Language is an aspect of culture that will always be important to the cohesiveness of a certain community. When we cannot communicate with each other, we miss out on making so many connections. However, there are languages that are widely spoken around the world that take many different forms depending on where in the world they are spoken. Languages like French, English, and Spanish, to name a few major ones, have many different variations, reflecting the similarities the people who speak these languages share and the differences that make them unique.
Technically, languages have dialects or variations that can vary on a larger scale from country to country, and by a smaller scale from region to region. Within the translation industry, we refer to these variations as “flavors” (or “flavours,” as the British and Canadians would spell it) to reflect the colorful differences from culture to culture. For example, Canadian French differs from the French spoken in France, and the English spoken in the Northwestern U.S. differs from the English spoken in the Deep South.
These national and regional differences in language have historical backgrounds stemming from European colonialism. But through the centuries, people blend phrases and words from their native languages into English and through a blending of regional accents and colloquialisms, a flavor of a language is created.
Flavors from All Over
Understanding the flavors of a language is imperative in finding the right translation service for that specific flavor’s speakers. The differences in language flavors center on vocabulary, idioms, spelling and, to a lesser extent, grammar. Many languages come in a standard form, which is typically the language used in schools and by official institutions. It is also the form of the language people are accustomed to when they are learning a new language. So, standard English is pretty similar across most countries where English is a primary language, but there are most certainly distinct differences.
Many of the differences between U.K. standard English and U.S. standard English, for example, are differences in lexicon and spelling. English is a unique language as it is a culmination of Romance and Germanic languages, influenced greatly by French and German. In the U.K., they maintained much of the English vocabulary borrowed from French, such as courgette (a zucchini) and aubergine (an eggplant). The -our spelling of words in the U.K. instead of the Americanized -or (e.g., odour vs. odor, parlour vs. parlor, colour vs. color, etc.) are also a direct result of French influence that was lost in the U.S. version of standard English. If we look at Spanish―another of the most widely spoken languages in the world, you’ll also find plenty of differences between European Spanish (Spain) and Latin American Spanish, and then again among the various Latin American countries, differences in vocabulary, spelling, and grammar. And the same goes for the French spoken in France, the dialect spoken in Canada, and the many flavors spoken throughout Africa.
Within the standard flavors of languages, grammar remains pretty consistent. However, more regional flavors utilize the major aspects of a standard language, but grammar can be considerably different. A difference in grammar does not change the language, but may make it more difficult for people outside of that region to understand. The best example of this phenomenon in U.S. English is African American Vernacular English, or AAVE. Speakers of AAVE speak and write standard English at work and school, but speak AAVE at home or with friends.
Let’s take two similar sentences from standard English and AAVE and break down the major difference.
Standard: He stays at his mom’s house.
AAVE: He stay at his mom’s house.
To someone who does not speak AAVE and reads both sentences in standard English, they would think both of those sentences mean that he lives at his mom’s house. That translation is correct in standard English. But in AAVE the use of “stay” means that he is always there and frequents his mother’s house, and depending on how much stress the speaker puts on the word “stay” it can have a negative connotation, insinuating he is at his mother’s house too much.
Now that we see how different major languages can have many different flavors, we can understand how important it is to hire translators that are knowledgeable and experienced to be able to thoroughly translate and localize into a particular language’s variant. That’s why real, human translators are so important. And as part of the professional services we provide, based on your target audience we can also advise you as to the appropriate language flavor (or flavour) to fit your targeted needs.