How to break down language barriers for better business
There’s no two ways around it; language barriers are never good for business, and as long as they exist, they’ll forever hold you back.
The good news is, they can be broken down relatively easily when the right approach is taken. Use our checklist to find out how you could benefit from better communication with your customers, and a greater chance of success overseas.
1) Know who you’re talking to
One of the most common mistakes when trying to overcome language barriers is to not pay enough attention to who it is you are trying to communicate with. Consider your audience and be open to adapting your language, style, tone and approach depending on what you want to say, and who you want to say it to.
2) Leave unnecessary jargon at the door
If you use the right linguistic service you can essentially translate any jargon, slang or catchphrase you want; but make sure there’s a reason for doing so. As with all content, if there’s nothing to be achieved from using unnecessary words, don’t bother – clear and simple language can be just as powerful.
3) Don’t try and communicate with everyone, all at once
Localisation is so important when expanding overseas, and it’s key in trying to breakdown language barriers. With over 7,000 languages spoken across the world, it’s impossible to communicate across them all at the same time. Narrow your market, choose your languages carefully, and make sure your translation is accurate.
4) Don’t assume a nation’s language
When looking to do business in any country, do your research first; it won’t always be obvious which language you should be communicating in. For example, there are 11 official languages in South Africa, and 22 in India. Even Canada has 2 official languages, with 95% of those living in Quebec speaking French. To make your business work overseas, getting the right target language is key.
5) Use more than one means of communication
Written communication is always tempting when conducting business in another language; you have the luxury of being able to crosscheck your content, and you can take more time to try and get it right. But it can also be really limiting; business requires multiple communication channels, whether that’s face-to-face meetings, phone calls and/or video conference calls. If you’re not confident enough to communicate in every business situation, use a professional that is.
6) Don’t guess
Guessing what something means, or “having a go” at speaking in another language is all well and good on holiday, but not in business. Mistakes are costly and can seriously damage your reputation and success. Invest in getting your translation right first time, and you’ll reap the benefits in the long run.
7) Make use of the experts
When conducting business meetings, conferences, interviews and telephone calls, use a professional interpreter if you’ve any doubt over linguistic competencies. There’s no value in gambling with your business; expert interpreters have the knowledge, experience and competencies to ensure clarity of understanding, particularly when the pressure is on.
8) Don’t rely on others translating into English!
Too often we rely on foreigners to do the translating into our language, but this can be just as dangerous as relying on your own translation. Accuracy is key for both parties, especially when dealing with big contracts and high-value partnerships – use a translator to make sure both parties know where they stand. Plus, you’ll likely be held in higher regard if you show a willingness to communicate in your client’s language.
If language barriers are holding your business back, why not get in touch with the team here at Sally Walker Language Services? We’d be happy to advise on what steps you can take to overcome any obstacles and take advantage of new business opportunities overseas.