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Localisation and Adaptation

Producing a text in another language is often about more than just translating things directly.

Many of our projects, across marketing, psychometrics and assessment translation, require further work to ensure cultural and functional equivalence of the translated texts.

Below are two services we offer for texts where we feel a “simple” translation will not suffice.


In addition to translating text into another language, there are often elements in the original which will need to be localised for the target market, in order for the translated text to ‘feel’ familiar.

For example, in the UK, the date “August 11th, 1988″ is written as 11/08/1988.

In the USA, the same date would be understood as November 8th, as the month comes before the date. Date formats may therefore need to be localised for the USA as follows: 08/11/1988.

There are a number of other aspects which may require localisation, such as:

  • Time
  • Currency
  • Telephone numbers
  • Weights and measures
  • Images and icons
  • Colours
  • Etiquette (name formats, e-mail structures, etc.)


Sometimes, localisation isn’t enough, and further work to ensure equivalence is needed – in particular for high-stakes content such as tests or assessments in the clinical and non-clinical areas.

Take money, for example, as people are often asked to do calculations with it in assessments. It is necessary to take the following steps to ensure that these questions are translated properly:

  • The amount has to be localised into the local currency of the target country.
  • The amounts may then need to be adjusted to ensure that they are meaningful locally. When Italy used the Lira as its currency, you couldn’t just take 1 USD and convert it to 1 Lira, as this was a nonsensical amount.
  • Amounts also have to be relative: an assessment with role play may require someone to go to a shop and calculate the change they get after their purchases. If they hand over a 50 dollar bill for a few groceries, this may represent someone’s monthly salary in other countries, so the calculation would not be meaningful.
  • Finally, in the USA, you have the dollar, quarter, dime, nickel and penny. In many countries in Europe, you have only the euro and the cent. Having five different names for coins and notes makes the calculation more difficult than just having two.


Other examples of aspects which may need localising or adapting are lists of words used for memory recall purposes, or for aptitude tests, items may need to be adapted due to a change in the unit of measurement required (metric vs. imperial).

One final localisation and adaptation example involves the calculation of the number of tiles needed to cover a bathroom wall.

In the original psychometric test item, the wall was 10 feet by 5 feet, and the tiles were 6 inches square. To localise this for a country using metric units would lead to the calculation of around 3m x 1.5m and tiles of 30cm, which changes the level of difficulty if sizes are localised to their direct metric equivalents.

We therefore changed the type of room to an office, changed the type of tile to a carpet tile, and the size of the tile to 50cm². This meant that the office floor could then be 10 metres by 5 metres, and the tiles would realistically be half a metre square, maintaining the answer of the original item and the relative difficulty level.

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