This day and age has seen the rise of a new type of small business, the micro-multinational. The internet and globalization have opened up a lot of possibilities for local businesses to expand their reach to cover a larger geographical area. Going global is no longer the sole purview of the “big boys.” There is an issue, however, facing all companies eyeing the global stage – the language barrier.
The role of language in extending geographical reach
Just outside the borders of the U.S., for example, you encounter two other major languages, French (in Canada) and Spanish (in Central and South America). Reaching geographically towards these countries is logistically very feasible. But, and it’s a big but, reaching out linguistically is another matter altogether.
You may have people who already speak French or Spanish. These people, though, will probably still be homegrown Americans with an American mindset reflecting an American “meaning” underlying their use of these languages. This difference in “meaning” that underlies usage can potentially cause damaging miscommunication that lead to damaging misunderstanding. The result, instead of opening a door, you are closing it.
On the other hand, culturally appropriate communication sends an entirely different subliminal message. It says to your would-be customer that you care enough to go to the trouble. It says you care enough that you are willing to spend resources to be clearly understood. It says you want to talk to them on their terms, not just yours, in a meeting of the minds.
Breaking the language barrier is not an overnight thing
Getting your message across cannot be done “overnight” through simple, straightforward translation. It is a process, which has to be repeated with each local culture and local language or dialect you are pointing your business at.
You either hire someone who knows both your culture and the target culture from the point of view of a native, or you could get a proven third-party expert in this field, such as Multilingual Connections. The next step would be to tailor your company’s branding, message and image so it “translates” accurately into the local culture and language. This means the words and the portrayal may appear different but the core and the intent is a mirror of yours in your language and culture.
Then comes another critical juncture, key personnel need to be trained in the quirks of the target language and the local culture using it. This knowledge should also be allowed to gradually seep in into your whole table of organization. If you have a satellite infrastructure or organization already in place in your target market, they need to mirror that process but with your culture and your language as the subject of internal education.
Language is a key differentiator
Reaching beyond America’s borders has never been more possible than it is today. However, extending your geographical reach effectively means addressing the language barrier effectively, too. It is a major long-term investment that entails the participation of everyone in your organization, especially for key people and the rest to some extent or another as you might deem necessary. It will ultimately differentiate you from your competition. Just imagine all the other little things clear communication brings with it.
As marketers in a digital world looking to reach a global market, the fact is that a large portion of your international audience does not speak English, and many of those who do are still not looking for content in English but rather in their own native languages. Offering your content in the languages you are targeting, as part of your international marketing efforts, will translate far beyond just delivering a larger volume of international visits: It will also help develop closer, more engaging relationships with your customers and drive greater direct business results.