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Using local languages in international markets

Using local languages in international markets article image

Nelson Mandela said that, "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart". When growing your business into overseas markets, it is important to get the translation of your materials and messaging right. This is even more evident when there are large dollars at stake or sensitive negotiations to take place. Here is our guide to getting it right when expanding into export markets. 1. Use the local language of your target market Does your target market speak UK, USA or Australian English? South American, or European Spanish? North African or Gulf Arabic? Also consider whether you need to use English for non-English mother-tongue readers. Be specific when forming your messaging and put yourself in the shoes of your target market. The more that you can relate to your audience with language that resonates with them, the more this will help your efforts to expand into the new market. 2. Adjust to suit the culture Cultural differences are important and failure to understand them for your market can bear serious consequences. Campaigns may need to be pulled, and last minute redesign and reprinting are not only costly but can be stressful. To avoid this, make sure that images and text are culturally appropriate first, before the translation process occurs. Colours are another important consideration in cross cultural contexts. For example, blue is a popular colour associated with the ocean and nature. But in Iran, blue is the colour of mourning, and in many countries it is associated with authority and discipline. In many parts of the world Green is a positive colour, associated with good health and life. In China, green is thought to repel evil, and in the Muslim faith it is linked to spirituality, religion and God. It may seem obvious, but check that your product names do not sound offensive in another language or another culture. You may recall that Mitsubishi had to rename their "Pajero" model for the Spanish and Latin American markets, or Ford their "Mist" car for the German market. Body parts also play different roles in cultures. A movie poster with a man sitting on top of a Buddha statue caused problems in Thailand, where the head is the most sacred part of your body for people of Buddhist faith. 3. Business cards open doors Often, thousands of dollars are spent to have websites and materials right, but the design and preparation of international business cards are left to the local copy shop. The right business cards are a powerful means of communication to make a good first impression in your international market. The title is one of the most significant considerations for an international business, as this will define organisational level. Businesses and organisations want to assign people of the same level to do business with you. In Japan, a business card is of paramount importance; the handing out and receiving is done in a ritualistic format. The names of the person and the company must be transliterated as a guide to pronunciation, and middle initials are often eliminated for simplicity. Some countries do not adapt English-like spelling in names for reasons of readability. For example in Czechoslovakia, people expect women’s names to end with "-ova", and as a result, Sharon Stone is known as "Sharon Stoneová", and Nicole Kidman as "Nicole Kidmanová". Numbers should be arranged in the country’s format. European have phone numbers often running together, whereas in Australia, we separate the area code and then group 4 digits together. Each country will have their own nuances that should be adhered to. 4. Measure your success When expanding into new markets with a new product or service, we highly recommend to put key performance indicators in place to check how many new customers you have acquired and the results of your investment in translation activities. Check your export figures to see the financial outcomes gained from your translation activities. Also check the leads or number of inquiries from the overseas market compared to those from within Australia. By keeping a close eye on these figures, you can clearly calculate the profit generated per translation project to determine their effectiveness and which markets merit further investment. It is also recommended to build a trusted relationship with an accredited individual or language service provider who gets to know your service offerings, messaging, language and your markets. They will give efficiency and consistency to your communications and be able to offer ongoing guidance on your expansion into new markets. Accredited and professional T/I’s (Translators/Interpreters) are experts at communication and will be able to let you know any technical obstacles to translation, any confusion that could occur and the rationale for certain actions.

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