The internet has made it possible for companies today to have a global reach. However, there are barriers that garble the message your company aims at prospective customers whose first language is not English.

In order to leverage the geographical reach afforded by the World Wide Web, you need to know what might keep other people from laughing at your message or becoming indignant at what it implies. Employees also need to be educated to facilitate brainstorming in the right direction, particularly when crossing cultures.

No totally accurate translation

No matter the language, many statements can have a surface meaning and a deeper meaning. Although the surface meaning of a translated word may be the same, its deeper meaning may be vastly different. Then there are phrases and words that have absolutely no English equivalent, and vice versa.

Slang, differing local accents, and pidgin

Even in a country with a single national language, there may be vast differences with the pronunciation is one locale when compared to another. There are slang words that only people in a particular region will get. Then there’s pidgin that locals use to communicate with English-speaking foreigners, these are essentially bastardized English mixed liberally with local words.

Cultural connotations at odds

There are also phrases that mean something entirely different from their equivalent literal English phrases, not to mention words that have different local significance. Such phrases when literally translated can mean something light years from their English equivalent.

A worthwhile investment

Many companies have suffered loss and embarrassment because they failed to consider the potential pitfalls of crossing the language barrier. They tried to play an ad campaign or name a product by ear without consulting either a local or a linguistic anthropologist. Most probably thought they were saving money, but tapping an expert doesn’t have to be expensive. 

If your business is considering going global, cutting translation and interpretation corners can be a recipe for linguistic disaster. Your global marketing team needs to be trained in the local culture. More importantly, you need a partner that can see you through the language minefield you need to traverse.