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  • By Giovanni Giusti


    If exports are an important part of your growth plan, you need to be able to communicate with your customers in their language.

    One of the differences between successful and less-than-successful export companies is the level of thought and consideration given to language and communication. Of course, English is widely-spoken around the world, and it is often referred to as the language of international commerce, but is relying on English really good enough?

    The reality is that, outside English-speaking countries, many of the people you would like to do business with don’t speak English well, or don’t speak it at all. Hop across the Celtic Channel to France, and you’ll find that only 39% of the population speaks “some” English. In Italy, the figure is 34%, and in Germany it’s only slightly more than half the population, at 54%. In China, one of the largest economies in the world and one of the most exciting to do business in, less than 1% of the population speaks English. Emerging economies are becoming ever more important to the export trade but, in many of those countries, very few people speak English.

    Even if you’ve garnered the impression from attending international trade fairs that lots of business people around the world are fluent in English, the reality can be very different; typically, junior staff with competence in English are hired to work at those venues, but decisions are still being taken by more senior staff, who often have little or no command of the language. Decision-makers often won’t buy if they feel they are being ignored or left out of the loop.

    Do you really want to cut yourself off from such a huge potential market? No? Well, thankfully, you don’t have to.

    Nobody is going to expect you or your staff to be able to speak every language in the world, but you can have your material translated into all the languages spoken by potential customers, and give yourself an edge over the competition. To get started, you need to translate your website, your product catalogue, brochures, and reference materials, as well as any material that will be shared with client organisations. You may not always need to translate all business-to-business correspondence, sales contracts, and technical documents when your counterparts speak English, but if they don’t, you should be prepared and willing to have it translated, especially before you have made a sale.

    Because, just like any investment, translation comes with a cost, some export companies balk at spending and decide to use an online service such as Google Translate. While Google Translate can be a great tool for getting the gist of a document in a foreign language, it simply can’t deliver the accuracy that you need. Often, the results of automated translation are unintentionally hilarious, and in general the language that is produced is barely comprehensible. That’s not the sort of impression you want your company to give! In fact, you’d be better off not translating at all than sending your client an automatically translated document; at least you’re not implying that they are not clever enough to use Google Translate on your document themselves!

    By using a professional translation service, you can talk to your customers and prospective customers in their language, but that’s not all; you can also show them that attention to detail, professionalism, and courtesy are at the heart of what you do. You can demonstrate that you are committed to excellent customer service and that you are competent in their market. By reaching out in your clients’ own languages, you can also compete effectively with local competitors by removing one of their advantages.

    There are lots of translation providers, so how do you go about choosing the right one for you? It helps to see them as you would any other profession and to prioritise quality and value for money over cheapness. Would you trust your company’s audit to a cut-price accountancy firm? Probably not.

    When you gather quotes for your translation needs, it’s a good idea to discard the cheapest, because they are simply not asking for enough money to do a serious, professional job – and many may be actually reselling you barely edited automatic translations! Then, ask if the company in question has specific competence in your field. If you have an engineering firm, does it offer translators who are comfortable working with the right professional vocabulary? If you are in the fashion industry, do they know how to translate technical terms for clothing and footwear, and how to write engaging copy?

    If you are looking for an Irish-based translation company you can trust, 101translations might well be the firm for you. We have over 12 years’ experience in the translation of business-to-business correspondence, sales contracts, technical documentation, and more, into virtually any language in the world. Thousands of native speaker translators work for us, specialising in a wide variety of topics. With their help, you can communicate with the people who matter most to your company; your clients. We can help you to speak their language.