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January 29, 2015 4:25 pm Published by Comments Off on Localization and Language Diversity

In our globalized world, many industries and businesses need to localize their products and services in order to reach more clients, new markets, and to increase their revenue. Translation is one of the main tools that can be used to achieve these goals. As some languages are spoken in more than one part of the world, sometimes with significant variations, however, a translation must also be localized.localization

To illustrate this, I will give you a few examples in Spanish, French and English which show how the same language can differ widely depending on the part of the world where it is spoken.

Do you eat your papas…

Here is a little anecdote I was recently told by a Spanish friend: during a student meeting at his University, a Latin American student introduced himself as “Memo”. The other students looked at each other, trying not to smile, as they greeted the new student. While nobody would have reacted this way in Memo’s own country, the students’ reaction was understandable. In European Spanish, memo means silly, stupid or daft, whereas in Latin America it is a nickname for Guillermo. This illustrates the kind of shifts which often occurs between countries, even though they share a common language.

With over 470 million speakers around the globe, SA busSpanish is an excellent example. In colloquial European Spanish, pasta can mean money, whereas in Latin America pasta means, well, pasta. Latin Americans would use plata instead, but this means silver in Spain. In Latin America, you can eat papas, meaning potatoes, whereas in Northern Spain you would certainly not eat your papa (your dad or the pope). There are many different ways to say jacket in Spanish, and depending on the country it could be chamarra, chaqueta, campera or cazadora ; T-shirt could be playera, remera, camiseta or franela, and bus could be autobús, colectivo, liebre, camión, carrito, buseta, guagua, omnibus, colectivo or micro. These are just a few examples but the list goes on!

Or drive a tank?

Similarly, French is spoken in France and in Canada but with many notable differences. A Canadian asking a French person “Où as-tu garé ton char ?” would probably get a raised eyebrow as the other person wonders why they were supposed to drive a tank to work that day. Money or dough tends to be a good example in French and many other languages too. If a Canadian says “La fin du mois va être difficile, je n’ai presque plus de bacon” a French person will understand “The end of the month is going to be tough, I don’t have any bacon left”. What the Canadian actually means is that they have run out of money before the end of the month. French speakers will find many more examples of the different words used in France and Canada here.

For surprising or funny examples of the difference between British and American English, as well as other cultural differences, I recommend this article and the amazing “English to English” cross-cultural project. And take a look at this handy Anglo-EU-Translation-Guide too.

Businesses cannot afford to get it wrong

I really hope these few examples give you an idea of the importance of localization in translation, as poorly translated slogans or brand names can badly damage a reputation. We can help you make sure that your international venture goes smoothly, and whether you want to adapt your messages for the international market or improve your company’s image abroad, we will source the translator best suited for your project. Whether you need a document to be translated for the Spanish or Mexican market, French or Canadian, British or American, or many other languages and regional variations, we can offer you a service tailored to your needs. Please get in touch by email at [email protected] or by telephone on 0800 389 6571. We would love to hear from you. funny-product-name-fails-17


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