Old and new economies are increasingly entwined and the boundaries between them continuously blurred. Businesses planning to go global or cater to varied clientele often face problems with language barriers, making business translation vital.
From crafting messages that appeal to their clients in different regions to striking deals with partners speaking a foreign language, business translation is needed on a daily basis.
Business translation helps when handling foreign customer calls and answering their queries and concerns. Equipping businesses with the leaders and employees who have the appropriate skills to communicate across borders efficiently is a good idea.
But it’s not always feasible to get people with the right language skills onboard. That’s where business translation experts and interpreters can help.
Language Problems & Business Difficulties
1. Language Barrier in Business Communication
Misinterpretations and misunderstandings are common where language barriers exist. In business communication and business translation, they can have serious implications – from not getting the intended message across to understanding it all wrong, or thinking it to be mean something when the intention was to mean something completely different.
Language barriers are common when people who are interacting don’t know the language well in which they are communicating, don't have access to business translation, or don’t have adequate understanding of the accents and dialects even when they speak a common language.
For instance, there are several Chinese dialects that are commonly spoken, like Mandarin and Cantonese, and two speakers - each knowing one of these dialects, will have difficulty in talking when they have to communicate in either Mandarin or Cantonese without business translation.
So, unless the people involved have a thorough understanding of the language, putting forward business propositions, knowing the viewpoints of the involved parties, negotiations and arriving at business decisions could all become an uphill task, if not completely impossible without accurate business translation.
2. Language Barrier in the Workforce
When employees have difficulty understanding the language in which you conduct most of your business tasks, they may fail to understand issues or concerns you want to be handled. They can miss the level of urgency of an allotted task, or simply nod their heads when they actually don’t understand what’s being communicated!
All these situations may lead to severe misunderstandings which can interfere with the work and eventually affect the bottom-line adversely. This can be avoided with the right business translation.
Though you can use some electronic translators that will help with emails and websites, they won’t facilitate real-time communication. In addition, the accuracy of such tools is often dubious and many of them translate in such a way that the original language patterns and meanings often get lost.
Related Post: 5 Reasons Why You Need a Human Translator
3. Language Barriers in International Business
Businesses with global operations and influence need a multilingual workforce than can communicate efficiently in several languages. They also need accurate business translation.
Since language is socially constructed, it’s embedded in the local culture. Unless one is a master of the language, understanding the embedded meanings and interpreting the words or the cultural meanings linked to them won’t be possible. For global businesses, language barriers may:
- Adversely affect the entire interchange
- Create problems in customer relations due to communication gaps and/or miscommunication/misinterpretation, and may even end a relationship with a customer
- Trigger a failed conversation with a key business partner, which could be a deal-breaker
- Cause miscommunication with a supplier that could have severe strategic or financial implications
4. HQ & Subsidiary Relationship
Language barriers can have serious implications on the relationship of multinational companies and their subsidiary operations. Usually, it involves two broad aspects – the communication cycle and the management cycle. Here are some ways language barrier can cause problems with respect to both these aspects:
- Intra-organizational knowledge transfer within various geographically scattered units
- Knowledge sharing between the HQ and different departments, groups, or divisions of the subsidiary
- Decoding centralized messages being sent from HQ (especially where such messages are sent in the language of one culture but are decoded in the context of a different language without business translation)
- Personnel and/or organization selection
- Strategic decision‐making
- Control and autonomy procedures
- Global integration strategies
5. Knowledge Sharing & Management
Having a common corporate language (which is English in most cases) in a multi-linguistic environment often helps in easy transmission of knowledge and experiences.
But when the individuals involved (who have come from different cultural backgrounds and have different native languages) aren’t fluent in the language used, or often nod their heads or simply say “yes” (just to avoid embarrassment) business translation is needed.
When they don’t understand the message conveyed fully, knowledge sharing and management can hit a roadblock. From not understanding the intended message to misunderstandings (the worst scenario is where a completely different meaning of the message is understood, rather than what was actually intended), the flow and extent of knowledge sharing and transfer can be adversely affected in a multi-linguistic environment.
Overcoming the Difficulties & Problems
1. Narrow Your Target Market
Instead of targeting each and every market all around the world, you should focus on only those regions where the customers use your products most frequently and spend a sizable amount of money. This way, you will have adequate time and resources to spend on:
- Understanding the local culture and its nuances
- Learning the local language
- Training your employees (especially those who aren’t local and have been brought from other regions)
- Planning your marketing campaigns in the local language to make them effective
- Keeping business translation costs down
2. Respect the Language - Use Business Translation
Knowing the principal languages spoken in your target market will help you learn the phrases and start your marketing campaigns using the local language. This will help you grab your target customers and potential local business partners’ attention fast.
In addition, this will reflect positively on your business and earn you the admiration and respect of the locals, since you have invested time and effort to learn and understand the customs and language of that specific region and on accurate business translation and localization.
3. Translate Documents
Translating all official documents in the native language of your employees will help them understand the message and instructions clearly without any ambiguity.
You can use several free online tools or websites to translate your documents. However, it pays to be cautious since the business translation may not always be in the exact same dialect that your employees use.
In addition, the words your written business translation has may not always match up with the meaning that you intend to get across through your work documents.
4. Specialized Translators
Specialized business translators have sound knowledge of their respective fields (such as economics, finance, marketing, scientific research etc) in addition to that of the target market and current events. By hiring these business translation professionals, you can:
- Get your documents translated into the desired language of every targeted demographic in a personalized way
- Get the cultural and local references right without offending anyone with the wrong choice of words or phrases
- Create content for marketing that is free of any linguistic, grammatical or colloquial errors, that will help you create an instant connection with your target market
Related Post: 10 Tips on How to Work with an Interpreter
5. Hire an Interpreter
Hiring an interpreter is a must when your business is planning to expand on a global scale, has a diverse clientele across countries, or targets to reach people who don’t have English as their native language. Here are some benefits of hiring an experienced interpreter:
- Excellent quality when communicating difficult concepts or specialized/technical language (like legal aspects, medical diagnosis, etc.)
- Ensuring your business translation and translated documents are culturally correct by picking up the relevant local or cultural references or influences, if any
- Managing your brand assets with a consistent tone and terminology in communication, without which the reputation of your business may get hit and you may even end up losing some potential business partners and opportunities
6. Language Classes
You or your employees don’t necessarily need to be fluent in another language, especially not with access to business translation.
Yet, you have to know the fundamentals of a new language. Language classes are perhaps the best way of doing it. Getting your employees enrolled in a language class will help them:
- Know the basic greetings, warnings, as well as work phrases in the local language
- Communicate well with co-workers and customers using the predominant language that your target market uses
- Coexist and succeed by working closely with other team members
- Understand your target market better
7. Go for Visuals
When written or oral communication is tough to get your message across, you can use visuals, which would be a lot more effective than audios or even one-to-one interactions marred with language barriers.
Since the majority of humans are naturally disposed to visual learning, using images, diagrams, videos, animations, cue cards, signs and other visual aids to convey your instructions, messages, or assignments would be an effective way to overcome the language barrier.
Businesses planning to expand globally or aiming to step foot into markets beyond their region of origin can do so speedily and effectively when they have adequate resources to support each new language they are targeting and when they plan for business translation.
Since they need to get a huge volume of content translated in their target market’s native language – from business mission and vision to documents related to HR policies, new employee orientation, training, marketing etc., they need accurate business translation to handle the task with precision and consistency.
Though many tend to use free online tools, documents thus translated often miss the essence of words in their translated version or end up meaning quite the opposite than what was intended.
It’s important to understand that business translation isn’t just about words. Rather, it’s related to what the words are about. That’s exactly what professional translators and interpreters are adept in dealing with.
So, when you want to expand your business speedily on foreign shores, you need to hire professional translators and interpreters to create that local connection and get your intended message across fast to the target audience without any important aspect getting lost in translation.
Erica Richards is an English translator. She can't resist reading a good novel. Besides loving those amazing pieces of literature, she works as content strategist for United Translations.