Locale vs language: Learn the differences

Locale vs language

Are you using language and locale interchangeably, or struggle to understand the differences between the two? You should know that these terms refer to different aspects of communication, especially in the context of software development and internationalization. Read our locale vs. language comparison to gain a clearer idea of what they mean.

What does language mean?

Language refers to a system of communication that uses symbols, such as words and gestures, to convey meaning. It includes a set of rules and conventions for combining these symbols to create meaningful expressions.

In the context of software, language often refers to the programming languages used to write code (e.g., Python, Java, C++) or to the human languages in which the software interfaces are presented to users (e.g., English, Spanish, Chinese).

What does locale mean?

A locale is a set of parameters that defines the user’s language, region, and other preferences. It encompasses cultural, regional, and linguistic settings that affect the way information is presented.

In the context of software internationalization and localization, a locale is crucial for adapting the software to different regions and cultures. It includes information such as language and country. For example, “en_US” represents English as used in the United States, while “en_GB” represents English as used in the United Kingdom.

In addition, a locale includes other information such as date and time formats (DD/MM/YYYY vs. MM/DD/YYYY), number formats (1,234.56 vs. 1.234,56), Currency symbols ($) (€), sorting rules (case-sensitive, diacritics), and cultural preferences (measurement units, date separators).

Locale vs. language key differences

The following aspects can help you gain a better understanding of the distinction between the two:


Language refers specifically to the system of communication using symbols, such as words and gestures, with a set of rules and conventions, while the locale encompasses a broader set of parameters that define the user’s cultural, regional, and language-related preferences.


Language focuses on the linguistic aspect, including the spoken or written communication system, while the locale includes language as one component but also incorporates other parameters like region, country, currency, date and time formats, and cultural conventions.

Application in software development

Language may refer to the programming language used for coding or to the human languages in which the software interfaces are presented to users, while locale is crucial for software localization, encompassing various language and regional settings.


Language is typically represented by codes corresponding to specific linguistic systems (e.g., “en” for English, “es” for Spanish). Locale is represented by codes that include both language and region (e.g., “en_US” for English in the United States, “fr_FR” for French in France).

Summing it up

It’s important to understand both language and locale, especially when creating applications that need to adapt to diverse linguistic and cultural contexts. The key aspect to remember is that language is a fundamental aspect, while the locale provides a more comprehensive set of parameters for customization.

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