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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.

Why I Only Offer On-site Interpreting

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: June 12, 2017

It is a trend that is both incredibly promising and incredibly controversial. Remote interpreting, where the interpreter can be located absolutely anywhere and yet still interpret for your event via a phone call or online platform, has become big business and is set to grow even more. So why would any consultant interpreter not jump at the opportunities it offers?

 

Don’t get me wrong. I can see the benefits of remote interpreting. With the growth in virtual meetings and the never-ending need for interpreters in dangerous situations, remote interpreting will enable business and save lives. I really do welcome its growth. But it also represents a trend that I have strategically chosen not to follow.

 

In modern, high-tech remote interpreting, interpreting is sold as a service that clients can dial into any time, with no particular commitment. That is great for some clients who might only ever need an interpreter for one conversation or who might want a bit of linguistic assistance here and there. It is not so good for those of us who are pushing for interpreting to be seen as a partnership.

 

In my own research and practice, I have seen how powerful it can be when speakers, interpreters, audience members and event organisers work together closely. While instant, remote interpreting is good, I have seen even better, longer-lasting results from being in the room, reading the situation closely and understanding the needs, wants and motivations of all those involved – the kind of involvement that is impossible when you aren’t physically there.

 

While in the past, having interpreting at a meeting was a marker of prestige, we are now fast arriving at a fundamental division in the profession. On one side, there will be interpreting as a service: slotting in seamlessly where needed and available at a touch of a button without any commitment. On the other side, there will be interpreting as partnership: delivering not just accurate interpreting but interpreting that is keyed to each particular context, audience and goal. In the former, interpreting will be incidental, there because of a transient need. In the latter, interpreting will be there not just because of a need but to provide real, lasting, ongoing value.

 

I have decided that the core purpose of my business is to be the person clients can trust to bring together teams of experts who are as committed to the success of their events as they are. From where I sit, that simply isn’t possible with any kind of interpreting delivery platform, with their automated sorting and emphasis on speedy choice.

 

I sincerely wish the developers of remote interpreting every success but I won’t be joining them.

 

If your business could do with someone to build you an interpreting dream team that you can work with again and again, it’s time we talked. Drop me an email for a free, no obligation chat.