Terminology Course: February 13, 2014

mickey mouse tokyo disney

In this session, an interesting article, “Geopolitical Correctness”, by Tom Edwards was discussed.

Mr. Edwards, an expert in the subject of localization, points out the importance of geopolitical awareness. Throughout the 20th century, globalization appeared to be the solution for many companies to produce a single-market content product for all. When companies realized they were losing business because of this model, they moved towards a multicultural content approach. Thus, a company like Disney dresses Mickey Mouse in a traditional Japanese outfit for their Tokyo Disneyland.

I can also think of McDonald’s Canada selling poutine or lobster sandwiches in New Brunswick.

But many companies, writes Mr. Edwards, see localization as a problem or an inconvenience. Some product managers go as far as stating that they would not hesitate to eliminate localization if they could. And there are many who associate localization with political correctness.

For instance, I remember seeing in a 60 Minutes program, a few years ago, the owner of the Jelly Belly Candy company (the makers of the Jelly Bean), Mr. Herman G. Rowland, complaining about having to translate the packaging into French for the company to be able to export its product to Quebec. His advice? Forget the French and let it all be packaged in English. In his mind, it was ridiculous, and a nightmare, for the company to have separate inventories (one for the United States, the other for Canada). Mr. Rowland saw this issue as a matter of being politically correct with French Canadians, which is why he was ready to drop the French out of the package, if he could. Of course, as of 2014, Mr. Rowland hasn’t been able to do so.

The conclusion of all this? The fact that the world is more connected than ever doesn’t mean that people have lost their sense of belonging to a particular culture, region, or language. Quite the contrary, localization has become more important than ever, and will remain relevant in the future.

Article: Edwards, Tom. “Geopolitical Correctness.” Multilingual, December 2009. Print.

Image: Tokyo Disneyland Resort, Flickr, Creative Commons License, 2013.


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