Singapore, Singapore (PRWEB) November 03, 2011
As companies stride forth to expand into international markets, the first forays are often fraught with difficulties in languages and translations.
Yet, the importance of using the right language to communicate cannot be dismissed lightly. Nicholas Goh, CEO of Verztec Consulting Pte Ltd, explains and shares why it is both important and necessary to offer a native language experience for companies making international strides.
“Peregruzka” – the word that could have re-ignited the cold war between the US and Russia.
In 2009, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented a red button on a base engraved with the words “Reset” and “Peregruzka” to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. It was to signal a commitment to improve relations between the two countries. However, “Peregruzka” means “over-charged” in Russian, a far cry from what Clinton wanted relations to be. The word she needed was “PereZAgruzka”. Had Clinton not been smart on her feet reacting to the potentially-fatal situation with her charismatic charm and gregarious personality, relations may not be as rosy between these two countries now.
When messages get lost in translation, companies may not face such dire international consequences. But it is potentially fatal business-wise.
Yet, that doesn’t mean sticking to the safest route of bulldozing your way into new markets with the most common language – English.
Perennial Problem #1: Sticking to the Universal
In a recent survey conducted by global business service company TransPerfect that polled more than 200 executives and shoppers from the United States, France, Germany, Sweden, Japan and other nations, more than 50% of shoppers would terminate their shopping if they did not comprehend the language used on the websites. Alternatively, the will also resort to using manual or browser-based translations, which will decrease the experience of the customers.
Alarmingly the same survey revealed that only 19% of corporate executives view proper translations as a priority and 64% were unsure whether doing so would be beneficial for the company. Contrasting this to a European Commission survey published in May 2011, 42% of the polled population indicated that they would not buy products outside their own language.
Evidently, huge losses in potential revenues are being incurred by many companies.
Language can be considered the most crucial means for putting across a point. And communicating with customers in the right language definitely has its benefits for any company: it promotes understanding of the customer benefits; connects the shopper with the company; and companies can express fully and correctly what they have to offer.
To sweeten the deal further, 9 out of 10 European shoppers surveyed prefer to visit a website in their native language, and 63% of shoppers polled by TransPerfect expressed increased inclination to purchase if they found the website to be in their native language.
Perennial Problem #2: Economising with the Basic
Equally important is the correct translation and usage of the language. Often companies turn to browser-based applications or hire personnel trained in the foreign language to do translations. However, it is always best to entrust key information, such as Websites, Press Releases, Advertising Slogans, Product Information, White Papers and Archived Records, in the hands of a native speaker working as a professional translator. Not doing so has its pitfalls.
In the 1990s, the famous and wildly-successful “Got Milk?” campaign initiated by the US Dairy Association took the US by storm, increasing awareness and consumption of cow’s milk tremendously. However, when attempting to venture into its neighbouring market of Mexico, the translation turned out to be “Are you lactating?” Not surprisingly, it did not sit very well with the Mexicans and the advertising campaign was not very successful, to say the least.
With regional dialects, colloquial speech and specific cultural innuendoes still to be taken into account, companies are starting to scratch the surface of what it takes to provide an effective “native language” experience for its target audience. All these simply emphasise the necessity to have proper and effective translations when one is targeting customers overseas.
Providing the Local Experience
In order to provide the “native language” experience and reap the benefits of it, there are a few things that must be taken into account.
With a native speaker executing the translation, one can avoid mistakes in the nuances of the language and establish a stronger rapport with the customer. The native language represents familiarity for the customer and communicates the rich culture that every language carries with it. While it may be more economical and tempting to use more convenient sources, the probability of making mistakes or crossing taboo lines is higher. This will definitely diminish the customer’s shopping experience and, thus, their probability of purchase.
Nothing beats having linguistic insight to the actual markets that your company is venturing into. When Honda introduced their new car “Fitta” into Nordic countries in 2001, sales suffered terribly. Only after further ground research was done did the executives at Honda discover that “Fitta” was actually an old vulgar word that referred to genitals in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. The Honda “Fitta” was eventually renamed “Jazz”.
To avoid such costly mistakes, cross-cultural market research should be done with the locals on the ground through simple focus groups or surveys. Being in touch with the ground uncovers valuable information and drastically reduces any potential marketing mistakes.
While words represent and communicate a significant amount of information to the costumers, audio-visuals and communication layouts are not to be ignored. Different colours and objects have different significance for different cultures. White, for example, signifies purity in western cultures whilst signifying mourning in some Asian countries. Choosing inappropriate embellishments will jeopardise the experience provided for the customer.
Marketing channels and collaterals such as websites and brochures are often the starting point of a potential relationship with customers. With the right selection of elements displayed, these forms of communications will enhance the emotional experience for the customer when they are shopping around. Remember first impressions count.
It is time companies realise that non-localisation as well as poor localisation of their communications affect their bottom line. In today’s competitive markets, you can avoid the cold war if you simply reset your priorities.
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