You’ve worked hard to find the perfect voice for reaching your American clients with beautifully crafted content. But what about your overseas prospects? English may be widely spoken in international business, but your English-language content will always fall short. Nelson Mandela, a native Xhosa speaker who rose to the presidency of post-apartheid South Africa, explained, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
Business purchasing decisions aren’t always made with pure rationality. Emotion plays a role as well. Taking a risk on a new supplier can have significant consequences for your career, so “instincts” or “gut feelings” can’t be discounted. Engagement is why we create content. To reach international clients, we need to provide content in the language that reaches their hearts as well as their heads.
Researchers have proved Mandela right. Decisions made on the basis of information presented in a foreign (yet familiar) language tend to be more utilitarian, rational and purely cost-effective. There are a few theories for why this is so. We learn to fight, love and grieve at an early age. Therefore, a language acquired later in life lacks the cues and triggers of our native tongue. In addition, the effort required to understand a foreign language draws more mental bandwidth, distracting us from our feelings. If thinking in a foreign language disengages people from their emotions, the content you crafted so carefully in English is wasted overseas.
To preserve the impact of your investment, professional translation is an obvious solution. However, translation brings its own set of problems. Bad translation is worse than no translation at all. We’re all familiar with anecdotes about cross-cultural branding gaffes, as when Coors’ tagline “Turn it Loose” became “Suffer from Diarrhea” in Spanish. Localizing your content for a foreign-language market requires a specialized service: Transcreation.
Transcreation professionals have both the writing skills and the native cultural expertise to ensure that translated copy rings true. Unlike standard translation, transcreation can require several rounds of review and revision. A good-language services partner can assemble the right team and work with you to keep you informed and involved.
When you communicate only in English, you step back from your overseas customers. Developing meaningful, compelling, multilingual copy that connects is hard work. But when done right, it distinguishes you from your competitors and brings you closer to your customer’s heart.
As Partner Liaison at MTM LinguaSoft, Jen recruits talented linguists from around the world to help clients create accurate, compelling multilingual content. She also writes about language, culture and global business for the MTM LinguaSoft blog. Her other interests include creative upcycling, keeping tabs on political news and enjoying the diverse pleasures of her urban West Philly neighborhood.
This is a guest blog post from Jennifer Horner at our partner agency, LinguaSoft.