There are many companies who cater solely to their own language. That is, they only provide products and services in their native tongue, whether that be English, Spanish, French, Chinese, or any of the arguably thousands of living languages spoken around the world. So, if an organization caters to customers who predominantly speak only one language, is there even a need to localize? In one word, yes.
Don’t drive too quickly down neighborhood streets in the state of New York or you might run into speed bumps. In Arizona and Florida however, you may stumble across speed humps. If you drive too quickly down British streets, you might run directly into a sleeping policeman, and in New Zealand, watch out for those judder bars. But wait – I thought we were all speaking English? Why are there so many different expressions for the same thing? And that’s the point. The majority of people in North America, New Zealand, and Britain speak English, and yet, the ways in which the English language has adapted in different parts of the world is uncanny. In fact, we don’t even have to travel too far to notice these linguistic varieties. If you travel from state to state within the United States alone, you will likely hear a variety of accents and different expressions.
It’s fascinating really. We are all speaking the same language, and yet, we speak so differently. We have different accents, different terms for basically the same topic, and a whole slew of different expressions. In New York, you might hear an individual say, “I’m putting on my sneakers” while just to the south in Pennsylvania, you might hear, “I’m putting on my tennis shoes.” Northern states like to drink “pop” while southern states prefer “soda.” Listing the linguistic differences in the United States alone is practically endless, and with nearly 330 million people worldwide who speak English as their first language, we can only imagine the linguistic variances that exist. So, what about other languages? The same must be true for them as well, right? Let’s take a look at the world’s top ten languages and the number of people who claim them as their mother tongue:
The English language is truly dynamic, and it takes on a life of its own depending on the region in which it is being spoken. One could say that language in general, is alive and must be flexible enough to change as our societies change. The introduction of the Internet for instance, brought with it the introduction of new vocabulary, and with every new invention, new words must be created to describe and explain the invention. Companies who deal exclusively in the English language should invest in localization, and here are just a few reasons why.
British, Canadian, and American English follow different spelling, grammatical, and punctuation rules. Just take a look at the following. All three sentences are in English, but they are clearly written with linguistic differences:
Although the vocabulary and spelling differences here are subtle, they are distinct differences nonetheless. No matter who your English-speaking audience is, they will notice these differences. There are distinct variations in British, Canadian, and American English when it comes to collective nouns, past participles, plural versus singular nouns, articles, tenses, and so much more.
Most Canadians use the metric system when measuring distance and speed, length, volume, and capacity, but when it comes to one’s height, Canadians prefer to use feet and inches. In Britain, the metric system is typically used in government and commerce for example, but it is still quite common to use imperial measurements for distance, speed, and the sizes of various containers. The traditional system of weights and measures is typically used in the United States for all measurements. And what about currency? Each English-speaking region has its own unique currency. Heck, Canadians even have the loonie and the toonie.
Although your organization may only be interacting with specific English-speaking regions, each of these regions operates in different time zones. Wanting to promote a new service? Excited about starting an email or Twitter campaign? You may want to localize your promotional campaigns to ensure they are being delivered to your recipients at the most optimal times.
Did your English teacher ever use this expression on you? Well, that teacher might have annoyed you but he – or she – was right. Failure to prepare is preparation for failure in virtually every scenario. If you have thought up to now, that your monolingual business didn’t need to consider localization, you may want to rethink that thought. Although roughly 330 million people claim English as their first language, there are approximately 1.5 billion people in the world who speak English. So, stop at that speed bump, that speed hump, that sleeping policeman, or that judder bar and consider how investing in localization could potentially help you to connect far and wide.
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