Tag Archives: translation

The language of business

How we speak has a big impact on how we’re perceived. We all make judgements about people, sometimes subconsciously, depending on how they speak, their choice of words, their grasp of grammar and use of idiom. It’s the same in writing – poor grammar or punctuation, clumsy sentence construction and unfamiliar usage can all combine to undermine customers’ perception of your marketing materials, and therefore of your business, no matter how clever or effective the product or service you’re trying to promote.

Once when on holiday in Morocco, I was accosted by a teenage boy who was clearly hoping to sell something to the obvious tourist walking through his town. In broken English, he tried to extol the virtues of his wares but, fearing a rip-off, I was immediately on the defensive.

Seeing he was getting nowhere, he asked if I spoke French. I did. When he spoke to me in fluent French, it wasn’t just the transfer of information that improved dramatically – so did my perception of him. Suddenly he wasn’t a vaguely threatening street boy trying to sell junk to tourists, he was a young man trying to raise some money to help his family.

That’s perhaps an extreme example, but fluent, idiomatically correct language has a huge but often underestimated value in marketing communications. If you want people to buy from you, they need to feel comfortable with you. Speaking their language properly is a crucial first step in that process. Showing you understand the customer’s language and the cultural references and assumptions that come with it is part of understanding that market.

Many who speak English as a second language don’t realise that although their grasp of the language is sufficient for practical day-to-day matters, it’s not quite good enough to convince native English speakers and may even be misunderstood by non-native speakers who have a different first language. A final-pass localisation by a fluent native speaker adds a polish to the words that increases both comprehension and comfort for readers.

And that’s got to be good for business.