Western Europe is not my home — but in some ways, it seems more like it than the United States does. Because I grew up in a specific kind of US microculture, the kind where references to popular music, media and sports were few and far between, I have never seemed like a “normal” American, not even to myself. Until I had finished college, I felt like an expatriate lost in the small talk of my native locale.
I read a lot of European literature growing up — to the point that I spelled things like a British person and used expressions that no doubt sounded archaic to most other Americans. I kept a list of my favorite words, such as ameliorate and banal, both stolen directly from French. My parents had us watch a lot of European movies when we watched anything at all. We studied European history and learned Latin, and we had dinner together most nights, usually prepared from scratch. Cola was forbidden, as were nearly all other junk food products.
So when I moved to France at age 20, I could identify with the rituals around food and linguistic fastidiousness, for example, despite the language barrier. At least as far as I could tell, my personality and preferences seemed relatively normal there. So Europe felt familiar to me, a homeschooled girl from the wilds of North Idaho. More so than New York or San Francisco or Dallas, Texas. And I love the wilds of North Idaho, but there are many days where I find myself missing Europe. I miss the pace, the architecture, the food, even the slang.
Thus, for me, and probably for many readers, localizing for Western Europe seems like it should be easy. Easier than many places, anyway. And probably it is — both for products coming from the United States and products coming from other locales in Western Europe. There are many shared cultural assumptions and even some shared cultural references. Our Takeaway, for example, celebrates a few linguistic offerings from William Shakespeare, and I have yet to meet either an American or a European who isn’t at least vaguely familiar with that particular Englishman’s canon.
However, as Libor Safar points out in his article in this issue’s focus, even localizing from the US to the UK market requires some work. Denise Spacinsky, Karen Netto, Nelia Fahloun, Kathleen Stein-Smith and Vijayalaxmi Hegde, our other focus authors, offer details on Europe’s translation community, its localization job market and some of its translation needs. Svein Hermansen adds to this with an article on Google’s content style, drawing particularly on his area of expertise in Scandinavia.
Europe may be familiar to many of us, European and non-European alike. But we can’t slack off and assume that means we shouldn’t put the effort into localizing for it.