In this series on why cultural localization is important for business, we’ll open with French and why a localized marketing strategy is needed based on where a language is spoken.
As the world becomes more and more interconnected through technology and travel, it is becoming essential for business platforms to diversify within the global market to stay relevant and competitive. This has increased demand for translation and localization services as it has become increasingly essential for international business on websites, eLearning platforms, and various eCommerce services.
Cultural localization is catering a product or platform for a specific market or region, which factors in the local language and its cultural diversities, beliefs, values, experiences, and social constructs. Why is this important? When culture is considered for localization strategies, people show more interest in the content or product. Further, cultural considerations create relatable products, increasing positive perceptions of the product and its sales.
To show you how important cultural localization is, here’s a look at the French language and how a one-size fits all approach doesn’t work for every region it’s spoken in.
There are approximately 80 million native French speakers worldwide, and it is the official language of 29 countries. French is highly regarded as one of the most important business languages as it is one of the official languages of the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union, and more. It’s also a language renowned for its history and culture; in fact, the word ‘culture’ is derived from French.
French originated in Gaul, now part of France and Belgium, after the Romans took over. The Germanic invasions also had a large influence on the language, and by the 9th century, French was well established as its own distinct language.
While French variants in different countries are generally well understood by any French speaker, there are still many nuances depending on where it is spoken.
In 1534, Jacques Cartier left to find an expedition route to China and found himself in the new world, modern east coast Canada. As French settlers expanded in the area, the French language became the native language of its growing community.
Canadians continued to speak French after Canada was ceded to the British in 1763. As Canadian French developed in isolation from the rest of Europe, it created its distinct cultural variant.
Due to its isolation from Europe, Canadian French has managed to retain French verbs, expressions, and accents that date back to 17th and 18th century France.
After France ceded Canada to Britain in 1763, the French-speaking community became more isolated, allowing certain phonetic sounds from the elite French-speaking classes to remain.
As the French-speaking parts of Canada are near the English-speaking parts of Canada and the United States, they adopt more words from the English language. Further, some words are even adopted from the indigenous population of Canada, such as carcajou (wolverine) and atoca (cranberry).
Canadian French uses more informal means of address. The informal tu (you) is used more often than the formal vous.
Catholicism is the most practised religion in the French-speaking regions of Canada, whereas France is more secular.
French is now the lingua franca of around 7.4 million Canadians, making up nearly 22% of the country’s population, as well as being one of the two official languages in the country. In the province of Quebec, 95% of the population uses French as their first or second language. Differences in slang, idioms, and religious beliefs are some of the biggest differences between these French variants. They are essential considerations when creating a localized strategy for your business.
Canada isn’t the only country deeply influenced by the French. After the colonization of Africa and even after the French withdrew from many of the African nations, the language stayed and is often spoken alongside many of the indigenous languages. 44% of French spoken today comes from sub-Saharan Africa, with estimates that by 2050, 85% of the continent will speak the language.
French is no longer just the language of France, and this evolution of the language is something to pay attention to when forming a good localization strategy.
Blunders in cultural localization can ruin any localization strategy. For example, if you were promoting an eCommerce business that sells items for children, the word gosses in France is a playful word for child; however, in Canadian French, the word means testicles! This would be a serious, albeit hilarious, mistake in any marketing strategy. The same goes if you wanted to reach the market in France but used informal tones or Canadian idioms and slang in your approach; it would make your strategy appear tone-deaf and make your product less attractive to the local market in France. While these may appear as subtleties, it’s this type of attention to culture that can make or break a localization strategy.
Hire marketing, translation and localization specialists to create a localization strategy that ensures quality translation that involves the appropriate cultural research needed to create a successful marketing strategy.
Consider idioms, jokes, and sayings specific to the region’s language.
Consider the context of the culture when selecting images for products for an eCommerce platform or eLearning course.
Cultural localization and creating a good localization strategy may feel overwhelming if you’re looking to enter a new global market, but it doesn’t have to be!
Into23 specialises in translation and localization in all major global languages offering global language solutions for your business. All we need is a website or file to get you started with a free quote. Contact us today for all your global quality translation needs.
What is advertising transcreation and how can you use it effectively for your global business?
What is transcreation and how does it differ from translation? With your standard literal translation, it’s all too easy to make blunders as it doesn’t consider the cultural and societal complexities of a language, something that can wreck even the largest company’s marketing strategy. You could address this problem with cultural localization but sometimes a more flexible approach is needed to adapt the message. This is where advertising transcreation comes in.
Think of transcreation as elevating translation to another level. Transcreation changes and adapts a text so that it is in line with the language, tone, style, and culture of the market it is targeting. So it’s not a literal translation, as it won’t read or say the same thing, but rather it will carry the same meaning or context.
Transcreation is used when there are major culture adaptations required to make the content relevant to a culture or region where it is going to be marketed.
It requires a quality translation as well as copywriting and copy editing to ensure that the translated work is relevant to the marketing strategy for its target market. That is why it’s important to have linguistic testing & localization services for your global marketing strategy.
For example, legal documents might require a literal translation whereas advertising content, such as website localization or eLearning translation is often best suited for transcreation.
While there are many examples of how translation and transcreation can go wrong, what about the ways it’s been done right? If you’re looking for inspiration here are eight exceptional examples of successful transcreations.
“Put a Tiger in Your Tank.”
This is one of Esso’s original slogans and it’s still popular today despite it originally appearing in 1959. It was a massive campaign that was immensely successful. What made waves was the innovative ways this slogan was marketed internationally. For example, Esso used transcreation in a creative way for the Italian market. While they initially wanted to try and stay literal with the translation, which would have had the slogan appearing like this,
“Metti una tigre nel tuo carro armato” (Put a tiger in your tank)
However, this literal translation lost the alliteration from the English slogan so to give it more impact, Esso opted to change the slogan to,
“Metti una tigre nel motore” (Put a tiger in the engine)
This was a clever move from the interpreter translator as the word engine translates as motore and the “or” sound mimics the roar of an engine. It also managed to keep the catchy alliteration that was present in the English slogan too.
While iPod shuffles are no longer relevant to today’s fast-changing technology, they were very popular at the time of their release. The tiny MP3 player carried a simple but effective slogan, “Small Talk”. The slogan emphasised how small the device was but also its effectiveness. While it would be easy to assume that this simple slogan would be a basic one to translate, it created a lot of trouble for Apple as the phrase itself is an idiom in the English language. Idioms are generally specific to one culture or language and carry a figurative meaning, so they’re not easily literally translated, and, in this case, the slogan often lost all meaning when directly translated.
Wanting to ensure the same message reached the world, Apple decided to transcreate their slogan for each individual market. Here are some of the best examples of Apple’s transcreation process,
Each slogan sounds completely different but they all conveyed the iPod shuffle’s capabilities while maintaining the brief and simple tone of the original English slogan.
“When Swiffer’s the one, consider it done.”
The use of rhyming couplets in this slogan made Swiffer’s slogan catchy and memorable while also emphasizing its cleaning power. To maintain the rhyming scheme in this slogan, transcreation was needed for a variety of global markets. Here’s a great example from the Italian transcreation,
“La polvere non dura, perché Swiffer la cattura”
(The dust doesn’t last, because Swiffer catches it)
The rhyming portion was maintained and shifted to the second part of the slogan and it still emphasised the effectiveness of the product.
“Just do it.”
Arguably one of the most memorable and successful marketing slogans of all time is Nike’s “Just do it”. Another simple slogan that, sadly, does not translate very well. While Nike’s slogan is so well recognized now, its English translation will often be included in Nike’s advertising along with additional transcreated slogans that convey the brand’s meaning for that region.
In 2011, Nike used 用运动 in one of its advertisements which roughly translates to “make sport” or “have sport” and it was a much more culturally relevant way of conveying the same brand meaning to the Chinese market.
“Haribo makes children happy, and adults too.”
These delicious German gummy sweets can be found just about anywhere in the world thanks to their successful advertising transcreation. The original German slogan is,
“Haribo macht Kinder froh, und Erwachsene ebenso”
This translates to English as “Haribo makes children happy, and adults too”. While this literal translation worked for the English speaking market it needed to be transcreated for other languages and areas. For example, in Italian its slogan says,
“Haribo è la bontà che si gusta ad ogni età”
(Haribo is the goodness that can be tasted at any age)
This brilliant transcreation created a playful and nostalgic slogan that was easy to say and remember.
Selling an image…
Red Bull is another product that can be found just about anywhere. Yet how did this product become so successful? Red Bull isn’t exactly known for its taste and it doesn’t have as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, so what is it about this product that makes it irresistible for consumers?
It’s not the product that sells or even its catchy slogan, it’s the creative image that Red Bull has created for it. Red Bull exudes a larger-than-life image and has associated itself with promoting extreme sports, events, and athletes. The slogan, “Red Bull gives you wings” is meant to instill a sense of self-worth and the belief that you can do anything.
Red Bull is so effective at transcreation that it even altered its branding and product when launching in mainland China. If you buy a Red Bull on the mainland you will find it’s likely not carbonated and that it will be in red and gold packaging, auspicious colours within Chinese culture.
“I’m lovin’ it.”
The top contender for the most memorable advertising jingle would have to be McDonald’s’ “I’m lovin’ it.” I bet you’re singing it right now… However, this masterful slogan wasn’t the easiest to translate when McDonald’s took it globally. The biggest issue is the word ‘love’ as there are many other languages in which it does not translate the same way, isn’t used the same way, or just doesn’t even exist, like in China. To address this in China McDonald’s went with,
“我就喜歡” (I just like it)
This Chinese slogan is the same loving message about McDonald’s food while catering to the cultural nuances of the Chinese market.
“Sponsors of tomorrow”
Intel created this slogan to show their commitment to pushing the boundaries of new technology, however they encountered issues in translating it for the Brazilian market as it didn’t carry the same meaning. Intel transcreated their slogan to,
“Apaixonados pelo futuro” (In love with the future)
While not quite the same as the English version it still highlights Intel’s innovative aims for technology.
Want to transcreate your business as well as these ones have? Into23 has all your international translation solutions to help take your marketing strategy to the next level. Whether it’s localization and translation services, marketing translation services, eLearning translation services or more, Into23 has the translation professionals you need to help convey your brand’s message. Get a free quote today!
If you speak English, Spanish or Mandarin, you’ve got much of the business world covered. However, demographics are changing fast, and so too are the number of people speaking the world’s myriad languages. This has far-reaching consequences for businesses and their business translation requirements, notably in terms of what products and services they offer, how these are marketed and also about the workforce’s language skills.
According to the World Economic Forum, one in three of us today speaks one of just three languages as our mother tongue. These languages are Chinese, Spanish and English. Combined, some 2 billion speak them. They’re followed in order by Arabic, Hindi, Bengali, Portuguese and Russian. Fluency in these languages is vital for engaging in business with a huge proportion of the world’s population.
Today, English is used as a lingua franca in international translation companies, primarily due to colonial expansion. Indeed, it’s an official language in 67 countries. Not only that, it’s the most popular second language in the world. In international translation companies, having a workforce with English-language skills is vital. But English’s dominance is waning. Therefore, businesses must address their future language needs and train and hire accordingly.
Though predictions vary depending on the topic, the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries feature prominently in lists of the most spoken languages of the future. The Washington Post reports that “Hindi, Bengali, Urdu and Indonesian will dominate much of the business world by 2050, followed by Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Russian.”
One big change already underway is the transition of the US from a predominantly English-speaking country to a mixed Spanish- and English-speaking one. Therefore, Spanish will increasingly be a requirement for business in the country. In the US, some 13% of the population speaks Spanish at home. However, as the Spanish-speaking population is growing faster than the English-speaking one, it’s predicted that by 2050, one in three US citizens will speak Spanish. Spanish is far ahead of the 3rd most-used language in the US. As this trend progresses, governments, businesses and healthcare systems are trying to include Spanish in their daily communication. Talking to your customers in Spanish will become a critical success factor for business in the United States.
Not only are the numbers of speakers of each language important for businesses, but the economic importance of these speakers is also a consideration. The growth of China and India’s economies over the past two decades has been phenomenal. Citizens in these countries are far wealthier than ten years ago, consuming more products and services than ever before.
China is the world’s second-largest economy and is set to overtake the US soon as the biggest. Because of the rising affluence of its population, it’s become an increasingly important market for all sorts of international companies, such as Starbucks, McDonald’s and KFC, among many others.
Today some 1.117 billion people speak Chinese, including the different variants. But as the market is becoming more and more important for international business, and as Chinese firms like Tencent, Alibaba, ICBC, and China Mobile make progress into other markets, the language will rise in importance. For example, China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which comprises massive infrastructure construction in numerous countries across the world, has seen the rise of Mandarin learning in places like Africa, where China is growing in prominence. China is funding huge infrastructure investments such as dams, railways, ports and telecommunications projects in these countries.
The Financial Times estimates that between 2000 and 2014, Chinese investment in Africa went from 2% of the US level to 55%. Furthermore, McKinsey estimates that, at the current pace, China will surpass US levels of investment within a decade. Given these profound changes, it’s easy to see why the Chinese language is growing increasingly important.
Even though it is one of the most spoken languages, the spread of Chinese worldwide is somewhat limited. “Chinese is only rarely used in sciences and difficult to read and write,” says German linguist Ulrich Ammon, drawing on his multi-year analysis of languages. This could be set to change.
Another case in point is Arabic. It’s the official language of 22 countries that comprise the Arab League, and it covers more than 300 million speakers worldwide. The population in the Middle East is expected to double to over 1 billion by 2100. Indeed The British Council ranks Arabic as the second-most important language in terms of international trade and business for Britons to learn.
However, one point to note is that most younger citizens in Gulf Arab states use English more than Arabic daily. This is a testament to the complexity of forecasting what languages will be on the rise.
Given the linguistic developments already underway, it’s essential that businesses not only calibrate their current operational strategies to align with these changes but also plan for the future trajectory of the world’s most important languages. There are several effective steps to take that will future-proof any company in terms of language.
Perhaps the most important is to partner with the best translation services company, so not only are today’s language needs to be met, but you’ll be well-positioned to navigate the impending linguistic changes outlined above.
The second step is to focus staff training and hiring on the languages spoken in your target markets, but also with an eye on the trajectory of the development of various languages. For example, if your firm is eyeing expansion in Asia, Mandarin would be a safe bet.
If your firm is targetting the world’s most dynamic markets, such as China, India and Indonesia, your localization and translation services partner must be familiar with the languages spoken there. Before embarking on wholesale change, in terms of hiring or finding translation agencies online, it’s best to conduct thorough research and seek the advice of independent experts. They’ll help you to determine whether you would be better off with multilingual voice-over services, whether multilingual translation services options are best or, indeed, what professional localization and translation services would be suitable.
To explore solutions for your language needs, both for today and the future, get in touch with Into23 today.
Phenomenal runaway South Korean hit Squid Game, streaming via Netflix, was in one regard panned: For many viewers, the subtitle translations obscured the original content’s meaning. Criticism centred on the subtitles not conveying the complexity and nuances of the brilliantly written script. The errors are so bad, according to observers, that the English subtitled version and the Korea are completely different films in terms of not only dialogue, but meaning and character development.
For the uninitiated, Squid Game follows struggling South Koreans who do battle to escape the drudgery of their existence by winning a huge cash prize in a bloody series of games in which the penalty of losing is death.
(The script by director-writer Hwang Dong-hyuk had been rejected by movie companies on numerous occasions over the course of a decade, before it was made.)
One American Korean-speaking viewer, put their finger on the frustration this caused fans of the show. “Not to sound snobby, but I’m fluent in Korean and I watched Squid Game with English subtitles and if you don’t understand Korean, you didn’t really watch the same show,’ she tweeted. ‘Translation was so bad. The dialogue was written so well and zero of it was preserved,” she was reported by Elle as tweeting.
Because of the changes of meaning in the subtitles, some of the characters came across as very different from that originally envisioned by the filmmaker, who is releasing three of his films the streaming platform.
The intensity of the situation contestants found themselves in was somewhat marred by the soft expletives they used whilst battling to the bitter end. In the original Korean, the language is far more gritty, as would befit such a hellish scenario.
One aspect of Korean that was wholly lost in translation was the use of honourifics. In many East Asian languages, honourifics are important parts of communication between people of different generations. They convey rich meaning about social relations, which was lost in the subtitles. These honorific comprise words like verb forms and pronouns that reflect and recognise the speakers’ social hierarchical status. There are certain pronouns that a younger speaker would use to address an older speaker. ‘Older brother’ is commonly used by a younger make when referring to an older man. It indicates a degree of closeness and fondness, but this was lost in the translation.
Another instance is when Pakistani shop worker Ali meets company chief Sang Woo. At first, Ali addresses Sang Woo with the moniker, Mr Company President. As their relationship deepens in the face of extreme adversity, Sang Woo bids Ali call him, hung, or big brother, instead. This affects the way a scene where Sang Woo betrays Ali, as the English translation was ‘call me Sang Woo,” which is not as poignant. The intimacy conveyed by the big brother moniker powerfully conveys the exploitation and selfishness of humans in general. Lastly, the lead film’s entire meaning was warped through the subtitle translations.
There are two English subtitles, one of which is closed captioning, has fewer errors. Closed captions display more than just what’s said, they convey other aspects of the visual display. It’s used for when the sound is unavailable or can’t be understood. The other version comprises a transcription of the dubbed version.
To understand where it went wrong and how you can get it right first time, it’s necessary to understand the subtitling process and its limitations.
Subtitling falls between translation and interpretation and requires video transcription services with a specific set of skills, including the ability to condense dialogue into a set parameter – the on-screen closed caption space – whether the dialogue is intensely complex, or incredibly simple. Expert subtitles must be totally up-to-date with changes in vernacular language as much television content features everyday language, often spoken by young people, who are on the cutting edge of changes to language. Just as a dubbing studio would have a dubbing artist, audio and video transcription services include highly honed subtitle experts. A good subtitle translator is hard to find, so do your due diligence. A good subtitling agency will be able provide premium subtitling services that are fit for an international hit. When consider a dubbing and subtitling services company, make sure to look at the reviews of existing customers, and assess the level of content they have produced before. Many companies will provide audio transcription services, voice dubbing and video translation services under one roof.
Translating phrases in a way that takes the same amount of time to say the same thing in two languages is incredibly challenging. Copying actors’ mouth movements is important as it increases the feeling of authenticity and audience engagement. There is a fine balance between matching the actors’ mouth movements and staying true to the actual words.
The language pair being translated also has a bearing on subtitle challenges. For example, when translating from Korea to Japanese, as the latter language also uses a similar set of honourifics, then its easier to convey the precise meaning of the original.
But with a language pair like Arabic and Korean, the difference is going to be much greater. One reason for this is a language’s compactness. This refers to the number of words used to express a thought. Some languages have single words to explain a thought or action, for example, whereas others will use several words. Another way to put, is that a compact is a more efficient language.
Writing in The Atlantic, John McWhorter postulates that the least efficient language is Kabardian, which is spoken in the Caucasus. He notes that in the simple sentence “The men saw me,” the word for “saw” is sǝq’ayǝƛaaɣwǝaɣhaś (pronounced roughly “suck-a-LAGH-a-HESH”).
Global audiences are becoming more comfortable with watching content in foreign languages with subtitles. Indeed, many of Netflix’s top hits are foreign language series like Borgen and Call My Agent. Foreign content is also becoming increasingly accessible. If you want to increase your content’s audience, then expert subtitling is the way to go. Contact us today to explore your options.
With more than 6000 languages worldwide how do you decide which ones to use for your business platforms? The belief that English is the language of business isn’t valid anymore with the increase and demand for online shopping, eLearning platforms, and eCommerce services like Shopify.
Historically, English has been the international business language but the emergence and reliance on the internet has completely altered the way we do business. In the mid-1990s, around 70 million people used the internet with Native English speakers making up for 80% of these users. However, today there is a whopping 4.6 billion internet users worldwide but English users make up for just 25.9% of that number.
If your business aims to enter the international market you need to speak to customers in their own language, meaning that integrating translation and localization into your business platforms is crucial. A survey performed by Common Sense Advisory looked at 2,430 different internet users across eight different countries and found that,
So while languages like English and Mandarin have long been some of the most important languages to learn for business, they are not the only ones to consider as eCommerce business continues to expand globally. Countries that have been on the sidelines in terms of global business now have a fast-growing number of internet consumers. Take a look at these top nine emerging languages for your business platforms.
Portugal is a relatively small European company but its language, Portuguese, has a large number of native speakers around the world, approximately 258 million.
Brazil is generally the main attraction in terms of business as Brazil is Latin America’s largest eCommerce market, it also ranks in the top five for the internet market as well as the smartphone market. Its growth has also not gone unnoticed, the British Council created a report on the ten most important languages for the future in the UK and Portuguese ranked in at number six.
In the same report by the British Council that Portuguese ranked in, Arabic came in at second which, is no surprise as there are several Arabic-speaking countries that rank in the UK’s top 50 export market for goods.
Despite some of its political difficulties, many parts of the Middle East have a wealth of internet consumers and a steadily growing economy. With many Arab people only able to speak Arabic, translation services or localization is crucial for reaching this market.
Russian is spoken by 258 million people worldwide, with the majority of them located in Russia. Russia is the up and coming hotspot for eCommerce as Russia lacks a main eCommerce platform like Amazon which, makes them the last remaining major market without a dominant online retailer. According to Morgan Stanley, eCommerce sales in Russia could triple by 2023.
Capitalising on the Russian market will require, at minimum, eCommerce translation services, as the large majority of Russians do not speak English. The best method, of course, would be a localisation strategy from a certified translation company.
Hindi is the official language of India with 600 million people speaking it, that number in and of itself says a lot. While there are many other languages spoken in India, English has often been used to conduct business, however, that is changing. Hindi is quickly becoming more prominent among new entrepreneurs as 85% of India does not speak English. In a CSA Report, Hindi saw a gigantic 67% increase on the top 100 online languages chart, making Hindi a language and a market to pay attention to.
While Japan had a rough go after WWII it has since become one of the most rapidly growing eCommerce markets in the world. It’s estimated that 93% of the population in Japan use the internet and with 126 million Japanese speakers, it’s a consumer market worth noting.
Relatively few people in Japan speak English, meaning that to succeed in this market translation and localization will be required.
Indonesia is home to 277 million people and a rapidly growing eCommerce market, thanks to an increase in middle-class consumerism and a high percentage of smartphone use. In a report by McKinsey, the consulting firm has predicted that the value of the Indonesian eCommerce market will rise 800% by the end of 2022. To enter this market, translation and localization will be essential to your eCommerce business plan.
Korean itself doesn’t rank high in terms of the world’s most spoken languages but they do have nearly 47 million internet users and a very expansive and popular eCommerce market. Currently, 96% of the Korean population use the internet with its total eCommerce transaction sales amounting to 135 billion dollars USD in 2020 alone. This makes Korea a hub of interest for eCommerce business that is sure to continue growing.
77 million people speak Vietnamese and it is the main language of trade within Vietnam. With an increase in eCommerce consumerism, it’s predicted that Vietnam will have 70 million online shoppers by 2025. Engaging with the Vietnamese market and its consumers will require translation and localization as a crucial part of any eCommerce business plan.
Poland is the ninth largest country in Europe with 41 million people speaking Polish. Poland is already home to many eCommerce companies that operate in Europe and worldwide such as Amazon. Even United States officials have taken note of Poland and the importance of eCommerce on its economic development and its intense growth over the pandemic. It’s worth considering Polish when choosing what languages to add to your business platforms if this is a market you want to break into.
Into23 offers global language solutions with quality translation and localization services. With 24/7 accessibility and fast delivery, Into23 can transform your business to enter the global market and reach even more customers. Whether you’re looking to enter the Chinese market and need English to Chinese translation services or you want to step up your website or eLearning platform, Into23 specialises in helping companies with Asian languages. Getting a quote is easy, just show us your website for a free quotation on our translation services.
In 2010, a Pro-Cantonese Movement （廣州撐粵語行動）erupted in the city of Guangzhou in Guangdong province, the epicentre of the modern Cantonese dialect we hear today.
It was triggered when the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Guangzhou Committee submitted a proposal to keep Cantonese in mainstream media in order to preserve the ancient dialect, which was at odds with Beijing’s blanket directive to standardize Mandarin throughout all provinces.
As expected, these remarks propelled the topic to the top of the leaderboard on Weibo and other Chinese social media sites. The majority of netizens speaking up were from Cantonese-speaking Guangdong province, defending the language in a myriad of creative ways. Notably a comedic modification of the poster for Echoes of the Rainbow, a popular Hong Kong movie released in 2010. It was modified to “The Thief who smashes Cantonese” featuring Ji Keguang, the most prominent proponent of Mandarin standardization.
But it is not uncommon for multiple languages to co-exist in a single location. In fact, 3 of the top 4 most multilingual countries in the world are located in Asia (Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and India), with China ranking 6th on this list, with 300 different spoken languages located within its borders.
So why did this Cantonese versus Mandarin debate in particular garner such attention from the masses? How is it any different from China’s 299 other languages? To understand this, we need to take a deeper dive into the history of the language.
One of the main reasons Cantonese is of such interest is perhaps because it is significantly older than Mandarin. It was first recorded after the fall of the Han dynasty, around 220AD, over 2000 years ago. In contrast, Mandarin only came into being around 100 years ago. In addition, Cantonese came into being through natural evolution, whereas Mandarin was a top-down ‘creation’, made for a specific purpose: unification and simplification.
A map depicting where Mandarin and Cantonese are spoken, along with many of China’s other languages.
In February 1913, the ‘Unification of Pronunciation Conference’ was held in Beijing to examine and approve the standard pronunciation, known as ‘GuoYin’（國音）of over 6500 Chinese characters. Through a series of complicated voting, the version of Chinese we now know as ‘Mandarin’ was born. The voters hailed from all over China, many in fact preferring to speak Cantonese or Sichuanese (amongst others), yet the final result resembles most closely what was spoken in Beijing at the time.
From 1955 onwards, Mandarin was referred to as Putonghua（普通話）, meaning ‘common’ （普）and ‘universal’（通）.
The then-Head Minister of Ministry of Education Zhang Xiruo said at the time:
The common language of the Han nationality has long existed. Now it is named Putonghua. It needs to be further regulated and standardised. This is Mandarin with the northern dialect as the base dialect and Beijing phonetics as the standard pronunciation. For simplicity, this national common language can also be called Putonghua.
In 1982, only 40 years ago, Beijing enacted the ‘Tuipu policy’, whose purpose is to make Putonghua the nation’s only language. This has numerous advantages for the country’s economy and leadership, creating a homogenous society across China’s enormous landmass and simplifying trade, communication, education, and much more.
It was a logical move to boost economic development which China so desperately needed at the time in order to catch up with the developed nations of the world. But at what cost to the diversity of ethnic cultures and local identity? What’s more, with the rise of technology and seamless translation software now readily available, is communication in different languages even a hindrance to economic development anymore?
We at Into23 would argue that a language barrier creates a competitive advantage for those willing to put in the effort to localise their products. As a result Into23 has built relationships with hundreds of incredible companies expanding into and out-of China. All of whom understand the importance of language as a cultural identifier, and are working hard to solidify their presence in their local area through accurate translocalisation thanks to Into23.
This idea of localising communication is particularly prevalent in Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong, where many, especially young people, are beginning to question their Chinese identity. An annual poll run by the University of Hong Kong found that even though the proportion of the population that can speak mandarin fluently has doubled since the handover in 1997, only 31% of people said they felt proud to be Chinese nationals, the lowest ever recorded. In fact, according to Chan Shui-duen, a professor of Chinese and Bilingual Studies at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, many young people “just reject it”.
The streets of Hong Kong, where both Mandarin and Cantonese are equally prevalent.
Against this backdrop, it is understandable that Cantonese is not just surviving but actually thriving. According to linguistics expert Lau Chaak-ming, businesses are picking up on the importance of playing to the local Cantonese identity. Writing in vernacular Cantonese (as opposed to standard Chinese) has increasingly appeared in public advertisements, magazines and other targeted media in the last 10 years, even “greatly accelerating” in the last four years.
60 million Cantonese speakers worldwide is a very considerable audience and as such should be considered when moving in to the China market. Translating your content from standard Chinese to vernacular Cantonese is often the difference between your product launch succeeding and failing.
Whether you are just curious or looking for multimedia localisation services, audio and video transcription services, E-learning translation services, website localisation, or indeed any kind of written or spoken translocalisation, please fill in the contact form and we would be happy to discuss the intricacies of translocalisation for multilingual Asian audiences.
The latest e-Conomy of Southeast Asia report by Google shows that South-east Asia hit an inflection point for the internet economy with $72 billion in 2018, $40 billion more than previously estimated. China is one of the top countries for retailers to turn their focus to in 2019. China leads the world in ecommerce, with more than 40% of the world’s ecommerce transactions taking place there.
With the increasing interest in Asia, we decided to compile the key digital trends in Asia from Digital 2019: Q2 Global Digital Statshot. This Global Digital Statshot is produced by We Are Social and Hootsuite to give us essential insights to the global use of the internet, mobile devices and ecommerce.
Baidu.com with 5.6 page visits per day is the most visited website in Asia, Baidu is the equivalent of Google in China. Among the top 10 are Tmall.com and Taobao.com, they are the top ecommerce sites in China. According to Alexa, both Tmall and Taobao gather more web visitors than Amazon.com
Linkedin is the world’s biggest business and employment-oriented network. India and China have the largest LinkedIn advertising audience after the United States. There is still much growth anticipated for the LinkedIn platform in China with only 4% of the population above the age of 18 on LinkedIn.
The most downloaded app in Asia, TikTok is an iOS and Android media app for creating and sharing short videos. The app was launched in 2017 by ByteDance, for markets outside of China.
Instagram is the most popular social media application for youth, with 90 percent of Instagram users are younger than 35. Indonesia has one of the highest instagram audiences in the world with instagram advertising reaching 64 million people and penetrating 26% of the population over the age of 13.
India has the largest Facebook advertising audience in the world, reaching 260 million people, 70 million more than the United States.
India, China, Indonesia and Thailand have above 45% of internet users who have used voice-controlled functionality on any device.
These are the 6 key digital trends for Asia in 2019, they indicate that global web activity, mobile applications, social media advertising audience and the usage of voice commands will have a play a major role in Asia.
This is a guest post by Bob Low. Bob Low is the regional marketing consultant for into23.
A recent Google-Temasek e-Conomy SEA 2018 report highlights the explosive growth happening in e-commerce in Southeast Asia. SE Asia has long been seen as a challenging market for international brands to enter. Recent investments in infrastructure, improved regulatory conditions alongside rapid growth in internet and smartphone penetration open up the markets for foreign brands. With the growing acceptance of e-commerce, foreign brands no longer need to establish a local presence to target the Southeast Asian consumer.
According to the e-Conomy SEA 2018 report, the SE Asia internet economy reached an inflexion point, headed by e-commerce growth, or more accurately mobile e-commerce growth. In common with other emerging markets, SE Asia internet users leap-frogged all other non-mobile internet devices directly into smartphones.
Despite the rosy future for the e-commerce market in SE Asia, a few factors are hindering its growth.
One of them is the low adoption of cashless payments, like other developing economies, a large percentage of the population is unbanked, consumers don’t have bank accounts and don’t own debit or credit cards to pay for goods and services.
The preferred, and sometimes the only option, is to pay by cash. Most online retailers offer COD (Cash On Delivery). However, some countries like Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand are slowly shifting to cashless options.
The Indonesia e-commerce sector is the largest in SE Asia, reaching USD$12 billion in 2018 and accounting for more than USD$1 in every USD$2 spent in the region. Chinese e-tailers invested big in Indonesia’s e-commerce companies. China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba invested an additional USD$2 billion in Indonesia’s biggest e-commerce site Lazada earlier this year, to take a controlling stake, putting one of the original Alibaba founders in place to lead its growth.
Despite also being the leader in financial inclusion, Indonesians still prefer the COD payment method.
COD presents challenges to e-tailers: there is uncertainty over whether they will receive payment, there is a greater risk of goods being returned on delivery. With the ubiquitous use of smartphones, it is more likely that Indonesians will embrace digital payment services on their smartphones than getting credit or debit cards. Indonesians have readily adopted ride-hailing services, as these ride-hailing services develop their own digital payment methods, it will be a natural progression for Indonesians to adopt digital payment for e-commerce purchases.
Tokopedia, vying with Lazada as the leading Indonesian e-commerce platform, decided not to offer a cash on delivery option. To maximise their competitiveness, they focused on other areas. With 2 million merchants on the platform and over 35M monthly visitors, Tokopedia partnered with 15 third-party logistics providers, serving different regions of Indonesia. They also teamed up with local shops and post offices, helping Tokopedia work around the challenge of collecting payments from the largely unbanked population. March 2017, eyeing the explosion of mobile internet users in the country, Tokopedia launched its digital wallet Tokocash. It was an instant success, by the end of 2017 with over 4 million users.
Indonesians seem eager to move from cash to mobile payment options. Indonesia’s ride-hailing juggernaut, Go-Jek, became the first “unicorn”, valued at over one billion dollars, has achieved significant success with its mobile wallet Go-Pay. You can use the wallet to pay for internet goods, services and even utility bills. Other notable players are GrabPay, OVO and T-Cash. Even the state-owned bank Mandiri launched Mandiri e-money to get a slice of the increasingly competitive cashless digital wallet market. Unlike a mobile wallet Mandiri e-money works as a prepaid card.
The same trend across the region
The trend of online shoppers going cashless with mobile payment wallets doesn’t stop in Indonesia.
Thailand, the second largest e-commerce market in SE Asia, reached USD$ 3 billion in 2018, doubling its size since 2015, and it’s set to reach USD$ 13 billion by 2025, according to the Google-Temasek report.
Thailand’s mobile internet users spend the most time of any Southeast Asian country on the mobile internet (4.2 hours/day).
Like in Indonesia, the Thai population is largely unbanked, only 8 million people have credit cards, and the preferred payment method for online shopping is COD.
However, in 2017, the Thai government created a plan called Thailand 4.0, a sector-specific industrial policy aiming to attract more investment and unleash the potential of a cashless society. One of the first initiatives was the introduction of PromptPay, a mobile payment service that allows registered customers to transfer funds using only mobile phone numbers or citizen ID. The scheme had already received 14 million registrations by the start of 2018.
Vietnam, the third largest e-commerce market in SE Asia, just behind Thailand, is paving the way for mobile payments options. In a true mobile-first fashion, between January 2017 and January 2018, Vietnam added 14 million Internet users, according to a report by Hootsuite and We Are Social.
This might be the reason behind the boom in e-commerce reaching nearly USD$2.8 billion in 2018, an astonishing 87% growth since 2015.
Eyeing Vietnam’s massive mobile payments potential, non-Vietnamese players have invested in the country. Take Silicon Valley’s investment fund Fenox Venture Capital, for instance; it made an undisclosed investment in digital wallet application OnOnPay, its first investment in Vietnam.
MoMo, the leading player in the Vietnamese e-wallet market, already has 8 million users and has offered preferences to clients who pay for railway tickets, insurance policies and shopping.
With all this growth and potential, it is important that brands selling globally have a Southeast Asia strategy. It is important to remember that it is not one market. You will need a language strategy, a platform strategy and a social media marketing strategy. These are young, mobile-first, internet-savvy, social-media friendly markets.