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Reasons why culture is important to localization: French

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.

What is cultural localization?

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. 

French – a forthcoming language for globalisation with a rich history

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. 

Map of French Speakers in the World

Geographical Distribution of French speakers in the world – Image by Carnetfrancaise

History of the French language

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.

translation and localization for france

French flag – Photo by Cecile Hournau on Unsplash

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. 

French vs Canadian French

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.

translation and localization for french

Quebecois and French flag – Photo by Nicolas Raymond on Flickr

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. 

  • Canadian French sounds older.

    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. 

  • Canadian French has more vowel sounds.

    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. 

  • Canadian French includes more Anglicisms

    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 is less formal

    Canadian French uses more informal means of address. The informal tu (you) is used more often than the formal vous.

  • Canadian French uses more religious vocabulary, especially when swearing.

    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.

French vs African French – The future of French 

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. 

Reasons why cultural localization is important

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.

Related: The Top 10 Translation Blunders in Advertising

Things to consider when creating a cultural localization strategy

  • Use professional multilingual translation services

    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. 

  • Use the right language for your audience

    Consider idioms, jokes, and sayings specific to the region’s language. 

  • Create culturally relevant and specific product information

    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.

Can English continue to be a dominant global language?

No other language has held sway the way English has globally. Can it maintain its dominance as the most important language for business? 

It’s estimated that more than 1.75 billion people around the world speak English, that’s a quarter of the world’s population. Around 400 million people speak English as their first language, with more than a billion knowing it as their secondary tongue; it’s also the official language in at least 59 countries and the lingua franca of many more. While English is not the most spoken language around the world, English is the language of business, diplomacy, science and much more. If we were to rate English on a financial level, its GDP would massively overshadow other languages. Yet English is just one of 7000+ languages spoken globally, so how did it become the most important global language, and will it continue to hold its business and cultural dominance?

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Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels – The English language has shaped how we do global business but will its dominance remain?

A brief history of the English language

Map – Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels – Caption – “English has its roots in the nomads that used to roam the southeastern European plains some 5000 years ago.”

Belonging to the Indo-European family of languages, English is a West Germanic language that has its roots in the nomads that used to roam the southeastern European plains some 5000 years ago. As migrations happened in the 5th and 6th centuries, Old English began to take form. Words were taken from French during the Norman conquests of 1066, and in the 12th century, English transformed from Old to Middle English as Greek and Latin words began to enter and influence the language. In the 1500s, English began transforming the modern English we recognise and use today. Between trade, conquest, religion, and British colonialism, English spread worldwide. 

Fun fact:

The closest modern relative to the English language is Frisian. It is 80% lexically similar to English and is a language still spoken in parts of Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, though by only around 450,000 people.

English’s success is a result of money, status, and politics, as well as the ease with which it borrows words from other languages and its flexibility in adapting to changes in the world and technology. Economic and technological development has played a major role in English dominance. The US still leads economically and has been one of the most dominating modern cultures, which was heavily influential to English dominance during the birth of the internet. The result of this history and influence has led other countries to place a high value on English speakers, in that those that can speak and use English have a higher chance of getting ahead or entering the global elite, thus furthering English’s influence and dominance in business and more. For example, China has the most speakers of English as a second language than any other country. 

While English generally remains the international business language, global business is changing, and its dominance is starting to waver as more and more companies aim to enter other markets and expand using a localized marketing and advertising transcreation strategy for their business.

How technology has changed the prevalence of English

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Photo by www_slon_pics on Pixabay – eCommerce business and other global markets are changing English’s prevalence in business.

When the internet started in 1998, there were around 70 million internet users, with English speakers accounting for over 80% of them. However, since then, there has been a steady decline in the percentage of web pages in English. In 1998, 75% of the internet was in English, whereas now it’s only around 25.9%. Today Simplified Chinese alone accounts for 19.4% of web content, just shy of English, which shows the growing trend of companies expanding into different global markets with the use of technology and the necessary use of translation and localization for websites, eCommerce translation services, eLearning platforms, and more. 

Further studies have also found that more than half of consumers would pay more for a product if it were presented to them on a platform in their native language. This shift away from English has even been noted by The British Council as far back as 2006, when it published a report that stated that even though English is becoming more widely spoken, its dominance as a language appears to be fading. This shift is happening for a variety of reasons. 

Related: The Top 9 Emerging Languages for Business

Countries with large populations now have more access to technology than they did in the past, and many of these same countries also have a growing number of middle-class consumers that are eager to spend money. With 72.1% of consumers spending most of their time on web pages in their native language, the demand for localization and translation services and a shift away from English has increased. Other factors, such as continued globalization in general, changes in the economy, and other creative alternatives, such as emojis, may also influence the prevalence of the English language in business and online.

English’s future as a global language

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Photo from Pixabay– Other languages are starting to make their way into mainstream business and culture.

It’s estimated that 50-90% of the world’s languages will be extinct in the next century. This is because linguists believe that with more people moving around and native languages not being passed on to younger generations, there will be a drop in the overall number of global languages.

A Dutch sociologist named Abram de Swaan classifies languages into four categories. The peripheral language category includes 98% of the world’s languages but is spoken by less than 10% of humanity. The national or central category includes languages that have a territory to call their own and are written and taught in schools. Next, in the category of super-central languages are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hindi, Japanese, Malay, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swahili, as each host around 100 million speakers or more and are the most commonly spoken second languages worldwide. At the top is the ‘hypocentral’ language. It is the language that holds the whole language system together, and that crown is held by none other than English. Japanese novelist Minae Mizumura, who has written on language, similarly described English as a “universal language” and that this status is held not by the number of native speakers of the language but rather by the greatest number of non-native speakers.

With that said, it seems likely that English will continue to hold its super-power status for the time being; however, it will also have to continue to make way for other super-central languages that are growing within political and economic spheres. For example, China’s presence outside of Asia continues to grow. As other countries and populations continue to gain traction in online consumer markets, businesses will need to adapt and recognise that business is no longer an English-only affair.

If you’re ready to start localizing your business or need high-quality translation services, Into23 can help you transform your business for any local market. Specializing in Asian languages, Into23 offers English to Chinese translation services and more, as well as website localizationtranslation and localization marketing strategies to suit your business needs. Contact us today for a free quote!

Important things to consider if you’re localizing your business in Spanish

Spanish is the world’s second most spoken native language and the official language of 21 countries. If you’re looking to crack into the Spanish market, here are some factors to consider for your localized marketing strategy.

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash – Do you know what this Spanish phrase says?

Spoken by 559 million people worldwide, Spanish ranks as one of the most important business languages. It’s a language that is becoming increasingly globalised as it is commonly regarded as the most understood language in the western hemisphere next to English. With today’s global market, the use of Spanish online has risen by 800%. From eCommerce services to website localization, if you’re looking to enter the Spanish market, there are specific factors that need to be considered based on the Spanish region you’re looking to enter.

History of the Spanish language

localization and translation services

Photo from Wikimedia – The front of the Royal Spanish Academy in Madrid

Like other languages that developed in Europe, the Spanish language emerged as a dialect of spoken Latin in the Iberian Peninsula which is where modern-day Spain and Portugal are now located. The language developed further when the Arab armies invaded the peninsula in 711. The invasion brought with it Arabic art, culture, and architecture which had a strong influence on the area and language. Arabic began to mix with the old Spanish which resulted in the Spanish language that we know today. Spain expelled the Arabs in 1492 but the Spanish language managed to retain some 8,000 Arabic words. Words like la almendra (almond) or la almohada (pillow) have come from the Arabic language. 

After the Arabs left in 1492, the Spaniards started colonizing which is how the language came to the Americas. The first European settlements in the US were established by Spain in what is now modern-day Florida which is why Spanish was the historical language of many of the southern States during that time. With the annexation of these states, the main language eventually changed to English but Spanish is still used and spoken widely even in these areas today. 

The Spanish Empire also expanded its colonization to other places such as the Philippines in 1521. The Spanish controlled the island until 1898. Today while only 0.5% of people in the Philippines speak Spanish, it is still home to the most number of Spanish speakers in Asia. 

Today, the Spanish language is maintained and safeguarded at The Royal Spanish Academy located in Madrid. The academy started in the 18th century and helped to create dictionaries and grammar books that have since been adopted and used by other Spanish-speaking countries. The academy invented the use of the inverted question and exclamation marks that are specific to the Spanish language as well as the letter ñ.

European Spanish vs. Latin American Spanish

advertising transcreation

Photo from Pixabay – The Spanish and Argentinian flags.

European Spanish is centred in Spain while Latin American Spanish speakers are located in the lower part of North America, Central, and South America. In Latin America, the Spanish language is just called español, since the language itself was brought over by colonisers. In Spain, however, the language is called castellano, which refers to the Castile province in Spain where the language is believed to have originated. Another reason why Spanish is called castellano in Spain is that there are other Spanish dialects within Spain such as Catalan, Galician, and Basque.

If you’re creating a localization strategy in one or more of these Spanish speaking areas it’s important to note that there will be regional and cultural language distinctions. Here are just a few important aspects to consider. 

A key difference: pronouns – vosotros and ustedes

The pronouns vosotros and vosotras (you) are only used in Spain, making this one of the key differences between Spain and Latin America. Vosotros is an informal means of address whereas ustedes would be used professionally or formally in Spain. Since vosotros doesn’t exist in Latin American Spanish, ustedes is used in both formal and informal means of address. 

If you’re looking to create a formal business presence in Spain this is an important distinction as if you use the incorrect pronouns on, say, your website localization, your business platform may not be taken seriously. 

Vos vs tú

Like vosotros in Spain, the pronoun vos (your) is used in Argentina, Paraguay and Uraguay instead of tú.

Past tense

Likely due to the influences of surrounding European languages, Spaniards use past tense differently than Latin Americans. In Spain, you’re more likely to hear about a completed action using the present perfect tense, whereas in Latin America they are more likely to use the simple past, which is similar to English. 

Examples of vocabulary differences 

English
Spain
Latin America
penbolígrafo or bolipluma or lapicera
car cochecarro or auto
peachmelocotóndurazno
cell phonemóvilcelular


Pronunciation difference

The pronunciation of the Z and C (before I or E) is different between the two Spanish-speaking regions. In Spain, these letters are pronounced with a “th” sound while in Latin America, an “s” sound. 

In parts of Argentina and Uruguay, the double LL and Y sounds are pronounced like an English “sh” sound while Spaniards would pronounce them with a “y” sound. 

Further, there are also differences in the way that people speak depending on the region. Argentinians are said to have a sing-song type of accent while Colombians have a neutral sounding accent. 


Things to consider when creating a localization strategy for spanish

  • Know your primary market

As this article details, there are a variety of differences within the Spanish language based on where it is spoken. A good localization strategy will understand its target audience and know what pronouns, tone, and vocabulary to use when marketing.

  • Consider neutral spanish

Since 21 different countries speak Spanish, if you’re a company that is looking to break into a few of them, you could take a different localization approach by using what’s called neutral Spanish. Every country that speaks Spanish will have its own cultural nuances and differences so to help ease the localization process, many companies use neutral Spanish in their strategies. Neutral Spanish, or standard or international Spanish as its sometimes referred to, is the process of using terms and vocabulary that are universally understood by all Spanish speakers. This process would include avoiding idioms that might be specific to one region and not another or words that aren’t specifically used in day-to-day speech but are appropriate enough for marketing purposes and general understanding. Neutral Spanish might be appropriate for your business if you have a high amount of technical content that needs translation or if you’re just getting started and are looking for a cost-effective translation solution.

  • Select the right localization agency

The use of localization and translation services is a key factor of success for any marketing strategy. A localization agency can help you determine what approach you should take when entering the Spanish market, if specific transcreation or localization is necessary, or if a neutral Spanish approach would better suit your business needs.

Into23 offers localization and translation services from websites to eLearning platforms and more. Our quality translation and advertising transcreation specialists can help you reach any Spanish market and localize your business to get the best return on your investments. Contact into23 tpday to find out more.

Important things to consider if you’re localizing your business in Chinese

Chinese is one of the most important business languages. It is second only to English in terms of being the most spoken, so here are a few important things to know while creating your localization strategy.

With a large population and a growing number of middle-class consumers, the Chinese market has been a new hotspot for businesses. The Chinese market can be a successful market for your business if it’s done right. It’s easier than ever to crack this market with the growth of technology, online shopping, eCommerce translation services, and eLearning platforms. However, there are some major points to consider if you want to localize for a Chinese area or region, as there are many pitfalls when localizing to Chinese.

localize my business in chinese - hong kong

Hong Kong signs – Photo by Katie Manning on Unsplash

History of the Chinese language and its different types

Chinese is an old and diverse language. In mainland China alone, around 70 million people belong to 55 different minority groups, each with their dialect and some that don’t even have a distinguishable written form. However, with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Mandarin was chosen as the official language of the country. Today, more than 70% of the Chinese population speaks Mandarin. 

Written Chinese

localize my business in chinese - calligraphy

Calligraphy – Photo by chuanyu2017 on Pixabay

Written Traditional Chinese is around 6000 years old and is the oldest written language in the world. Cantonese speakers generally still use these characters, as do Mandarin speakers in Taiwan. Mandarin speakers in China use Simplified Chinese characters. Simplified characters have been around significantly less than their traditional counterpart as they were formalized at the beginning of the People’s Republic of China. The People’s Republic of China was formed in 1949, and at the time, the majority of Chinese could not read or write. To improve literacy, Mao Zedong initiated a new system of Simplified Chinese, simplifying around 2000 Chinese characters by reducing the number of strokes used for each character. Simplified Chinese was first used in 1956

While there are various spoken dialects of Chinese, these are the two major forms of writing. This is handy as even if the spoken dialect is different, Chinese can generally communicate through writing. 

Different dialects

Seven major dialects are used in China and its Special Administrative Regions (SARs). To reach the Chinese market with your business, you need to know where your target market is and what Chinese form is used there.

DialectRegion Spoken
Mandarin (Putonghua)Most of mainland China, Taiwan, Macau
Cantonese/YueHong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou (Canton), and Wuzhou.
MinFujian province and parts of Guangdong, Zhejiang, Hainan, and Taiwan
WuZhejiang province, Shanghai, southern Jiangsu province, parts of Anhui and Jiangxi provinces.
XiangMost of the Hunan province, the counties of Quanzhou, Guanyang, Ziyuan, and Xing’an, northeastern Guangxi province.
GanJiangxi province
HakkaNortheastern Guangdong, adjoining regions of Fujian, Jiangxi, Southern Hunan, and the older generations of Hong Kongers in the New Territories. In Taiwan, Hakka is spoken by some in the Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Miaoli parts of the country.

Related: What’s the Difference Between Mandarin and Cantonese?

Important considerations regarding the different dialect types

  • Cantonese is the main dialect spoken in Hong Kong. Traditional Chinese characters are used for writing. While many Hong Kongers can speak Mandarin and use Simplified Chinese characters, if you are localizing for this region, you should consider using Cantonese and Traditional Chinese characters.
  • In Taiwan, they speak Mandarin and write with Traditional Chinese characters. Both Taiwan and mainland China use Mandarin, but they have developed different terminology and writing styles.  

All of this variation within the Chinese language necessitates using the best Chinese translation services company to guarantee that sufficient research is done to develop a translation and localization plan that matches your strategy for entering this lucrative market.

Things to consider when creating a localization strategy for Chinese 

localize my business in chinese - tiananmen square

Tiananmen Square – Photo by wu yi on Unsplash

Know the culture, know your audience, and identify your primary dialect and region

Like any good localization strategy, you need to know your target audience, its culture, its language, and the things your target market values. You’ll need to consider how your brand voice and whether this will resonate with a Chinese audience. Can you directly translate your brand content, or will you need to consider a more creative translation, a transcreation, to convey your brand voice? As China is diverse, with differences across the regions, high-quality translation services can help you achieve your marketing strategy.  An experienced translation agency can help you avoid cultural mishaps and translation errors.

Learn from past successes and failures 

Learn from the companies who have attempted and accessed the market already. Localizing in China is challenging, and even some of the biggest names have failed after not performing thorough market research. Learning from what has worked with brands that are similar to yours can help narrow your research and expedite your localization strategy.

Related: The Top 10 Translation Blunders in Advertising 

Use local social media and eCommerce platforms

Mainland China uses various social media and eCommerce platforms that are not used or are less popular in other countries. Baidu is the search engine used by most people, with platforms such as WeChat for social media and eCommerce payments. Other social media platforms include Qzone, Renren and P1. In Hong Kong, western social media platforms are popular, and a variety of eCommerce platforms, from the Octopus card to PayMe, are used to pay for products online. 

Use expert multilingual translation services

It should be apparent by now the importance of localization and translation services when expanding your business globally, especially into Chinese markets. Navigating any new market is challenging, so take the guesswork out of your localization strategy and get the assistance of translation and localization experts. 

Into23 is a translation agency in Hong Kong offering localization and translation services. We are experts in Asian languages. Reach out to Into23 today to discuss your business localization strategy to set yourself up for success in the Chinese markets.