Language and expanding into international markets

Home » Blog » Language and expanding into international markets

Former German chancellor Willy Brandt once famously said: “If I am selling to you, I speak your language. If I’m buying from you, dann müssen Sie schon deutsch sprechen”.

When expanding into overseas markets it is important to get the translation of your materials and messaging right. This is even more evident when there are large dollars at stake or sensitive negotiations to take place.

Here is our guide to making sure you get your messaging right when expanding into export markets.

1. Pick the dialect of your target market

Does your target market speak English… US, UK or Australian English? Spanish… South American, or European Spanish? North African or Gulf Arabic? Also consider whether you might want English for non-English mother-tongue readers. When forming your messaging, be specific and be sure to put yourself in the shoes of your target market. The more that you can relate to your audience with language that resonates with them, the more this will help your efforts to expand into the new market.

2. Understand the culture

Failure to understand cultural differences can bear serious consequences, and whole campaigns have been pulled due to lack of research into cultural awareness. Last minute redesign and reprinting is not only costly but can be very stressful, so make sure that images and text are culturally appropriate first, before the translation process occurs.

Check to make sure the colours you are using are appropriate for the country. For example, blue is a popular colour associated with the sky and nature. But in Iran, blue is the colour of mourning, and in many countries it is a colour associated with authority and discipline. Green is a very positive colour, associated with good health and life in many parts of the world. In China, green is thought to repel evil, and in the Muslim world it is linked to spirituality, religion and God.

It may seem obvious, but ensure your product names do not sound offensive in another language or another culture. You may remember when Mitsubishi had to rename the Pajero for the Spanish and Latin American market, or Ford their “Mist” car for the German market.

Body parts also play different roles in different countries. A film poster with a man sitting on top of a Buddha statue caused problems in Thailand where most people are Buddhist and the head is the most sacred part of your body.

3. Use business cards to your advantage

Companies often spend thousands of dollars to have their websites and materials right, but relegate designing and preparing their international business cards to the local copy shop. When expanding into international markets, it is important to make a good first impression. The right business cards are amongst the most powerful means of communication to use.

One of the most important considerations for an international business card is the title, as this will define organisational rank. Foreign businesses and organisations want to assign people of the same rank to deal with you. In Japan, the business card is of paramount importance, with the handing out and receiving done in a ritualistic format.

The names of the person and the company must be transliterated as a guide to pronunciation, and middle initials are often eliminated for simplicity.

However, in some countries, they do not adapt English-like spelling in names, for reasons of readability. For example, Czechs expect women’s names to end with –ova. Sharon Stone is known as “Sharon Stoneová” and Nicole Kidman as “Nicole Kidmanová”.

Make sure to arrange numbers in the country’s format. Europeans are used to phone numbers running together, whereas in Australia, we separate the area code and then 4 digits grouped together.

4. Measure your translating efforts

If you are committing to penetrating your product or service into new countries we highly recommend to put KPI’s in place to check how many new customers you have acquired and the results of your investment in translation activities.

Check your export figures to see the financial outcomes gained from your translation activities. Also check the leads or number of inquiries from the overseas market compared to those from within Australia.

By keeping a close lid on these figures, you can clearly calculate the profit generated per translation project to determine their effectiveness and which markets merit further investment.

When expanding into export markets, there are many considerations with regards to culture, language and translation. Accredited and professional T/I’s (Translators/Interpreters) are experts at communication and will be able to let you know any technical obstacles to translation, any confusion that could occur and the rationale for certain actions.

It is recommended to build a trusted relationship with an accredited individual or service provider who gets to know your service offerings, messaging, language and your markets. They will give efficiency and consistency to your communications and be able to offer ongoing guidance on your expansion into new markets.

At 2M we assist you entering overseas markets, find our more on export and marketing section.

Related Articles

Introducing 2M Language AI

At 2M, we strive to make language accessible and timely to anyone, located anywhere.  Launching today, 2M …

Read more