Skip to content

When Translating, Consider the Locale

You have decided which language you want to translate your content into, but have you considered which locale you should target?

We often receive requests for translation into a language, such as Spanish, that has numerous dialects and is spoken across many countries. In order to achieve our clients’ goals, we ask which locale they are targeting with the translation so the content can be adapted to meet the needs of the target audience.

Attracting Your Audiences

When you are translating your content, it’s important to first consider the audience you want to attract. Where are they located? You should clarify for your translation vendor what your target locale is so you can receive the most appropriate translation for your audience.

You may have decided you want to translate your content into Spanish. But are you targeting Spanish speaking audiences in Latin America or in Spain? Both of these markets speak Spanish, but your content needs to be adapted to the local market considering things like dialect, culture and which keywords your market would use to search for your product or service.

For SEO purposes, you will want to localize your keyword list to specific locales. One market may search for your product or service differently than in another market, even if they speak the same core language.

An English example of this would be if a hotel is targeting American audiences, they would want to have keyword phrases that include the word “vacation” in them, but if they are marketing to English speaking audiences in the United Kingdom, they would want to use the term “holiday” in keyword phrases. Both audiences speak English, but they use different phrases to conduct search queries.

Language vs. Locale

Since some languages are spoken in many countries, you need to decide how broad or specific you want your translations to be. Spanish for a specific country may be required if you are targeting specific audiences in Spain, Mexico, Argentina, etc. Another popular option is Spanish for Latin America if your target audience lives throughout Latin America. This is a bit more general. Translation can be performed so that it is acceptable for this overall region. When doing this it can be a bit of a compromise, but a way to not have to support multiple versions of a language, which would be more expensive.

Even more general is Spanish neutral or international. There is no true neutral or international Spanish. But again, a translation of Spanish can be provided that is generally acceptable across many Spanish speaking markets or locations.

Locale Dialects

Chinese is another popular request for written translation that requires an understanding of the locale. There are many spoken dialects for Chinese, such as Mandarin and Cantonese. But for written scripts, there are only two options to consider, Traditional or Simplified Chinese.

Traditional Chinese would be appropriate if your target market is Hong Kong or Taiwan. Simplified Chinese would be the choice if mainland China or Singapore is the target market. If you provided Traditional Chinese to someone in China, they may not be able to read it and would assume the content was not written for them. It can also potentially present some political issues.

Other popular languages that locale attention should be addressed for are Portuguese (European or Brazil) and French (Canada or France/Continental, or other market).


Translation is more than converting content from one language into another. It is about adapting your message to appeal to and attract your targeted audiences. Language is fluid and unique to the locale of its speakers. In order to effectively localize your content, you must consider the locale when deciding which languages to translate into.