Locale vs Language: What is the difference?

Locale vs Language: What is the difference?

Are you confused about the differences between a locale and a language? Our guide on the two will help you understand.

Posted by Abhi Chatterjee on June 9, 2023

As we navigate through the digital world, we come across various terms that might seem similar but are fundamentally different. Two such terms are Language and Locale. While they are often used interchangeably, they have distinct meanings and uses. In this blog, we'll be discussing all you need to know about language and locale. We'll delve into the technical side of locales and their representation in software localization. Additionally, we'll also discuss the differences between language and locale and how locales affect software localization. Lastly, we'll explore the best practices for using locales in software localization and the importance of getting it right. So whether you're a developer or simply curious about languages and locales in your daily life, this blog is for you!

What is locale?

Locale refers to a specific geographic or cultural region and can also determine language and formatting settings on computers. It includes date formats, currency symbols, and language preferences, and proper setup ensures accurate information display on devices and software.

Technical side of locale

Developers utilize APIs or frameworks to automatically detect a user's location-specific settings such as their preferred language (English, German), date format (MM/DD/YY vs. DD/MM/YY), currency symbol ($ vs. £), and more. It is vital for businesses to offer regionally-appropriate content and services in various locales by adapting via localization. Accurately setting your locale identifier ensures proper display of information in the user interface whether one uses British English or American English.

What is language?

Language is a means of communication used by people to express ideas and convey meaning. Each language has its own unique vocabulary, grammar rules, and pronunciation patterns. There are many languages spoken worldwide, with varying degrees of prevalence. Learning a new language can expand your horizons both personally and professionally.

Differences between language and locale

Language and locale vary significantly and can be challenging to grasp. While language denotes a unique set of vocabulary rules, grammar syntax used in linguistic expression; locale implies cultural and regional variations in its usage. Notably, the linguistic barrier could hinder communication effectiveness; however, diverse interpretations could arise from varying locales. Hence it's critical to understand these differences when reaching out to multilingual audiences globally. Adapting content through localization that resonates with the region is fundamental.

Usage of locales in software localization

Adapting language, cultural references, and other factors is crucial while localizing software for diverse locales. It is also vital to keep in mind the cultural differences of target markets while doing so. Proper testing is necessary to ensure that the localized software functions correctly across different regions. It is best not to rely solely on machines for translations as they can turn out to be inaccurate. Hence it's imperative that the translated content should be reviewed and edited by human translators.

How Locales Affect Software Localization

Software localization involves adapting software to specific regions and cultures using locales. The process includes providing region-specific settings like language, currency, date/time formatting, etc. Understanding cultural differences is essential for successful software localization across different locales. Varying translation and localization requirements across different locales make testing software critical for ensuring effective operations across supported countries. Developers must keep up with ongoing changes like new holidays or regulations for smooth operation.

Importance and Best Practices

When it comes to software development, understanding locales is crucial. The term locale refers to the specific cultural and linguistic environment in which a software product will be used. By incorporating locales into software localization practices, developers can cater to diverse user preferences by accommodating regional variations and cultural aspects. This streamlined approach ensures an optimal user experience regardless of where they're based. Properly localized software can bridge language barriers between users from different regions while also catering to their unique needs.

To achieve proper localization for your product, thorough market research must be conducted alongside collaboration with in-country experts. In addition to these measures, implementing translation technology can streamline the entire process significantly.

Dashes and underscores in locale representation

Locale representations typically use dashes or underscores as separators between language and country codes. Although dashes are preferred in most cases, underscores may also be utilized depending on personal preferences or specific software needs. Consistency in formatting is critical to avoid confusion or errors during language localization.


In conclusion, language and locale are two important aspects of software localization that can have a significant impact on user experience. While language deals with the words and grammar used for communication, locale goes beyond that to include cultural nuances and formatting preferences specific to a particular region or country. Understanding the differences between these two concepts is essential to ensure your software resonates with users in different parts of the world. Properly utilizing locales in your software localization efforts can help you create an engaging user experience while avoiding common pitfalls. To learn more about best practices for using locales and other software localization tips, check out our comprehensive guide.

Abhi Chatterjee
Abhi Chatterjee

I am a young writer who loves writing about the restaurant industry. I spend a lot of my time researching about how restaurants work and what makes a restaurant successful. I am here to help you to build a succesful food business.

MultiLocale helps you manage translation files of native and web appsmultilocale

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