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The Importance of Formal vs Informal Speech in Web and Mobile Software

When developing applications for the web, software as a service and even on mobile devices. It is extremely important to apply the correct localization attributes of language in product releases. Of course there are many internationalization (i18n) and localization (l10n) rules and best practices, however without an experienced translation expert the task can be daunting.

Traditionally only large scale development of software, video games and websites applied i18n or l10n techniques, rarely did smaller projects comply. Where now the success or failure of personal software applications relies on what the consumer expects. Even with the smallest developer or application, success can be gained from the correct use of language because it is an initial sign of quality and trust.

Within The English Language Formal vs Informal Is Not Used:

The English language can be very confusing when translating because certain words have many meanings and different spellings. End users can become confused and disappointed if time has not been spent ensuring that language has been used correctly.

We all understand the basics of past tense and present tense, this can be extremely important when directing people with instructions. “Share with your friends” could be an example of where a translator could become confused incorrectly using past tense for example “Shared with your friends”. Within software development someone(or a machine) not fluent in the translation of the English language could easily become confused.
In other languages such as German, there are formal and informal uses of language. When developing business applications and websites, using the correct formality can be extremely important. If the particulars of a language are not upheld, then the audience will easily loose trust and respect. For example:

The phrase “Hans, do you have your coat?” can be translated as “Hans, hast du deinen Mantel?” using ‘du’ as the English word for ‘You’. However, ‘du’ is used because Hans is a close friend. Otherwise ‘Sie’ would be used for strangers or people that are not known so well. Only god, children, pets, close friends and family members are addressed as ‘du’.

Incorrect Use Of Language Can Cause Problems:

In web and mobile software development for the Android and iOS many international users can be targeted. If an application uses peoples contacts, it could be important for specific individuals to be categorized and highlighted in different ways. Such as important business associates or close family and friends. This could be useful when sharing personal information on social networks, even when sharing photos with a variety of people. Ensuring the correct privacy settings are communicated correctly and used for each type of contact could be the defining factor of success for a new application. Especially when branching out into new territories and countries.

There are machine translation services, such as Google Translate however these are weak methods that can not be relied on professionally. Mainly because they can’t guarantee that internationalization has been accounted for with the delicate differences of each language considered.