The Language of Pokémon Go (and Why It’s Taking Over the World)

It’s official:  Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm. A week after release, it had more active users than Twitter and more engagement than Facebook. Players are walking off cliffs and walking into traffic.  Those of us who don’t play are thoroughly confused, by both our friends’ behavior and by the incomprehensible babble coming out of their mouths.

“Pikachu?” “Gesundheit, and I’ll thank you to cover your mouth next time you sneeze!”

Why does everyone love Pokémon Go? Would you be surprised to learn that language has a lot to do with it? If you’ve been scratching your head in confusion, your wait is over. Let’s unravel the mystery of the language of Pokémon Go, and why the game seems to be taking over the world.

Pokémon Go: Nostalgia That Cuts Across Cultures


In the late 90s, Pokémon was kind of a big deal. The little “pocket monsters” (and their associated games, cards and other merchandise) spread from Japan to the US and everywhere in between.

It should come as no surprise, then, that 25% of Pokémon Go players are between the ages of 30-40, and 46% percent are between the ages of 18-29.  A substantial chunk of those 2 age groups would have been kids in the late 90s/early 2000s. Pokémon mania created a common touchpoint for people around the world who were kids at that time. So, the game taps into feelings of nostalgia that cut across cultures.

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, there will be more of these common cross-cultural experiences to bind us together, and more opportunities for businesses and brands to create and harness them. Read more

In a Global World, Localization Still Matters

English is the most widely taught second language around the world. However, new research from Common Sense Advisory has confirmed that even when people are confident speaking English as a second language, they feel more comfortable buying products with labels and instructions in their own language. Although that may seem, like…well, common sense, many businesses don’t think they can justify the increased costs of translating products in areas where most people speak English as a second language.

The research focused on business software, interviewing 351 customers from non-English speaking countries. Of that sample, 80% could speak English as a second language well enough to understand the information provided about the software. However, almost all of the people interviewed were more likely to buy software that “speaks their language,” where both product information and the software interface have been translated. More than 80% wouldn’t fully consider products that were marketed only in English, and 1 out of 6 people surveyed wouldn’t consider buying an English-only product, period.

At least for software, translation seems to be a strong driver for sales. This seems like a no-brainer when you really stop to think about it. After all, no matter how fluent you become in your second language, you’ll always be a little more comfortable using your mother tongue. Software manuals are not exactly light reading, anyway-why would you want to make the effort of translating them to yourself? Most people spend as little time reading software manuals as they can possibly get away with!

However, it’s reasonable to assume that this effect extends beyond software, too. Having material translated into the local languages of your customers signals that you care about those customers, that you’re aiming your product for people who live where they live and speak the language they grew up speaking. No matter what you sell, your customers are more likely to buy it if they feel like it’s aimed at them. At any rate, this study is significant because it questions common business assumptions about the importance of localizing products.

The Uber Guide to Localization: 6 Strategies Worth Stealing

Ready to take your business global? You can learn a lot about localization strategy from studying other business’ efforts. Case in point: ridesharing service Uber. Founded only 7 years ago in the USA, Uber is now available in 65 countries, 450 cities and 32 languages worldwide. How did they do it, and what can everyone else learn?

Uber’s campaign for world domination hasn’t always been a smooth ride, and they recently sold their business in China to their chief competitor. That said, the company’s localization strategies are worth studying for businesses with international ambitions.

Pablo Picasso is reported to have said that “bad artists copy, great artists steal.” Here are 6 localization strategies that have fueled Uber’s global expansion. Steal them, customise them for your business and make the world your oyster:

Steal This Localization Strategy: Localize Your Visuals

Did you know that Uber’s logo is different for different countries? Sometimes, it’s even customised for different cities in the same country.  When the Uber team rebranded the app earlier this year, they came up with a design that was easy to customise for different markets.  Then, they localized the imagery accordingly. According to a story in Wired:

Amin and his team decided to create colors, patterns, and images that were specific to each market, allowing Uber employees more autonomy in crafting messages for their own cities. The designers mocked up mood boards for individual cities, regions and countries, piecing together images representing architecture, textiles, fashion, and art, among other things.

The app interface varies between markets as well. For example, in China, “People’s Uber” cars are shown in Communist red.

Steal this Localization Strategy: Localize Your Products

Ride-sharing and other on-demand services are the glue that holds the Uber brand together. But the products Uber offers are different in each market. For example, in India you can use Uber to hire cars, but you can also use UberAuto to hire a rickshaw. In Turkey, a few taps on your smartphone can summon an UberBoat to pick you up on the seashore. Read more

Scottish Siri Issues

Siri Doesn’t Understand Scottish Accents

At its last conference, Apple introduced Siri, a robotic virtual system that comes embedded in the new iPhone 4S.  Right after it was introduced, Apple caught a lot of flack for Siri’s name, which sounds vulgar in both Japanese and Georgian.

Now that the product has been released to the general public, Apple is getting a different type of negative translation-related feedback. Though Siri is supposed to work with all US, UK and Australian accents, it’s apparently giving some Scottish users fits as it doesn’t always understand their commands.

Some Scottish users seem to have more trouble than others. It almost feels wrong to laugh at this poor bastard, for example, as he tries over and over again to get Siri to “create a reminder.”  This gentleman had a little bit better luck, but still had some problems setting appointments and sending messages. Read more