Often the local law says what material needs to be available in the local languages. There’s no point to ignore the law. Social responsibility is important to every brand. In addition to the mandatory translations companies usually have other material which they can choose to translate. Whether or not to translate something isn’t necessarily an easy question.

Languages affect our thinking and behavior. A foreign brand name may feel different than a local name. An English website might turn people away or it may courage them to read the content more carefully. It all depends on the product or service and the target audience. This language effect is usually unconscious and imperceptible. We don’t notice our changed behavior ourselves, but researchers have captured the phenomenon.

A recent study shows that we are influenced by the language we use. The researchers found out that people act rather irrational (i.e. being risk averse for gains and risk seeking for losses) when the situation of choice was presented in their native language. When using a foreign language, people’s behavior was quite the contrary. People made more rational decisions when they used a foreign language.

Human brains are very complex. Speaking a foreign language seems to activate different resources inside our heads than using the most familiar language, or like the researchers put it: “foreign language provides greater cognitive and emotional distance than a native tongue does.” When making localization decisions you might want to keep this language related psychological tendency of human beings in mind.

Nelson Mandela has crystallized this idea into a famous quote:

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

However, the ultimate fact is that if your company speaks a language which the target audience doesn’t understand they probably won’t bother to learn what you offer. The possible language selection is always determined by the audience. Your choice is to pick which of these languages fit best to your branding goals.


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