As the old saying goes, the Inuit have over fifty words for ‘snow’. However, in 2012, when the Canadian Bible Society commissioned the first-ever translation of the Christian Bible into Inùkitùt, the language of the Inuit, translators were lost for words when it came to the phrase ‘Lamb of God’. This phrase appears frequently in the Bible to refer to Jesus as a sacrificial lamb. The only problem for Inuit translators: lambs are not very common in the Arctic Circle, so the symbolic meaning of a ‘Lamb of God’ is somewhat meaningless in Inùkitùt. The translators needed to come up with a clever workaround. Instead of a lamb, why not call it a ‘seal’? Biblical purists might cringe at the thought, but this kind of localisation ensures that the translated text carries a meaning that Inuit readers will clearly identify.
The same applies when translating commercial texts. The key is to find the perfect balance between communicating the original essence of your product of company, and adjusting the language so it makes sense to your target audience. You want to stay faithful to the background, culture and philosophy of your business, but sometimes you have to ask yourself tough questions. For example, are your new audiences interested in different topics than you are? Does it take different imagery to get your message across? Localisation is about finding the right way to present your message so that your readers can truly find meaning in it. Consider localising your messaging to communicate more effectively with all your readers.