Just the other day I read an article on how we should be more open to the natural fluidity of language and its capacity for change, allowing the usage to define the rules and not vice versa. Therefore, it doesn’t surprise me that new complex words and neologisms are popping up at every corner. And like language, neither other products and services should be immune to change. I’m sure you’ve already heard of globalization and most definitely of localization, but the word glocalization opens up a whole new dimension.
Okay, maybe I’m overreacting, but if you’re a producer of content intended for widespread use, the word might’ve crossed your mind earlier. And if it has, try to keep it there, because it’s about to stay. For the newbies here, glocalization is a portmanteau word blending ‘globalization’ and ‘localization’ and used to describe product or a service that is developed and distributed globally, but is also fashioned to accommodate the user or consumer in a local market.
The term first appeared in 1980s in Japan as dochakuka, which originally meant adapting farming technique to one’s own local condition. Only later on it started to refer to global-localization. If you think about it, it now has more sense, since every business is oriented towards decentralization in order to attract more costumers.
However, it’s one thing to have a product that you can easily launch globally, but it’s another thing when you know it needs additional changing and improvement. As we said earlier, ignoring your client’s desires and needs might destroy your product. Assuming you don’t want that, a thorough research and a detailed plan are essential. Different audiences require different approaches.
To show this on a particular example, we can use global food and beverage companies that operate in many parts of the world, such as McDonald’s, KFC or Starbucks. They had to redesign their menus according to local taste – and not only menus. Some of them even adapted their merchandise and other products and services.
But how can it be applied to language?
The easiest way to explain the process of glocalization would be by using English as an example. Its forms, styles and usages vary depending on part of the world it is spoken in. Let’s start with differences between American and British English, which can sometimes be subtle and barely noticeable, but most of the time they’re pretty much evident. Since there’s a possibility of confusion, we’ve made our tools smart enough to recognize those differences. Looking at other English-speaking parts of the world, like Scotland, Ireland, Australia or New Zealand, we can see that, over the time, they’ve modified language according to their needs. Even if in general it is “the same” language, it just couldn’t resist the change.
Digging more into the language structure, we can find several localized varieties of it. The most known would be Pidgin English that is simplified and adapted for international communication between countries that don’t speak the same language. Maybe it could be shown clearly through Chinese English, or how some like to call it – Chinglish. Even if they’re just bunch of strange expressions full of misspellings or literal translations, it serves its purpose.
All these examples are just the tip of the iceberg, hiding further language expansion and modification. We shouldn’t be afraid to use it as we please, it’s our creation, after all. In the end, it should serve us as not only as a means of communication, but it can also be a tool of interconnection and an ocean of new possibilities.