marketing materials like ads posted on websites and, for example, in-game content of a complex game such as dialogs or storyline.
The above text genres have been mentioned in the order from the most standard to the most creative. These two extremes are very characteristic for localization making it a specialty, which requires sound technical knowledge and acute attention to detail on the one hand as well as a flair for creative translation and striving for attractive style on the other.
What is being localized is usually a product intended for a broad public and in the case of games — often a demanding audience made up of keen gamers, which means that in localization there can be no success — also no commercial success — without the consideration of the target audience. That is why translation of ads and games is sometimes referred to as transcreation, in which the translator is expected to mesmerize the audience by a translation that will cater for the audience’s tastes and expectations.
The unique combination of technical skills, subject matter knowledge and creative style required in localization make it an undoubtedly challenging, but at the same time all the more satisfying specialization for a translator.