According to many sociologists, in the last decades we have been experiencing a “sea change” in several fields of humanity, from technology, science, economy to politics. This huge shift they talk about is called “Globalization” and it has deeply affected our lifestyle, our habits, the entire social structure and hence the way we deal with the contemporary world.
As a matter of fact, our world seems to have been experiencing a sort of time-space compression since 1972, as a famous anthropologist and geographer, namely David Harvey, affirmed in his famous book The condition of Postmodernity: An enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (HARVEY, David, The condition of Postmodernity: An enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change, Blackwell, 1992). Think out to the rapid flow of information triggered by the ICT revolution that nowadays enables us to send a message to the other side of the world in real time through “a click on the palm of our hand”. Think out to the increased flexibility of the means of transports thanks to the technological advancements that enable us to move throughout the world in a matter of hours. All these improvements have made the world get smaller and smaller in a metaphorical sense so that today in the business field organizations are no longer bounded by their geographical location.
All of a sudden, their markets have no limits at all and they can start looking at new opportunities overseas where they could not even imagine going only some years ago. In other words, what happens is that they become global and, as they achieve this new status, their new customer targets are no longer exclusively constituted of local clients. New global segments emerge that share more or less the same lifestyle thanks to globalization. For instance, the Chinese women of the emerging middle-class act like and identify themselves with the American women.
Companies willing to internationalize have a desperate need to start off from internationalizing their communication… but, wouldn’t it be enough to use English for their foreign communication?? Perhaps, the jury is still out on this issue but No! We definitely think No and we are going to show you why below.
Multilingual communication: fundamental for going global in business
In today’s global economy multilingual communication is an essential tool to succeed in business because:
- buyers in every country are increasingly demanding products or services described in their own language
- companies that realize the point above too late inevitably lose market shares and 33% reduction in long-term profitability of the product life cycle on average, according to McKinsey&Co
- companies’ global brands decline in value if they speak a non-local language
Unfortunately, it seems that many organizations are failing to address their efforts towards localization and translations along with creating relevant and valuable multilingual digital content. If they do it, most of the time is just an accidental process without neither a carefully considered plan nor relying on a well-conceived strategy behind it.
Redefining the value of content management: towards multilingual global content management
The user, potentially interested in a product or service just Googles it on the Internet and guess what? Among the Google’s list of results, he picks out and clicks only on those delivered in his own language. This action will be repeated in any touch point of its online journey before ending up purchasing the searched product or service.
Therefore, what a business would better do is to start redefining the value of its content management and upgrade it to a multilingual global content management. The latter drives the global customer experience, increases the customer satisfaction, promotes the brand awareness, its consistency and supports the time to market goals. Moreover, since the content is a significant corporate asset, it must be managed as any other corporate asset, hence it is imperative to turn it into a multilingual one and working relentlessly on its translation to the client/user’s idiom.
As the former German Chancellor Willy Brandt once said:
If I’m selling to you, I speak your language. If I’m buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen.
(Then we must speak German)
Although one might be induced to think that simply embedding a Google Translator plugin into his business website would do the trick, it would soon find out how short sighted this choice is. Not only would translations turn out to be of poor quality but this would also heavily affect the reputation of its business and brand.
Furthermore, a global economy is more and more requiring not only a multilingual content but also a content which is appropriate to the targeted population. In other words, a business must meet the expectations in terms of localization and translation processes of a targeted country, otherwise even a perfectly translated message might sound weird for a native speaker.
For instance, a Spanish firm could use in its website an expression such as
llevar el gato al agua – to take the cat to the water
to highlight that they have fulfilled a very complex task in a particular job, a feat.
Clearly, the English translation does not convey the same meaning of the original Spanish one and a web user would feel puzzled when reading this expression. As a consequence, that business would not be perceived as professional and its reputation would soon break down into pieces. It goes without saying that the user/potential customer would dash off to another business website and, perhaps, buy a product or service from the competitor.