Business Management

UK: Lack of Foreign Languages Harms Businesses

British businesses are missing out on £48 billion worth of export business according to independent experts at Cardiff Business School. This isn’t necessarily because businesses don’t want to export, but rather that they have insufficient capabilities to produce the multilingual sales and marketing content required to crack markets where English isn’t spoken.

The ability to market in other languages is emphasised by how the world’s growth markets are increasingly outside of Western Europe. Notably, Asia Pacific will soon pass North America and become the largest eCommerce regional market in the world worth $525.2 billion compared to $482.6 billion. Furthermore, according to these eMarketer findings “China will take in more than six of every 10 dollars spent on eCommerce in Asia-Pacific this year and nearly three-quarters of regional spending by 2017.”

This growth in cross-border trade can also be seen in eBay’s statistics which show that 22% of global trade is cross-border – up 26% year-on-year, representing $13 billion of commerce across eBay. IKEA is another company that has seen greater overseas sales, recently announcing that trade has been buoyed by Chinese consumers. Therefore, for any business that wants to expand internationally, the importance of language cannot be underestimated.

Alibaba’s recent move into the global scene further highlights this. When interviewed, Mr. Ma, founder and chairman of the company, spoke about the challenges surrounding this decision, having encountered scepticism from different directions due to differences in cultural perspectives and values.

The content that is being pushed out by businesses needs to be reaching target audiences in their language of choice. In fact, we’ve commented before on how language needs to be a critical component of a business’s digital marketing strategy. We conducted a survey of the millennial generation (aged 18-36) and found that 32% of millennial consumers in English speaking countries prefer a language other than English, and 46% are more likely to purchase if information is presented in their preferred language.

This is underlined by Can’t Read, Won’t Buy, a report from Common Sense Advisory, which states that 74% of people are more likely to purchase from the same brand again if the after-sales care is in their language.

Access to specialist language skills is going to be increasingly critical to overall business success as international trade steps up a gear. But how can businesses achieve this and effectively reach new markets? They need to find manageable ways to translate high quality content into multiple languages at high volumes and high speed.

Today businesses can enable their organisations to translate more content than ever before by implementing language platforms with a wide range of technology options available, from Machine Translation for large volumes of real-time translations, to directly accessing high quality human translations through integration with business applications. Language platforms exist that allow every customer interaction to be delivered in the right language and help to match the right content to the right translation method at the appropriate price point. Developments in making the most sophisticated Machine Translation tools and services more accessible, using new cloud technology platforms, are also key.

In fact, thanks to the increasing amount of data being created in a growing number of languages, the need for Machine Translation is greater than ever. According to further research from Common Sense Advisory, more than 90% of non-native English speakers rely on machine software to translate websites they visit. The latest cloud technology platforms address the industry demand and provide a solution offering organisations access to high-quality, pre-trained and industry-specific Machine Translation engines.

Translation and localisation need to offer content that is both linguistically accurate and culturally relevant. While the challenges around this are great, so are the benefits of a solid localisation strategy. As a result, we’re seeing more digital marketers embrace integrated content and language solutions.

Take, GTA, part of the Kuoni Group, as an example. GTA recently addressed the need to prioritise and centralise the translation process within their organisation. They deployed a language solution with Machine Translation as a core component. This solution enables the company to easily localise tens of thousands of hotel and ground travel descriptions for its global customer base, delivering a seamless and personalised customer experience by addressing cultural differences.

With the inherent global nature of businesses today, coupled with the current content explosion, organisations need to be able to produce content faster, easier and more accurately for all audiences. By offering personalised and localised content, businesses can achieve a critical aspect of seamless, global customer experience and drive global expansion.


By Dominic Kinnon, CEO Language Solutions, SDL


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