Air China’s Localized Sites Leap Barriers To Understanding: Here’s How


Air China’s Localized Sites Leap Barriers To Understanding: Here’s How

Business Travel Executive – June 15, 2011

With the help of, Air China is localizing its travel booking sites to provide international customers with more accessible and convenient booking services in their native languages. The languages being addressed in the project — Korean, German, Spanish, Italian, French, Brazilian Portuguese and Russian — are not without their challenges, especially when they must incorporate the jargon of the aviation industry, according to Liz Elting, co-founder and CEO of TransPerfect, which owns the service site. The key has been to develop a glossary of understandable translations.

Meeting the challenges involved will be worth the effort, says Kong Dong, Air China’s chairman and CEO: “Connecting with customers in their native languages is key to our growth in key markets around the world, and that’s why we’re so happy to provide these new services. Offering our website in multiple languages will help Air China expand its appeal and accessibility to business travelers and tourists around the world.”

“Out of the group (used by Air China), Korean is the most difficult to localize properly,” says Elting. “Any character language has inherent challenges because the structure of the language is fundamentally different and the concepts and connotations expressed by the characters impart special emphasis and meaning.”

Aviation jargon presents its own challenges. Terms like “galley area”, “window shade”, “divider curtain”, “call button”, "overhead compartment", and “aisle path lighting” do not translate directly. The challenge of finding an appropriate term that all passengers will understand takes on special importance when it comes to preparation for emergency situations. “Those commands – ‘bend over, heads down, brace for impact’ and ‘jump and slide’ — are difficult to translate with full equivalence,” says Elting. “Because of this, we take great care up front to ensure that we have a glossary of terms developed with preferred translations that reflect client-specific preferences.”

The narrow parameters demanded by the digital age add another level of difficulty. “It is certainly a challenge, but it's one that TransPerfect has a great deal of expertise in meeting,” says Elting. “For websites, there may be character limitations for certain terms due to website real estate constraints. The best-designed websites build accommodations for that into the coding, but even the best preparation may still not fully prevent the need to use alternate terms, abbreviations, or font-size adjustments. Those challenges are magnified when we deal with applications for mobile devices, where the need for linguistic efficiency is even more critical.” is a provider of software, website, and enterprise-wide localization services, as well as localization-related technology products. The company has a global presence on five continents and serves a variety of clients with dedicated practice groups for every major industry. is part of the TransPerfect family of companies.


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