"Walkabout" Meanings Internationally

Goals

Assist in the naming of a TV series by analyzing the understandability of the word "Walkabout" in Mexico, France, Canada, India, and China, where English is spoken as a first- or second-language. For each market, the report should investigate whether or not the word is understandable, as well as any positive or negative connotations associated with the word.


Early Findings

  • Even in markets where English is a primary language, the term "walkabout" can connote wildly different things. According to Merriam-Webster, the term can mean: "a short period of wandering bush life engaged in by an Australian aboriginal person as an occasional interruption of regular work —often used in the phrase "go walkabout"; something (such as a journey) similar to a walkabout; or a walking tour (especially in British usage) in which a well-known person mingles with the public". Therefore, using this term may drive several (unaligned) expectations about the show.
  • The term "walkabout" can also be derogatory, even when referring to an original Aboriginal practice, as it's also used when someone misses an appointment or is late. This may spell trouble for the show, even if the intention is good. For this practice, the more preferred terminologies include "seasonal occupation, seasonal movement, communal movement, rotational/cyclical occupation, looking after the country/the land, or temporary mobility" (although they may not be as snappy for show names).


Canada

  • In Canada, 86.2% of the population can conduct a conversation in English. Therefore, there may be a need for a translation, perhaps into French (21.4% of the population can speak French).
  • In colloquial usage, the term "Canadian walkabout" can refer to a "long hike or camping trip with no amenities".
  • There are no direct resources to understand the meaning of "walkabout" for Canadians. However, both share some of the same history, speak British English, and also have a population of Aboriginal people, it is possible that the term "walkabout" may carry the same connotations of either a short period of wandering bush life or a walking tour.
  • For example, the top search term for "Walkabout Canada" is for a tourism company offering adventure tours in Northwestern Ontario. Therefore, there is some alignment on the idea of spending some time immersed in the outdoors.
  • Note that in Canada, Aboriginal people (among others) are referred to as "First Nations People" instead.


China

  • In China, less than 1% of the population can speak conversational English, the lowest out of all the countries in the world. Therefore, the term "walkabout" will likely need to be translated.
  • Even then, only 13% of mainland residents have held a valid regular passport and therefore may not be familiar with any internationally-relevant cultural meaning. China's ethnic groups are not Aboriginal persons and are unlikely to have the same practice.
  • When checking Baidu's encyclopedia (similar to Wikipedia, on their most-used search engine) there are no entries for the term "walkabout".
  • China does, however, have seasonal nomads which may be a good direction to explore for alternative titles.

Generally, early research has shown that there are widely different connotations to the term "walkabout". In English-speaking markets, that term can be seen as derogatory; in China, there is no connotation at all. Some potential exists in exploring alternative ways of communicating the same idea but rooting it in more palatable, or more culturally relevant, ways. The following recommendations are based on these early findings.

Proposed next steps:

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