Overcoming Language Barriers to Build a Global Business

Looking to go global with your business? Here are some pointers on overcoming that all-important language barrier.

Building a business in your own country can be a real challenge, especially in times of economic hardship. Expanding globally only adds to those normal business challenges, adding even more tricky considerations like language barriers and cultural differences to contend with.

Of all the global business expansion challenges, the language barrier is the most challenging in many cases. This is because it’s a continual challenge that is complex rather than one simple hurdle that can be dealt with. Its complex problems often change with your marketing, financial and communication tactics, so it’s always a fresh issue to overcome.

To help you overcome language barriers when looking to build your business overseas, consider the following suggestions:

Be really specific about your market

It’s important to be ambitious when you expand globally, but it doesn’t make sense to approach every market you’re looking to crack at the same time. Instead, choose a market and area to approach and truly specialise in it. This will help with localising marketing language and any voice overs you might use and localising your overall approach and awareness of the market you’re looking to compete in.

Learn about all languages & dialects in your target area

Every area you approach to do business in will have more than one single native language. Each will likely have multiple languages spoken by the population, as well as different dialects and social rules surrounding the language used. Understanding these nuances will ensure that you’re showing respect to those you do business with using the right languages.

Furthermore, it’s imperative to use the right language when you’re completing tasks like marketing outreach, and advertising, where the wrong language used can seriously harm your efforts to do well in a given market.

Do your research before you launch

Make connections with local business experts, get feedback and do your research. What language does your target audience prefer to speak? How do they like to be referred to? Who are your direct competitors? Which dialect do they use in the area? What is local marketing most popular?

Doing plenty of research well before any launch so that your efforts can be as specific and targeted as possible.

Translate what you already have

One of the easiest ways to become visible to new markets before you’re even reached out is to translate what you already have. Using professional translation services, you can have your website available in a different language, giving consumers in other countries who speak those languages access to you and your business.

In addition, you can boost your online marketing like video content with language-specific voiceovers. 66% of marketers say their videos perform better with a voiceover, so if you offer excellent multilingual voiceover options, you’re adding a double boost to your marketing content efforts.

Get used to removing slang, jargon and your own localisation from the way you speak

When you’re writing social media posts, business communications or holding live meetings with clients or customers overseas, it’s important to remove all but the formal language from your speech. This is because informal jargon or slang can confuse your message and lead to miscommunications. You might also want to use more imagery in your communications to illustrate your points, which can clarify your message.

Learn the basics yourself

While using professional translation companies, voiceover experts, and linguists will be essential in your global efforts, it’s also important that you learn some language basics yourself. You don’t have to be an expert, but knowing greetings, general phrases and questions will be helpful.

If you’re going to be doing business in Cantonese speaking markets, for example, you should look at the intricacies of the underlying culture and its relation to language.  Failure to do so and overcoming the language barriers could easily result in causing unintended offences.

Prepare well & succeed in expanding globally

The best thing any business can do when it comes to global expansion is preparing well. There will always come new challenges with language, but meticulous research, preparation, and utilising expert advice will give you a fantastic base from which to grow strong roots overseas.


Written by
iED Team 

Photos by
Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash

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