Often, people talk about language and culture as if they were synonymous: to speak French is to like wine and things cooked in butter, to speak Chinese is to like noodles and rice. But at Bing, we know there is a distinct difference between what you say and how you say it, and that is reflected in the way that we build our products.
This week, I’ll be working from Miami while I do three talks at Hispanicize 2013, a Latino-oriented event billed as “the Hispanic SXSW”. Bing is proud to be the Official Search Engine of the conference, and I’m happy to be talking about the work that Bing and MSN have done to understand culture as distinct from language.
Take, for example, the array of offerings from MSN. There is MSN Latino, which is primarily Spanish-language content that is tuned for US Latino culture, meaning it has some general news that is of interest cross-culturally and some specific news that may be of particular interest to Latinos in the US. Then there is Latinzine, which is English-language content that is specifically Latino-oriented. And increasingly, the two are cross-pollinating, with content in both languages appearing on the MSN Latino homepage.
To researchers, this is probably not surprising. After all, in the 2010 Hispanic Cyberstudy, every life stage of US Latino preferred English-language marketing messages. But at every life stage, there was a significant minority, as high 43% for those around age 40, who preferred the messages in Spanish. And for nearly 100% of those who preferred Spanish-language content, it was important that that content not just be a straight translation, but also reflected their experiences in the US.
For Bing, this population can use our Spanish-language but US-market offering, sometimes called ES-US. This is content that is localized for US searchers: when you search for Peruvian Restaurant, it will return one nearby and not a restaurant that is actually in Peru. But the majority of the content is natively Spanish-language, not simply translated, and it reflects content that is culturally Hispanic.
Translation has a place in our technology, as any traveler will tell you; the ability to pull out a Windows 8 Phone and have it translate both signs and conversation makes it easier to explore our world. But even as language becomes less important, the importance of culture continues. The challenge to technology is how to help maintain the ability for people to have a cultural viewpoint, while giving access to the best possible content. And in everything from our partnership with Telemundoto our continuing translation research to our sponsorship at Hispanicize, Bing is committed to a world in which you can search across and within both culture and language to take action and get information.
– Matt Wallaert, Bing Team