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Your Language Strategy is Your Growth Strategy

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: October 28, 2019

Go to export events and you will hear speakers talking about emerging markets, building an international presence, and winning clients abroad but we often neglect to mention one issue: not everyone in business speaks English. Even if they do, carrying out business in English only is a risky decision.

The Risks of English Only

Consider this case: you send your best sales person off to France to sell some medical aids. They come back beaming, with the news that the client talked about ankles that were swelling. They are excited to hear that there is such a great market for your products.

Except, they’re wrong. In French when someone has “les chevilles qui enflent”, it actually means that they have a big ego. Far from your sales person finding an exciting new market, they have discovered an audience that were really not happy with how they presented themselves.

Misunderstandings, cultural miscues, and loss of important nuances all happen when we expect people to do business in our language, rather than doing what it takes to allow everyone to do business in the language in which they are most comfortable. It’s little wonder that a famous report from the House of Lords in the UK found that British businesses lose out on £50billion per year due to a lack of language skills.

Building a Language Strategy

Thinking strategically is familiar territory for any business. Work out where you are, work out where you want to go, plot the course to get there and set sail.

The same process that is used around the world to decide on sales, product distribution channels, marketing, and business development can and should be applied to languages.

What are your strategic markets?

What kind of investment are you willing to make to get them?

How hands-on do you want to be with your content in that language?

Do you prefer brand consistency or would you prefer content to be rewritten for the new audience?

Will you be visiting in person or selling from afar?

Knowing all that, which language tactics do you need to use? Translation? Copywriting? Interpreting?

Work with Experts Early

Few business leaders would pull in a consultant two weeks before they started a new business venture. Few managers would hire a new sales team on the day they needed all the sales to be concluded.

The same goes for language strategy. Sure, hiring translators, interpreters and writers late might work once or twice but it is a recipe for a headache.

It’s much better to get them on board early, so they can work alongside you to shape the strategy as well as the final product. A good consultant interpreter will be able to tell you when you really don’t need interpreters and when they will be invaluable. An honest translator will often be able to drastically reduce the amount of content that needs to be translated, while delivering incredible Return on Investment on the rest.

The earlier we involve experts in language, the better our language strategy will be.

If your business is looking at rolling out a language strategy to reach new markets, drop me an email for a free call.

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