Why spend money on translations?

Everyone speaks English, don’t they? Well, actually, just over 5% of the world’s population has English as their main language. That means that around 94% don’t!

But everyone else has learned English, haven’t they? Well, it’s actually estimated that non-native speakers of English (people that have learned it to some extent) represent about 12% of the world’s population.

So, with English alone you can just about communicate with 17% of the people in the world, meaning you will not be able to do business with the other 83%. If you’re in retail that’s the equivalent of stopping 4 out of every 5 shoppers from entering your shop!

Even the 12% that have learned some English are not always competent or confident enough to use it for correspondence, or especially on the phone. How many of us are happy using our GCSE French to book a gite for our holiday over the phone? We are all well aware of the reluctance of the average English person to ever utter anything more than a self-conscious “Bonjour” or a hesitating “Dos cervezas, por favor” when on holiday or business overseas…

What does it say to non-English speakers when we insist on only using English? Well, their reaction is that it shows arrogance, even though they fully acknowledge English is the main language globally for business. British quality, design and general efficiency are valued across the globe and people want to trade with us. We are actually the ones creating a language barrier – not them…

On the other hand, having key sections of your website or product specifications or marketing material translated into the language of your prospective clients sends a clear message that they are valued and invited to engage with you and your products or services. You don’t need to translate every word of your website or communication but what you do translate establishes an instant rapport with clients and delivers an immediate and effective competitive advantage.

Some businesses worry, though, that if they attract new business using translation they will then have to translate every single communication with their new clients. But this isn’t an issue. Experience shows that when seeing material in their own language attracts new overseas clients they do NOT then expect everything else to be translated.

So, for a small additional investment, then, you can make a big impact. And the investment doesn’t normally need to be ongoing. Although, once a business sees the effectiveness of using other languages to attract and keep new business they often see it as an extra feature, along with design, quality and price that makes them distinctive among other suppliers.

These days it is increasingly hard to come up with a truly unique product or service – showing some of the 83% of non-English speaking potential clients that you respect their language and actually want to sell to them can be the difference between getting lucrative overseas sales – or not.

Graham Webb
June 2015