Localization: On its nature, virtues and dangers
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OriginalversjonSYNAPS - A Journal of Professional Communication 17(2005) pp.17-25
Discourse on the localization of software and websites now underlies one of the major language industries of our time. Its basic concepts also address issues that are of interest to sociolinguistics, text linguistics, translation theory, and terminology. A survey of the main areas in which localization discourse might interact with linguistic theory and indeed with languages themselves reveals both positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, there is much to be learnt from interlingua architectures as opposed to transfer approaches. Similarly positive may be the way commercial language technology can strengthen the diversity of selected languages and cultures, rather than necessarily impose just one international lingua franca. However, the concepts of localization are rather more worrying with respect to the loss of linearity in text production and reception, since the predominance of chunking threatens to reduce the person-to-person aspects of communication. Also worrying is the use of leveraging strategies to restrict the role of translation to natural-string replacement, resulting in a hierarchy of work processes whereby IT technicians have political and financial priority over the uses of language for communication. These issues can only be addressed once the locale of localizers themselves is identified as an interculture, and a call for ethics is made in humanistic terms.