What is it?
The combination of specific geographic location and the language, or dialect, spoken in that particular region.
Why is it important?
Understanding the locale concept is fundamental to succeeding with localization because you may need to create distinct content for two locales, even if the two use the same language. For example, German is the official language in both Germany and Austria. Yet, residents of these two locales frequently use different terms to describe the same thing.
Why does a technical communicator need to know this?
Understanding and targeting a locale instead of a language is particularly important when it comes to website localization projects. Even when the same language is spoken in two locales, word choice and other cultural differences might exist.
Applying locale-specific multilingual search engine optimization (MSEO) best practices is especially crucial to the overall success of these projects. MSEO, the process of optimizing a website and content to rank prominently in search engines, could increase organic search traffic, generate more leads, and possibly increase sales[Raulf 2015].
If you simply target a language, it might not cover every area where that language is spoken. For example, the German-speaking population in Switzerland might use different nuances of the language than the German-speaking population in Germany.
As another example, let’s say one of your English target SEO keywords is cell phone and you are targeting German-speaking customers in Germany and Switzerland. Using tools such as Google Global Market Finder and Google Keyword Planner, you see that people in Germany use the term handy instead of a literal translation of the term cell phone. You also see that most people in Germany use the term handy, while a small fraction of people use the term natel. However, in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, it is a nearly 50/50 split between handy and natel.
If you had focused only on natel, you would not have reached part of your target audience. In this example, you would definitely want to include both keywords in your strategy for Switzerland[Wikipedia].
- [Raulf 2015] What is International Search Engine Optimization (ISEO): Raulf, Chris. Article explaining what ISEO (also known as Multilingual SEO) is and how it can be used.
- [Wikipedia] Language Localization: Wikipedia. Explains localization and locale.