This is one of the 52 terms in The Language of Localization published by XML Press in 2017 and the contributor for this term is Berry Braster.

What is it?

The use of more than one language in communication.

Why is it important?

Without multilingualism, there would no localization. In a world where products and services are sold globally, companies must translate and adapt their messages in a way that is locally understood if they want to succeed in the global market.

Why does a business professional need to know this?

Multilingual speakers significantly outnumber monolingual speakers in the world’s population. As an example, more than half of Europeans speak more than one language, and although English is considered as the most commonly used language in international communication, it ranks lower than Spanish and Chinese as the most spoken language.

Therefore, companies must always consider using more than one language when communicating with an international audience. Companies must also ensure that they communicate in a way that is understandable for everyone, regardless of technical, cultural, or language background. Lack of clarity can cause misunderstandings, with sometimes dangerous consequences. And mistakes are easily made, considering that some words can have hundreds of different definitions.

For technical documentation, many countries and regions require content to be translated into the local language, which means that companies must ensure that the original meaning translates correctly while weighing the cost of that translation and the potential value of a particular market.

Standardizing the source language can facilitate translation and help to ensure consistency. Specifications, such as Simplified Technical English (STE)[Braster-Berry 4], can help remove ambiguity from the source content, making it easier to translate. However, this brings up another challenge because not all authors are native English speakers, and some might be less familiar with some of the nuances of meaning. These authors need a good command of English to write in STE, but with training, they can be successful.