THE BLOG

Why You Need a Language Partner to Take Your Business Global

09/07/2014 12:24 BST | Updated 07/09/2014 10:59 BST

This may seem like a fairly obvious title, but I'll break it down anyway. If you're going to go global, that means taking your business to international markets. These markets might start off being close to you geographically - for example, a UK company may decide to break into Europe, or a US firm might decide to take a metaphorical bite of the Latin America apple (no Luis Suárez jokes please).

When you're trying to go global, it's important to (simultaneously) go local. You need your target market to identify with your product and they need to know that it is aimed at them. Sometimes, these markets don't require a different language, just another language variant - for example, Brazilian Portuguese, compared to the Portuguese spoken in Portugal. Another example might be UK English and US English. In the latter case, it would be unwise to simply set your spellcheck to US English and change all the -our words to their -or cousins and customize your website instead of customise it. This type of localisation to a different market isn't just about language - it's about culture and meaning too. We might all like to think we know our fannies from our fags but there's a lot more to it than that. A localisation expert can help you negotiate the sometimes choppy waters and come up with material that's not only correct from a linguistic perspective, but doesn't offend your intended audience - or make them howl with laughter. Localisation also helps your customers identify with your material by putting it in a local context - your product or service might be ready to roll out across the globe, but potential customers will be put off if it's listed in a different currency or your opening hours don't reflect the working week in their country. Cultural sensitivity and awareness play as important a role as language when it comes to endearing your company to a new nation. The World Cup has been a great example of companies localising content to suit international markets - Coca Cola and Budweiser being two of the big firms to make particular efforts to make their content locally relevant.

When it comes to language, however, customers like to stick to what they know, or, at the very least, they like to stick to what they understand. It's logical really - you wouldn't set up your new computer using a manual in a different language, it's unlikely, therefore, that potential customers will buy your product or even stay on your website if they don't understand the content. A recent study from the Common Sense Advisory found that "56.2% [of consumers] say information in their own language is more important than price", which makes sense, especially if you're trying to convince them to put their hand in their pocket and hand over their hard-earned cash. If your goal is to increase traffic, rather than achieve a direct product or service sale, content is king. Your content needs to be regular, informative and relevant to your target audience. If your target audience doesn't speak English proficiently, then you're missing your mark with an English-only website. Translating your content - whether that's physical marketing material, like brochures, or your online presence - is the next step on this journey. And whether it's one or both of these, you should think of this as a long term investment, and with a long term investment, a partner is very handy.

Having a language partner on your side will be invaluable - they will be able to work with you to produce content that is relevant for your target market. Culturally, historically, geographically and linguistically relevant content. And if your content is designed to charm your audience into forking out then that's a whole other reason for calling in the pros. Virginia Woolf said that "Humour is the first of the gifts to perish in a foreign tongue" - as someone who can barely get to the end of a joke in my own language without accidentally revealing the punchline, I wholeheartedly concur that when it comes to translating or localising humour, whether it's in your ad campaigns, tag lines or blog posts, it's crucial to bring in a professional. If you and your language partner work collaboratively from the early stages, you're pretty much guaranteed to have your target market laughing all the way to your bank account.

Contracting a language professional means you're serious about stepping on to the international stage, and working with them as a partner will benefit your business just as much as your other prudent investments. For example, when you invest in new technology, it's usually with the hope that, over time, it will make your business more efficient. With your language partner on board the same principle applies - over time, they'll have amassed a huge base of knowledge on your business and will be able to help in the creative process of ensuring consistency across all your markets, not to mention that using the same partner will stop the expensive one-off purchases you'll have to make any time you need new content rolled out globally. There are many reasons for making your content accessible to other markets: gaining advantage over competitors, improving your online metrics, increasing engagement...whatever your reasons, opening your doors to the world will in turn open doors for you.

Go on. Make the leap.

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