Language vs Locale: What's the difference?

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The translation is the process of converting a text or message from one language to another. When it comes to translation, locale and language are two terms that are often used interchangeably. But what does locale mean? And how does it differ from the language in terms of translating texts and adjusting them to regional needs in each country?

This article will answer these questions and explore the uses for locale and language when translating apps and software into different languages around the world.

How is Language different from Locale?

The question of how to translate from one language to another is not as simple as it may seem. Two primary factors must be addressed to create a complete translation: the language and the locale.

The first factor, the language, is self-explanatory; this is what will actually be translated. However, there's more than meets the eye with the second factor - locale.

Locale refers to regional settings such as currency symbols or date formats. One cannot simply translate a word for word without considering these additional parameters that make up an entire culture's way of life and understanding of their world around them.

World

What is a locale?

In an era where digital globalization is on the rise, one of the most important aspects to consider when translating a product or app into another language is locale. What exactly does this mean?

Locale involves cultural adaptation and tailoring your content for specific audiences in other countries. It means going beyond literal translations that might sound funny to native speakers of that region; instead, you need to get acquainted with their customs and habits to convey meaning without sounding too strange appropriately.

How to deal with Locale?

Translating software and apps is a challenging task, as different languages have different rules. For example, the word "locale" can be translated to "Lokalität" in German or "locação" in Portuguese; but it cannot be translated into Russian because there is no equivalent word for this concept. 

When starting adjusting each app to local needs, consider those questions:

  • How are measurements like currency, date, and time handled there?
  • Are there any differences in the way documents are created?
  • Does this region have any words/sayings that might mean something else for them than for you?

Technical side of locale

In the code of an application or page, we write locale identifier as the language code (country) and region where the language variation is used. For example, the English language differs in different parts of the world, so to best adapt the text to the audience, we use words and phrases used in a given region. Thus, English, generally designated as en, may adapt in translation the forms for local variations of the language, e.g. en-GB for the UK, en-AU for Australia or en-US for the United States.

Locale translations for Spanish

The format of the locale, the separator, depends on the environment used in the project. Standard separator is "-", but there as some exceptions. "-" will not work for Java which uses _ instead, whereas _ won’t work for Windows

language-REGION
es-ES
es-CL

language_REGION
es_ES
es_CL

Conclusion

The process of translating apps and software for a global audience can be tricky. When you translate a product for one culture without taking the time to understand their culture as well, there are going to be some serious problems along the way—and nobody wants that. Understanding the role of locale is vital in the translating process and creating valuable content for your audience.

Language vs Locale: What's the difference?
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