It's in Spanish? What kind?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/10/08 03:01 -04:00, original URI:

Yesterday, John Yunker posted about how there are More Reasons to Localize for the US Hispanic Market:

According to a recent study by Feedback Research of online consumers who lived in the US, spoke Spanish at home and/or used Spanish media regularly:

I was thinking about those two numbers for a while after I saw the blog entry.

And I wondered whether those people who preferred Spanish had a preference about the "type" of Spanish. I do know that people from Spain often look at localized products as having too much Mexican influence, and I have even had occasion to hear the converse. And I know that French localizations are often seen as having either too much influence from France or from Quebec. The differences in spelling and word choice in English between the USA and a lot of the rest of the English speaking world are well-known. Or the fact that the Arabic speakers in Morocco may not even find the Arabic spoken in Saudi Arabic to be intellgible at times (and vice versa). You could probably apply this type of argument to almost any language spoken in more than one location.

Or perhaps even within a single location!

After all, under ideal circumstances, it is easy for a product to appear "local" when properly localized for a particular target market. But that implies that all the members of the target market speak the exact same language, something that we know to be false.

Which is not to say that software companies (and I am including Microsoft here) seem to be targetting multiple flavors or dialects of a language in a single location (or even multiple locations). The goal is always to lower the cost of localization, and when that is the goal then with a limited number of exceptions it is hard to justify localizing into the same language more than once.

It is not true of all cases but isn't there a class aspect related to dialect? aren't we creating a class of people who can use computers?

And are we doing people a service if we work that hard to encourage them use their language in a way that is not comfortable for them?

Solutions to such a problem are indeed elusive. It is easy to imagine that if you really did target the US Hispanic market in a Spanish localization that you would produce a product that would be more reaily accepted than one that felt like it was translated for someone else. But when people are willing to settle for whatever is available,  I doubt we could do much more than imagine. in any case.

And a model based on communities of people who can contribute their preferences for usage seems farfetched, since most people are not scientifically extracting the their language usage, as they are too busy using it. There really had to be that force that get something out of it, and believes that there is a good reason to do the research and spend the monry to make it happen. Since we are all willing to deal with the one language we are given, how can we expect anything more?


This post brought to you by "ñ" (U+00f1, LATIN SMALL LETTER N WITH TILDE)

# Klaus on 8 Oct 2005 4:31 AM:

Certainly it's difficult for people who are accustomed to 'mexican spanish' (es-MX) to understand some elements of 'castillian' spanish, as spoken in Spain (es-ES). There is some deviation in slang between Latin American countries, but in general it's the same 'type' of Spanish. It's not really as simple as the 'colour-color' differences between en-US and en-GB. We're not talking dialects here, it's really different in some important ways.

Having said that, I haven't used es-MX software in a long time, but the Win95/Office 97 localizations used to be a little sucky =)

I remember a localized driver/utils install for an HP printer back in the day that used the word 'apostilla'... I literally had to get a dictionary to figure out that it meant 'read me'. You'd never catch someone in Mexico using that word for anything - apparently it's used regularly in some Spanish regions.

It's hit and miss, I guess.


# Maurits [MSFT] on 8 Oct 2005 5:26 AM:

49% of Spanish speakers are more likely to buy from a Spanish language site?

Doesn't that mean that 51% of Spanish speakers are LESS likely to buy from a Spanish language site?

I think this overlooks a very important point... that Spanish-speaking US Hispanics who also speak English tend to be more affluent than US Hispanics who speak only Spanish.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 8 Oct 2005 5:35 AM:

Klaus -- I agree, and it is why I was not attempting to be too descriptive about differences. It is indeed hard to judge the differencs unless you are a native speaker.

Maurits -- well, the survey might, but I didn't! It is why I said sometimes it boils down to a class distinction....

# Rodrigo on 8 Oct 2005 4:44 PM:

I think the best solution is to use a formal style and make people of different countries revise the text. I´m from Spain and I have seen very good texts (written obviously by Latin American speakers) with a word of two not very used here and others who seemed very alien to me.

# Jonathan on 9 Oct 2005 4:07 AM:

I think this is the place to mention that Harry Potter books are published in both British-English and American-English. Or as my friends says, "translated into American".

# Michael S. Kaplan on 9 Oct 2005 6:07 AM:

Hi Jonathan --

Yes, this is exactly the place. I guess I am wondering why they do not do this when they are localizing software? :-)

In books, they never do it for technical books, either....

# Michael S. Kaplan on 9 Oct 2005 6:11 AM:

Hello Rodrigio -- Something along the lines of what you suggest would be (I think) the most cost-effective way to allow different localizations for different markets, but the battle to make it in any way more expensive seems to lose. It seems (by description) to be a problem with most companies these days.

# Jerry Pisk on 9 Oct 2005 11:28 PM:

I don't think it's a matter of localization. Even in the US there are so many English variations that you will not satisfy everybody. A third generation Mexican-American from LA speaks different English than eigth generation German-American from Ohio (neither has left 100 miles of their place of birth). IMHO you might provide multiple localizations of your product but let users choose which one they want to use, don't force Spanish speakers to use Spanish version if they feel more comfortable using the English version (for whatever reasons). Choice is usually the best way of doing things and localization is not an exception.

As for letting your users localize your app - which users? What Rodrigio considers out of place may be considered just fine by vast majority of your other users. How do you decide? Do you let yourself slip into the horrible single person veto situation most of the US is in?

# Richard on 10 Oct 2005 6:40 AM:

It would be really nice to have an en-GB localised version of Windows/Office. Give IE a Favourites menu, have colours throughout the various places.

But one localisation that would be easy to do and would really cheer me up would be the timezone names. Any chance we could have GMT and BST, instead of "GMT Daylight Time"?

# rburhum on 10 Oct 2005 1:45 PM:

Being a native Spanish speaker from Peru who has lived the last 7 years of my life in CA, I felt compelled to give my point of view on the matter.

From reading a few of the posts, I noticed that there are a few misconceptions and misunderstandings of what the problem is. Personally, when I see the option of Spanish on any application or website... I tend to be very skeptical of whether that is a good option or not. The reason, is that some of the translations are, well to put it in the right terms... "Ghetto-Spanish".

Sometimes I find "made-up" words that are a literal translation from their English- equivalent.

Example: "call you back" -> "llamar para atras (?)" -- Which should be "retornar la llamada".

These translations are just past region dialect differences, and would fit more into either a bad grammar category or simply, ignorance of the Spanish language.

In English, I don't see any "redneck locale"... and honestly, would you truly trust a website / app that translated their products using this redneck locale which they referred to as Spanish??? Although I would probably prefer the Spanish option, I usually find myself choosing English instead in order for me to avoid having to discover this nuisance.

Unlike in some other languages where there is not an entity that oversees the grammatical rules and new words of a language, the rules for the "castellano" that I speak (and also people in other Latin-American countries), is "standardized" by "La Real Academia Española". If it doesn't exist in their dictionary is not a word in Spanish - as easy as that.

So the other 51%, well that's me. And the reason has to do with how many grammatical and semantical errors I am willing to tolerate during my shopping experience.

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referenced by

2008/07/11 What kind of English were you looking for? We only seem to have one in stock....

2006/10/13 Local experiences in Norway: the Nynorsk LIP!

2006/09/12 They speak English in other places, too

2006/03/01 About that Portuguese localization question...

2006/02/01 It speaks my language (well, almost!)

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