Thursday, May 21, 2015

Translation tips: Language flavors

At idioma we translate into many different languages, over seventy at the last count, and in many different combinations (last we counted the permutations, it was over five thousand). Some of these languages are different variants of the same basic language. Sometimes they are very similar, at other times quite different.

Flavored by authorities

Source: DollarPhotoClub.com
For example, for Norwegian, two flavors exist: Bokmål and Nynorsk. Bokmål is by far the most common variant in Norway and is used in the private and commercial sector, while Nynorsk is used mostly in some western regions and in public administration. The two dialects differ considerably from each other.
Then for Portuguese, there are also dif­ferent tongues, and the language used in Portugal differs from the one used in Brazil, for example. In spite of the fact that a language reform has been signed into law (in Portugal in 2008), in reality there are quite many differences. Schools in Portugal now teach the new, standardized Portuguese language, which means that in a global perspective spelling and grammar should become standardized. Most newspapers and magazines in Portugal have also adopted the reform, which officially must have been applied by latest July 2014. The biggest obstacle, however, seems to be the choice of words. Especially in technical writing, there are numerous cases where Brazilians prefer different terms than those used in Portugal, which is one reason why Portuguese for Portugal and Portuguese for Brazil will most likely continue to coexist for quite some time. 
Spanish is another case in point where differences exist. Spanish in Spain tends to be quite modern with development in a different direction from other Spanish tongues. Most of the Spanish dialects in South America are quite conservative, while the dialects used in Mexico and the Caribbean are influenced by their proximity to the United States.

Does it matter in localization?

Many times, it is more important to know the target market than the language itself or whether a document will be used in many different markets. In Belgium, for example, people in the north speak Flemish, a variant of Dutch. This dialect can’t really be called a different language as spelling and grammar are the same as for standard Dutch. Here the difference is rather in the frequency in the words used, although all words exist in standard Dutch as well. However, it can make a surprising  difference when it comes to, say, localization of websites.
Similar to Flemish, the German vocabulary used in Austria and Switzerland is also common, however, the preferences, especially in Switzerland, are many times for different words than those that are commonly used in Germany. Additionally, in Switzerland the German character “ß” is not used, and instead people write “ss”.

In our work, we come across the issue of language flavor daily. We of course translate into the various dialects mentioned above, and many more, and we will be happy to help with issues regarding which language or dialect to translate into. 

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