Given the tremendous diversity of English dialects one can encounter throughout the United States, most Americans have a natural understanding of how language can be interpreted differently in different environments. For the way it would sound to a New York-based board of executives versus a similar group in Houston, “ya’ll” might as well be two different words. I still get confused every time someone calls a remote a clicker. And I literally laughed in a New Orleanian’s face the first time they told me they were going to “make groceries.” That said, idiocy, like language, is subjective and I was the one from out-of-town.
These examples can serve as a pretty good point-of-reference when you begin to consider how a target market’s language locale can impact your company’s localization strategy. Making the aforementioned terminology choices aren’t just a simple matter of “right” or “wrong.” One might sound silly. Another could be confusing. And another, inappropriate entirely.
Many of the factors that influence how English is spoken in the US apply to other languages as well. Cultural identity, nationality, physical distance and other variables dictate what works and what doesn’t. As language experts, it’s our job to weigh these considerations against a variety of other concerns, like our partners’ goals, budgets and timelines to ensure that the best approach is taken.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be examining four of the most commonly translated languages – Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese and French – and look at the unique influences that led to their stratification. As we’ll see, each language needs to be handled in its own unique way. Additionally, we’ll look at some of the successful strategies ABLE has used with clients in the past to ensure that linguistic choices are made sensitively, but also efficiently in terms of cost, timeline and quality.
Next Week: A Spanish for Everyone?
As a passionate traveler, I’ve spent most of my adult life traveling the world before setting up camp in the United States of America; Washington DC to be more specific.
Going back to Morocco to visit family and friends always seems like a new experience for me. Stepping off the plane right onto the tarmac is always exciting, as is this exotic country awaiting my embrace. As we drive through the hilly mountains of Fes, east towards Kenitra (my childhood hometown), I take in all the beauty surrounding me. As we make our way closer to our destination, the smell of the sea engulfs the car.
Moroccans are the ‘Kings of Hospitality’. Before I even place my bags on the shining, ceramic tile, I am being offered hot mint tea and fresh fruit. During this visit, a stranger told me once “Moroccans don’t eat to live, we live to eat. ” This proved to be true after being served homemade, steaming hot meals daily at noon. Mealtime is a time for family, friends, laughter and chatter over delicious plates.
Marrakesh, the city I like to refer to as ‘the gem of Morocco,’ was a place of many memories. It’s easy to lose yourself in the narrow, winding streets of the Medina. We could smell the spices in the air, experienced haggling at a local souk, and sipped mint tea in a comfortable café. The four wheeling adventure through the villages outside Marrakesh is always a truly humbling experience.
Moroccans speak Moroccan (locally referred to as Darija), which is a dialect composed of Arabic, French and a bit of Berber – the dialect spoken by native tribes before the Arab arrival. The written form is Modern Standard Arabic, which is taught in schools and used as the primary media language. Due to the French colonization in the 1950s, French is considered a secondary language. It’s taught in schools and widely used in foreign affairs. It is also used to accommodate the large French speaking population residing in Morocco.
Morocco has many things the developed world is lacking. A great emphasis is put on time with family and friends. Fresh meals with a variety of comforting ingredients are served at home three times a day. Last, and most importantly as I write this on Earth Week, Morocco values its landscape. It’s left to grow and beautify the land instead of being paved over as in more developed nations.