We live in a global world. I hear it over and over, but what does that mean? Specifically, for content creators: what does it mean to live in a global world?
Among other things, it means that your target audience may look, sound, and even think differently than it used to. And I don’t just mean they need your website translated into another language.
Take for example, a hospital in Massachusetts. They used to cater to a predominantly white, English-speaking population. Now they have a fairly large Hispanic population. What does this mean they need to change?
- Level One: translate the website to Spanish
- Level Two: consider the needs of the population beyond language. Do they understand healthcare in the same way? Do they need different resources, different images, or different explanations?
- Level Three: think about the culture. Do they look for the same health-related things that the old population did? Are they looking for things the hospital is capable of providing, such as a separate portal or more in-person opportunities for communication rather than phone?
- Level Four: go to the bigger picture. What might they need from a higher level, beyond what the hospital can control? (i.e. is the US health system’s requirements supporting them)
While Level Four is out of scope (as they say), there’s a lot more we can do beyond Level One. But many organizations struggle to get to Step Two. For me, I often wondered “isn’t that just separate but equal? Shouldn’t we focus on translation, but provide the same content?”
Mind mind was changed by the Cosmonautics Museum in Moscow, when I saw four paragraphs of description in Russian, followed by a single paragraph in English. A bit indignant at how I was being shortchanged, asked my Russian-speaking friend to tell me what I was missing. But what I was missing was actually a lot of details about Russian people I had never heard of and didn’t particularly care about.
Was the translator merely lazy, and cut all but the highlights for the American tourists? It’s possible. But I realized in that moment that as an American tourist they had given me the exact to-the-point style information I wanted. This is (whether intentional or not) localization.
Don’t all of our audiences deserve intentional localization, accounting for how they expect information to be provided, and what they want to know?