Thursday 10 April 2014

Localized translations 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 to achieve that. However as some languages are spoken in different parts of the globe, a translation must also be localized.

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

Here is a little anecdote I was recently told by a friend: during a student meeting at a Spanish University, a Latin American student introduced himself as “Memo”. The other students looked at each other, trying not to smile, and greeted the new student. While nobody would have reacted this way in Memo’s own country, the Spanish reaction was understandable. In European Spanish, memo means silly, stupid, daft whereas in Latin America it is a nickname for Guillermo (William in English). This reminded me of how different a language can be depending on the country of origin of the speaker.

Let’s have a look at a few Spanish examples. In colloquial European Spanish, pasta can mean money whereas in Latin America pasta means pasta and a colloquial way of saying money would be plata which means silver in Spain. In Latin America, you can eat papas, meaning potatoes whereas in Northern Spain you would certainly not eat your papa because over there it means your dad or the pope. There are many different ways to say jacket in Spanish, and depending on the different countries where it is spoken it could be chamarra, chaqueta, campera, cazadora ; T-shirt could be playera, remera, camiseta, franela and bus could be autobús, colectivo, liebre, camión, carrito, buseta, guagua, omnibus, colectivo, micro. Those are just a few examples for the Spanish language but the list is long!

Similarly, there are many notable differences between French as it is spoken in France or in Canada. A Canadian asking a French person “Où as-tu garé ton char?” would probably get a few raised eyebrows because in European French it literally means “Where have you parked your tank?”. Another funny example would be money or dough: 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” whilst the Canadian actually means “The end of the month is going to be tough, I don’t have any money left”. French speakers will find numerous examples of the different words used in France and Canada in the Traduction du français au français website.

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

I hope these few examples give you an idea of the importance of localization in translation. Whether you want to adapt your messages for the international market or to improve your company’s image abroad, we will source the translator best suited for your project. Aplingo provides localized translations thanks to a network of translators experts in their field and languages. Whether you need a document to be translated for the Spanish or Mexican market, French or Canadian, British or American, we would be happy to offer you a service tailored to your needs. We would love to hear from you by email at or by telephone on 0800 389 6571.

No comments:

Post a Comment