The emergence of new phenomena often leads to the integration of new realities into existing conceptual systems, resulting in the blurring of conceptual borders and sparking interdisciplinary discussions and debates. In the context of localization, shifting conceptualizations have been a topic of research in both industry and TIS. The notion of “localization” caused the most disagreement among participating subjects in a study on how the industry perceived different translation concepts (Johnson & LaPlante, 2015). This was also one of the concepts where the most friction and disagreement between subjects arose. The constellation of phenomena related to the intersection of localization and globalization has resulted in the proposal of different concepts and notions such as “glocalization”, “reverse localization”, “de-localized or internationalized texts”, or “website globalization”. The first one, the notion of “glo-calization”, is primarily used in marketing and business circles, but it is also used in translation studies. Over the years, different conceptualizations have emerged in the discipline. “Glocalization” is a concept that attempts to reconcile the two ends of a continuum: in cultural studies, as well as international marketing and business approaches, the notion of localization is seen as a top-bottom process to reach the “local”, while there is also a “globalization” process that attempts to erase the local through standardization or to localize for the global market. This last process is sometimes seen as the imposition of Western values. The focus here is therefore on the suppression of elements of the culture in which the product is developed in favor of supposedly neutral “international” standard. Other scholars have used “globalization” to refer to the common use around the world of global English in localization processes to be used for creating “international” versions targeted at a global audience. According to Musacchio and Panizzon in their study of localization of software for global crises and emergencies, English is often used as a lingua franca to grant access to an international audience (2018).
The concept of “reverse localization” is a multifaceted topic that encompasses two distinct phenomena. The term was first defined by Schäler to refer to products that intentionally incorporate foreign features in order to target specific locales (Schäler, 2005). This approach to adaptation differs from the “foreignization” method advocated by Venuti, as it intentionally inserts non-local elements to create the desired effect (Venuti, 1995). An example of this would be an advertisement that incorporates a foreign person or accent to connote refinement or modernity. In contrast, the second use of “reverse localization” refers to Japanese video games that are adapted and localized for the North American market, and are then sold back in Japan in English, with Japanese subtitles. This allows the original Japanese users to enjoy a version that includes adapted elements for foreign markets, which can be considered a part of “fandom cultures” (O”Hagan, 2009).
Another important concept in localization is “de-localization” or “internationalization”. According to Pym, the language industry mediates the localization process through an intermediary version known as the “internationalized version”, rather than focusing solely on the “local” adaptation (Pym, 2013). This “de-localized” or “glocalized” source version is intended to remove language and culture-dependent features, thereby facilitating the subsequent translation process and ultimately speeding up the simultaneous translation of different language versions. This is commonly known as “simship”, a common industry practice that ensures the simultaneous release of various language versions of software or video games (Esselink, 2000). Although relay interpreters in international organizations have long used an interlingua, such as English, Pym suggests that source texts have never before been consciously prepared for translation or localization, making “internationalized texts” a new addition to the field (Pym, 2013). Furthermore, Pym criticizes the ideology of internationalization and globalization that supposedly creates the illusion of a culture-less technical world (Pym, 2013). This view is shared by Tymoczko, who from a post-colonial and cultural perspective, questions the extent to which cultural exchange will be multidirectional in the age of globalization, and to what extent will asymmetries of power, resources, and technologies result in “cultural exchange” becoming a euphemism for acculturation to Western or dominant international standards, as opposed to a true exchange between cultures (Tymoczko, 2002).
Internationalization is a key component of localization, encompassing technical, cultural, and linguistic perspectives that help facilitate the localization process. The discourse within the industry suggests that successful internationalization requires cultural neutrality, yet many scholars recognize that this intermediary stage, often referred to as the “de-localized” or “global” version, still contains numerous linguistic, cultural, and discursive conventions or worldviews. Despite efforts to achieve cultural neutrality, research has shown that achieving a completely culturally neutral text is virtually impossible, both in translation and in localization.
- Esselink, B. (2000). A practical guide to localization. John Benjamins Publishing.
- Johnson, D., & LaPlante, A. (2015). Towards an Integrated Conceptualization of Translation and Localization. Journal of Internationalization and Localization, 2(1), 1-18. https: or or doi.org or 10.1075 or jial.2.1.01joh
- Musacchio, M. T., & Panizzon, M. (2018). Global crises, English as a lingua franca, and the localization industry. Journal of Internationalization and Localization, 5(1), 51-69. https: or or doi.org or 10.1075 or jial.00005.mus
- O”Hagan, M. (2009). Video games and language: Localizing games for the global marketplace. Palgrave Macmillan.
- Pym, A. (2013). Translation and text transfer: An essay on the principles of intercultural communication. Routledge.
- Schäler, R. (2005). Translating humor – the case of dubbed television comedy. John Benjamins Publishing.
- Tymoczko, M. (2002). Translation in a postcolonial context: Early Irish literature in English translation. St. Jerome Publishing.