Localization is a common challenge encountered when creating a multilingual website. This may seem obvious when considering two fundamentally contrasting countries such as France and Japan, although in reality, any two countries or regions that have cultural differences, however subtle, pose a localization challenge.
Japanese culture and Western culture are fundamentally different. Yet there are Japanese brands sold in France and French brands sold in Japan.
The main cultural difference between Japan and France is the language.
The Japanese language is very different from French and not only because of its writing system. Word-length is important to consider in the localization process to meet the SEO approach. As a general rule, Japanese is shorter than French, but generally, it is necessary to adapt depending on the cultural habits of the target market.
Another notable difference: Japanese is a high-context language, unlike French, which means that communication is much more non-verbal and implicit. This is what makes the language so special and its localization so complicated. Indeed, it is not essential to use a subject in a Japanese sentence, while in French, we would be quickly lost without one.
The color interpretation
Each culture has its own interpretation colors.
For example, in Japan, children draw the sun in red and if we look at the Japanese weather, we can notice the difference as in France we tend to draw it in yellow. Asian sites use widely red whereas Western sites just use it for error messages.
The target and tone
For the same product, the target may be different depending on the country. For instance, housewives represent a smaller population percentage in France than in Japan, because it is no longer the norm in France for women to stay at home and look after the children while their husbands work. This is why a change of target is necessary to adapt to the mores and culture of a country.
The tone changes according to the target, but it also changes according to the culture. We can easily change the tone of the language on French websites to fit to a specifical target. For exemple, we will use a more informal language for a younger target. However this would not be considered appropriate in Japanese culture, where the customer is highly respected.
Asian and particularly japanese websites are certainly very different from Western websites. Although, they are gradually moving towards Western standards. Websites are also not the only products that require adaptation; Japan is the world’s leading producer of video games and anime. These are also localized in great volumes for French markets.
By Fionna Westbury. Translated and adapted by Delphine Duault.