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Attention All Exporters: Customers Want Information In Their Native Tongue


October 17, 2019


Description

The choice of language used by an export company in its commercial and technical materials and written communications is essential when establishing itself in a foreign market.

 

Does that sound like an exaggeration?

 

Keep reading because it turns out that only translating into English is a big mistake and you can find out why.

 

FEWER PEOPLE SPEAK ENGLISH THAN YOU THINK

 

In the world of international business, English is a must, but have you stopped to think about how many people use this language in other types of business?

What about bakers? Architects? Doctors? Engineers? Maintenance technicians?

 

There are many people who offer products or services to local customers and who, despite having studied English, do not need it for work or in their day-to-day life.

 

According to the results of Eurobarometer 386, in non-English speaking European countries:

  • 38% of respondents say that they speak good enough English to maintain a conversation.
  • 25% consider themselves capable of reading a newspaper or magazine article in English.

Do you still think it’s a good idea to ignore the other languages?

 

Keep reading, there’s more.

 

Source: TNS Opinion & Social at the request of Directorate General Education and Culture, Directorate General for Translation and Directorate General for Interpretation, Special Eurobarometer 386 – EUROPEANS AND THEIR LANGUAGES. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_386_sum_en.pdf

 

EVEN IF THEY UNDERSTAND ENGLISH, MOST PEOPLE PREFER THEIR MOTHER TONGUE

 

Studies indicate that there is a big difference between being able to use a language and doing so naturally.

 

According to the study “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy” by Common Sense Advisory that was conducted in 10 non-English speaking countries in Europe, Asia and South America, 75% of respondents prefer to buy products from web pages written in their mother tongue. And, moreover, 55% will only consider buying if the page is in their native language.

 

Source: Donald A. DePalma, Robert G. Stewart, Vijayalaxmi Hegde, Can’t Read, Won’t Buy. Common Sense Advisory Inc, 2014. Available at: http://www.commonsenseadvisory.com/AbstractView.aspx?ArticleID=8057

 

AND EVEN FEWER PEOPLE PERFORM SEARCHES IN ENGLISH

 

The majority of people look for information in their mother tongue, a fact that we can verify with Google’s public data.

 

To get an idea of the significance of this situation, let's compare searches in Spain in two different languages for a generic keyword: “weather” (in Spanish: “tiempo”).

According to the Google Keyword Planner data (accessed on 3/30/2016) the average monthly searches were:

  • 5,000,000 searches for “tiempo”.
  • 246,000 searches for “weather”.

This indicates that of all the people looking for information on the weather, only 5% search in English.

 

Let's also consider that it is a known fact that people in Northern Europe speak better English than those in Southern Europe. According to the EF EPI, the Swedes are the best at English, so we performed the same experiment for Sweden.

 

According to the Google Keyword Planner data (accessed on 3/30/2016) the average monthly searches were:

  • 673,000 searches for “väder”.
  • 74,000 searches for “weather”.

This means that in Sweden, only 10% of users read about weather conditions in English.

 

Of course, this data can change according to the key word used, but this gives you an idea of the situation.

 

Source: EF Education First Ltd., EP EFI English Proficiency Index 2015. Available at: http://www.ef.com.es/epi/

 

FIND OUT WHAT LANGUAGES YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE USE

 

If your business exports to non-English speaking countries, you should never assume that by just translating into English you will reach your target audience.

 

The best advice is to thoroughly research the languages of your target country. If you fail to do so, you could lose up to 90% of opportunities to attract the attention of your potential customers.

 

 

Pere Grivé i Ayguadé
CEO
iDISC Information Technologies


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