Bralley what's wrong picture

Having the wrong picture: Why the localization of pictures and symbols is so important in your foreign language projects

A picture or symbol stands for itself and does not need any explanatory words. So if you have your projects translated into a foreign language, you can just keep the images - or can you?

First of all: Images should also be localized for your foreign-language projects. Find out why this is so important below.

Images as an explanation or illustration

If images serve as an explanation or illustration, it makes sense to adapt them to the respective target language.

Screenshots are used in instructions for computer programs, for example, to illustrate the different functions of the program to the user. The instructions and the screenshots must correspond to the language in which the user is using the program.

A user in Germany who uses the German version of a software on his PC cannot do much with instructions in which the text is in German but the screenshots are from the Japanese program, for example.

Completely new screenshots in the corresponding target language are required here.

The same applies to product packaging. What is usually depicted on such packaging in the target culture? Is the contents of the pack shown, the target group or something else that should clarify the properties of the product?

Even if you should of course pay attention to what your picture shows, in most cases a "wrong" picture is not the end of the world - after all, there is also the product text, which can clear up possible confusion.

Images without an explanatory function

Even if there are only images on your website that have no explanatory function, but simply serve to loosen up your page, for example, there are a few things you should consider.

For example, some motifs can be unusual and inappropriate in certain cultures - in the worst case even forbidden.

You should be particularly careful when depicting gestures, as these can have opposing meanings in different cultures. In the USA or Romania, the person you are talking to taps his forehead to show that he thinks your idea is great - in Germany he shows you a bird and makes it clear that he thinks you are crazy.

In addition, a picture does not have the same effect on every viewer - what effect a picture actually has can also partly depend on the viewer's culture.

Why does culture play a role in the effect of the image? One keyword: reading direction.

Different image effects due to the direction of writing

In many European languages, lines are written from top left to bottom right. However, some other writing systems are written in other directions.

In Arabic, a line is written from right to left. The next line begins on the right under the first line. So the lines are arranged from top to bottom.

Japanese and Chinese, on the other hand, write in columns - from top right to bottom left.

Texts are read in the same direction as they are written. And the exciting thing:

We also “read” pictures to a certain extent - because when looking at pictures we generally follow the usual writing and reading directions for our writing system.

The direction of reading is therefore important, among other things, when depicting several images that are to be viewed in a certain order. Particular caution is required here. Because the different reading directions can change the whole meaning.

And the reading direction also has a further influence: For a viewer with a clockwise writing direction, the gaze automatically slides from left to right when looking at a picture and tends to get stuck on people or objects in the right half of the picture, especially when they are facing the viewer.

If a person in the left half of the picture stands with their back to the viewer, this effect is intensified and the eye follows the person in the picture to the right. This has the effect that the eye tends to slide over things that are on the left in the picture.

Depending on the usual writing and reading direction of the viewer, a certain visual effect can result.

Try it out for yourself: Find a portrait that does not show a person all frontal but, for example, in half profile. Let it sink in. And then you look at the same picture mirrored horizontally. The result will surprise you.

So there are good reasons for localizing your images

Usually only someone who grew up in this culture can tell you what effect a picture has on members of a foreign culture. This is one of the reasons why most translation and localization agencies trust native speakers - and so should you.