Dispelling the myth that ‘everybody speaks English these days’
We have all heard the statistics about the billions of people who speak or who are learning English worldwide. In fact the British Council claims that 25% of the global population speak English to some degree of competence. English is indeed increasingly widely used all over the world, but does this mean we should ignore the hundreds of other languages spoken in the countries we deal with?
There has recently been a significant backlash against the perceived arrogance of English speakers and the international monopoly of the language. Studies have provided evidence that the percentage of the world population that speaks English as a native language is actually falling, and although English dominated the Internet in its early days, more and more non-English websites are now appearing.
By limiting the availability of our business information to one language, we are, perhaps inadvertently, excluding potential customers who are unable, or unwilling, to communicate with us in our own tongue.
‘Our food leaves you nothing to hope for’ (seen on German restaurant menu)
‘Please leave your values at the front desk’ (seen in a Paris hotel elevator)
Just as we laugh at badly translated English on signs or menus when we are on holiday, imagine how a similar faux-pas on your company website or promotional material might be received. This is why it is vital to engage professionals to take care of your translations.
It takes more than a bilingual employee, or one who speaks another language fluently, to translate. It is also crucial to be aware of the many cultural differences between countries, which often go hand in hand with the language.
Attracting new custom
We all want to boost our company website profiles on search engines such as Google, but have you considered the country-specific versions (e. g. Google France, Google Brazil)? Only by providing your company information in other languages will you reach these key audiences.
Exporters should perhaps consider the words of former German chancellor Willy Brandt: “If I’m selling to you, I speak your language. If I’m buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen [then you must speak German]”.
Reputable companies will only employ native speakers with proven experience and qualifications, and ensure the translations are reviewed and edited before being returned to you.