The Evolution of Language and Localisation

As ideas, perceptions and cultures change and evolve, so too does language. That’s the beauty of it. Yet not every language evolves at the same speed or in the same way. Words no longer deemed acceptable don’t just suddenly disappear, and changes in terminology in one language are not necessarily reflected right away in another.

As social perceptions shift, our methods of communicating and sharing our thoughts and ideas, emotions and intentions need to adapt. Last year brought key social and political issues to the fore. LSPs need to be inclusive, understand and move with social changes in order to effectively localise content for their target markets. But how?

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The work of localisation specialists is guided by many factors: education, experience, personal sensitivities and filters, client preferences and likely acceptance by the target audience. These specialists have to be mindful of censorship, cultural empathy and political correctness when reflected in the source language and must always remember that their translation will be delivered to a large and discerning community – now and in years to come. However, the responsibility ultimately lies with content providers to request updated subtitles and dubs for past projects and productions to ensure that all localised content remains up to date with topical issues.

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Rather than guess or play it safe, our aim should be to craft language that is inclusive and representative of the now. The end goal is a translation that is accurate and authentic. One that is not misled by personal beliefs or affected by a limited knowledge of a subject, but one that accurately mirrors the original intent of the source text. Does the message sound natural to a native speaker? Are the chosen words suitable for the context? Is the tone right? A diverse outlook and approach are the only ways to properly answer these important questions. And, last but not least, it is our duty to re-evaluate today’s choices in the future.

It’s a linguist’s responsibility to stay up to date with developments in their target language, and source language too, including the latest slang terms. This is essential when localising content for younger audiences. In English, contractions are a natural part of speech for many of us, and teenage characters in a TV show are likely use them liberally. If social media posts are commonly featured as a plot device, abbreviations must be understood. Knowing your “ICYMI” (in case you missed it) from your “fit” (shorthand for “outfit”) is part and parcel of a translator’s job.

By learning from others, being willing to listen to voices that challenge our views and keeping abreast of the latest developments as language evolves, we’ll be well equipped to deliver honest and accurate localised stories across cultures to worldwide audiences. That is the foundation that VSI was built on, with our core values promising to provide quality and sincerity in every task we perform. And it all starts with our staff, who represent diverse cultures from around the world. They speak a multitude of languages but are united with one voice. They are what make us unique and keep us relevant.