Evolution of Language Across Generations

welocalize May 17, 2022

Language evolves over time. We no longer speak or communicate in the English that Shakespeare wrote his plays in. The words, the pronunciations, and the grammar rules have all changed. In fact, we no longer communicate in the same language as our grandparents.

The Generational Language Gap

Our language changes throughout our lifetime. This is the reason behind the generational language gap. While each individual is different, there is a general pattern to how a person’s language changes throughout their life. The language change can largely be attributed to social factors. This is known as age grading among the linguistic community.

The generational language gap at present is the highest that brands could have ever experienced. Life expectancy has risen. Medical advances have made sure we have a long and healthy life. It’s thanks to these medical advances that four generations are coexisting in the same social and digital environment.

For brands, this is an opportunity as well as a hindrance. Four generations mean a huge potential customer base. However, this also means brands have to target people that grew up with very different cultural and language backgrounds.

This makes it extremely important for brands to understand the rapid evolution of language.

Are Baby Boomers and Generation Z Speaking the Same Language?

There are two generations in between baby boomers and Generation Z. We are talking about advertising to people from four different generations at the same time.

Baby boomers are the ones born between 1946 and 1964. Generation X includes people born between 1965 and 1980. Those born between 1981 and 1996 are considered millennials. Generation Z comprises people born in 1997 and later.

Language separates these generations. It does today and it will tomorrow.

All of them were brought up in different surroundings, which means they have had diverse conditioning throughout their lives. However, there is one thing that unifies them: social media. All these generations have access to high-speed internet and smartphones, and they all actively consume digital content.

Creating content is a challenge. English can’t be too heavy on new age acronyms, such as BRB (be right back), FOMO (fear of missing out), Bae (a word for better half), and much more. It can’t be too formal, either. You have to strike a balance in your content to cater to all age groups.

This is how brands can create audience-appropriate content in the language they understand.

How to Better Communicate Between Generations

There is tons of content being posted on all the social media platforms every hour. While some content is sponsored and under the brand’s control; a lot of content is classified as user-generated content (UGC). User-generated content plays a huge role in marketing; however, brands don’t have any control over it

How Brands Make Content Consumable for the Target Audience No Matter Age

Brands can adapt their communication to different generations by using translation and/or transcreation.


For user-generated content, brands can use translation. They can opt for machine translation (MT), which gives raw translation and can give readers the ‘gist’ of the topic, or use MT with human post-edit (PEMT), or they can opt for full human translation. When we talk about translation, it isn’t limited to translating a vernacular language to English. Sometimes, brands translate the content into the same language to suit the target audience. Some ad videos developed for display advertising will know their target audience and translate and tailor the language accordingly. If the videos uses language, slang or abbreviations suited to Gen X, then the message (even if via subtitles) may not resonate with baby boomers, even if they speak that language.


This is an extremely important concept for global communications to multilingual audiences. Transcreation means the brand adopts the message from one language to another while keeping the meaning, tone, style, and concept of the message intact. In place of translation, transcreation works better when adapting a message or brand communication for different generations.

Let’s understand this with an example:

A pharma company is looking to recruit people for the clinical trial of a common cold vaccine. To test the effectiveness of the vaccine across populations, it needs participants from all generations. If the company decides to use social media, it must craft its marketing strategy in a way that speaks to all generations.

Here, transcreation is the pharma company’s best friend. It must record multiple messages in the language spoken by each generation. The English used for the ad targeting baby boomers can’t be the same as the one targeting Generation Z.

Once brands have adapted the communication style to match their target audience, they can use emojis to gather feedback and check the effectiveness of their message. Use of emojis makes the process easier and quicker, plus speaks to certain generations, as you’re using their method of communication.

Adapt Your Communication Style

As millennials grow old and Generation Z enters the workforce, the task of communicating with four generations becomes challenging. While all these generations speak English, they’re all divided by the same language.

Welocalize is all about understanding language and tailoring your content the way your audience will understand. Get in touch with Welocalize to develop a global content strategy and localization program that best suits your audience.