Why Locale Matters in a Translation
There’s a widespread myth that as the primary language spoken worldwide, English is the only language you need to conduct business abroad. What many fail to realize is that English is the global language of the seller; it is not necessarily the language of the buyer. With that said, to communicate clearly, effectively, and accurately with those you wish to reach in the global marketplace, you must be able to communicate in your audience’s language. Or, as former German Chancellor Willy Brandt once said, “If I’m selling to you, I speak your language. If I’m buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen”; translated, “you must speak German.” Question is…where are your customers that don’t speak English?
Taking German as an example, an estimated 120 million people speak German.1 While primarily spoken in Germany with 78.3 million speakers, there are another 42 million speakers elsewhere. So where are the rest? There are German-speakers in Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg too. That’s when you realize language does not equate to country. Locale takes on greater meaning when you take a closer look at other languages. Take for example, Spanish. Spoken by 425,000,000 people across four continents and in over 20 countries, you realize your potential reach is greater than you once thought. With culture playing a major role in the delivery of both the written and spoken forms of the language, you start to care about where your source material comes from and where it’s going.
First, there are the obvious linguistic implications. Across different locales a specific language may vary in word choice, grammar, spelling, and pronunciation as is the case with UK English versus US English. In the business world, such linguistic differences influence product development such as the case with the French software company who developed Finance software for the French-speaking banking industry only to discover halfway through development that their accounting terminology required expansion to support multiple locales– a set to support the financial requirements of their European clients and a second set to accommodate requirements of their French Canadian clients.
Then there are the less obvious linguistic implications such as writing system. Not only do you need to know that your client is in China, but you also need to know the locale in China. For example, if your customer is in Mainland China, you must use the Simplified Chinese writing system to communicate with them as opposed to the Traditional Chinese characters used in Taiwan.
Beyond the mechanics of a given language, there are other factors affecting delivery of your message to your target audience in a given locale, including marketing, technical, and legal influences. All require your consideration to maximize your reach and your effectiveness. From a marketing perspective, cultural preferences of a given locale influence product design along with scenarios you may wish to use to convey your message. For example, a car with a sleek, compact design is aesthetically pleasing to the Japanese, thereby enhancing its image. In contrast, the same car design in the US may not be as appealing where big is considered better. Becoming familiar with how the culture of a given locale influences marketing language, you can proactively facilitate two-way understanding between you and your target audience.
From a technical perspective, locale drives references such as units of measure, date format, and currency. This provides your audience something familiar and comfortable to read, thereby expanding your reach, your influence, and your market. Locale also dictates legal language that may be required in your material, including appropriate use of trademarks and copyrights, application of required warning notices for safety, and proper use of your product, as well as other warnings that may be required to comply with local regulations.
By taking a holistic approach to all our translations, Advanced Language Translation Inc. is keenly aware of where all your source material comes from and where the target material is going. Knowing where your source material comes from facilitates understanding, speeds up the translation process, and reduces translation costs. Knowing where your targeted material is going allows us to respect the cultural influences of a given locale while ensuring the content maintains a native look and feel. The net result is a well-crafted translation that clearly, effectively, and accurately communicates your message.