Stay Alert To Cultural Differences and Language Variation

Cultural differences and language variations can, of course, be found within individual countries.  According to certified translation workers, “In China, for example, five major and many minor languages are spoken.:  This makes for serious communication problems.  Some countries have two (Canada and Belgium) or more (Switzerland has four) official languages.  A similar situation exists in the United States where many language groups can be identified, such as Spanish, now spoken by almost 20-percent of the population.  Differences in cultural values and complicated factors such as language provide marketers with challenges and segmentation possibilities that are rich in potential.

Within the American culture there are, then, many subcultures.  Even within the majority group (White, English speaking), there are subcultures.  In the Northeastern states, people often eat lamb chops, but in West Texas beef is a staple and lamb chops are hard to find.  Subcultures within racial or ethnic groups such as the Black, Hispanic, Arabic and Jewish ethnic groups are the easiest to identify.  However, marketers must recognize the many other subcultural differences in the American culture.

Here is a problem that went wrong with a Pepsi promotion that could have been caught be consulting with a Saint Louis Translation Service and localization firm.  Several years ago, PepsiCo ran a spell-your-name contest with letters printed on Pepsi bottle caps.  The company believed the number of winners would be small because it produced very few caps imprinted with vowles.  What could go wrong?  Pepsi forgot about Asian names and had far more winners than expected, most of them names like “Ng.”

Subcultures, Localization, Language Translation and Marketing Communication

Cultures are not homogeneous entities with universal values.  Within each culture are numerous subcultures-subgroups within their own distinct modes of behavior.  Any culture as heterogeneous as that of the United States is composed of significant subcultures based on such factors as language, race, nationality, age, and geographical distribution.

Inhabitants of the southwestern United States display lifestyle emphasizing casual dress, outdoor entertaining, water sports and strong evangelical and Baptist values.  Of course, Mormons refrain from buying alcohol and tobacco.  Orthodox Jews purchase kosher and other traditional foods.  As Denver Portuguese Translation consultants point out, understanding that differences like these occur in subcultures that exist in many other countries can result in better translation and localization of products, services and other communication pieces.  Insensitivity to cultural nuances has the opposite outcome.  For example, the state of Maryland had to pull an advertising campaign including television commercials, brochures and posters that featured photos of Al Capone, a gangster who was imprisoned for federal tax evasion.  According to New York Italian Translation workers, the advertising was intended to publicize the state’s tax amnesty program and used Capone to show tax evaders what happens to those who get caught.  But leaders of the Italian-American community protested that the campaign was an ethnic slur and that it perpetuated the false stereotype of Italian-Americans as mobsters.  I believe that you can see how something like this could easily happen in other countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Germany and France that also have diverse populations.