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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.