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May 12, 2019

Language Barriers

How important global communication is & how it can hinder your business


In our daily jobs here at Goodrop, we have such an international clientele that we always try to adapt and make sure everyone feels included and gets access to all the information we have available. This is always a work in progress but we believe that not having a piece of information in a particular language, often deprives people of already available information. It is there, but it will never reach them.

According to the Business Insider, so many companies fail to expand internationally or continuously lose money because of language barriers. According to a report sponsored by EF Education First and carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit, almost half (49%) of 572 senior executives worldwide believe that communication misunderstandings and messages lost in translation have inhibited major international business deals and resulted in significant losses for their company.

English is the official business language and, when we talk about developed economies, this actually applies. However, developing economies, more often than not, need to be addressed in their own language, as globalization hasn’t hit that hard in some of those places. Marketing material, websites, social media, all specifically targeted to the particular country you want to address, in their local language. However, things get slightly more complicated when you work with many different countries & cultures.

A lot of the businesses today function purely digitally and don’t necessarily target specific countries, because they are more of a global online business. Having their content in many different languages can sometimes be tedious and people are uncertain of the added value. At the same time, everyone understands that one needs to stay relevant and available in order to grow.

So how can businesses try to adapt to language barriers and operating in such an international environment today?

We think, this is something that will always be a bit challenging. Even if you target China and translate all your content to Chinese, there are 5 main dialects with another 200 individual ones. This is to say your efforts will be fruitful but will not take the issue entirely off your shoulders. We believe this is one of those areas that you should always keep an eye on and constantly adapt to grow.

In addition, if a supplier from Argentina has a client from Senegal, their front office traders will probably speak the same language (let’s say French for this particular example). However, you need to take into account if the operators from the back office, that will execute the deal, will speak the same language as well? If the answer is not, the probability of having misunderstandings along the way, is very high.  

Meanwhile, there are some things to be done to cover your basis:  

1.     Language Training

According to Globig, you could either focus on offering language training to your current team or try to hire talent with the required language skills needed.

In terms of training there are so many options out there. You can start by creating a training strategy and setting up goals. Lingo Live is a great tool to help you improve communication. With huge brands using them, they offer you one-on-one, online language and communication lessons.

Another useful tool is Rosetta Stone, which is a more traditional online learning tool. Check out the study they did with Forbes on “How Enterprises Succeed With Language Learning Programs”

2.     Rely on Software

Sometimes your interactions are identical, they keep repeating and people have similar questions. Sometimes your international clients, just want to check a few very basic things. For this, technology works best. Just narrow down your needs and requirements and check some of the available technologies that can fulfil them. Goodrop, for example, was actually built to reduce the language barrier issue – people can check the information for themselves, without reaching out to anyone else.

3.     Wordings

As simple as it may sound, try using clear language and steer away from slang, idioms etc. Sometimes people translate your text for themselves. Keep it simple so that after translations, your documents/texts don’t lose meaning.

Even internally, if you have offices in various locations, try to make sure everything gets translated properly and maybe have someone who is fluent in both languages have a look.

All in all, we can try to attenuate the impact of language barriers but as mentioned before we think they’ll stick around. Hence, our best advice is to stay aware, prepare and constantly adapt and adjust.