Despite the communication skills we already have, misunderstandings and mistranslations are commonplace.
According to a new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, nearly half of the 572 senior executives interviewed admitted that misunderstandings and “messages lost in translation” have halted major international business deals for their companies. The inability to communicate effectively to others, especially those whose language you’re not familiar with, can lead to failed business relationships and ineffective service to your clients. As a result, business experts have surmised this language pitfall to create a communication gap with the rest of the world.
If you’re aiming for global competence, tapping every opportunity there is across countries is only possible through international communication. That is why companies and organizations are leaning into employing professionals knowledgeable in a foreign language because bilingual/multilingual speakers also demonstrate higher analytical skills, cultural sensitivity, listening skills, memory and even enhanced written and spoken English skills.
Why Does It Matter?
As you’re reading this, you may think that because English is the lingua franca of many industries, that’ll be enough. In reality, that’s not always the case because not everyone speaks English. In a global context, it’s only the third most spoken language. Although many countries also have it as a second language (which is roughly half of its total population), there are also countries that don’t speak much English. China, for one, only has 10 million speakers from its 1.3 billion population. Considering that China is slowly becoming a global leader in many industries, speaking their language would surely be a valuable asset.
But don’t think that language skills are only essential for businesses that deal with stocks and trade. Actually, many different industries are in need of people who speak a language other than English. Here’s a list of these industries and why language is of great value in their field:
Aviation and Tourism
Because aviation and tourism are global industries, there is a heightened need for globally competitive individuals as well. In a sphere where it’s imperative to interact with others on a daily basis, everyone should be able to communicate effectively. There are many cases of miscommunication between aviation staff that resulted in delays and worse, accidents. That’s why concerns are rising about English-language proficiency among foreign pilots and air traffic controllers. So, whether you’re from a travel agency, airline crew or airport staff, having proficient language skills is a vital characteristic in maintaining client relationships, giving the best service to them and ultimately building brand loyalty.
Marketing and Research
Communicating the message of your company/organization to the global marketplace isn’t as easy as it seems. The way an advertisement, public relations announcement or marketing campaign is carried out matters greatly and should be carefully crafted and executed. Seemingly minor details such as color, sayings, or gestures may work well with some countries but may send the wrong message to others. Thus, adhering to the language the global market you’re aiming for speaks as knowing a language also gives you a deeper insight into their culture. And with that, you can create materials that are appropriate to their cultural norms.
Gaming and Software Development
The world is ever-changing and progressing by the minute. Thus, the need for language has also transcended from face-to-face to the digital landscape. Even software programs, apps, and games need localization to breakthrough new markets and communicate across all platforms. Language skills go a long way in helping software developers and information technology practitioners in communicating with their colleagues in other countries especially in terms of localizing the content of their products to sell them to overseas markets.
Even in the medical field, translation and interpretation are of great value. The content that goes on of medical instructions, medicine dosage, and doctor’s prescriptions should be localized for the patient to fully comprehend it. But it doesn’t stop there as the language healthcare professionals speak to their patients is also essential. The way they ask a patient for information, relay instructions before a medical procedure and deliver important news should be carefully worded. The good use of language which is more inclusive and values-based, can lower anxiety, build confidence, educate and help to improve self-care. Conversely, poor communication can be stigmatizing, hurtful and undermining of self-care and have a detrimental effect on clinical outcomes.
Much like healthcare, the manufacturing field —especially nowadays when they are still turning to offshoring and outsourcing means— needs clear and effective communication between parties in order to process things easier and get the job done without delay. This area of business can be very diverse, from pharmaceuticals to aerospace. It is probably one of the most exposed industries that work with many different countries along with the production and sale process. Due to this, manufacturing companies would be exposed, more or less, to different foreign languages. But even if a manufacturer doesn’t turn to offshoring, going global with their products and services would mean having to communicate with people in different parts of the world. So, still, to better converse with them would require extensive knowledge of their language as well.
Retail and E-commerce
With many retail and e-commerce businesses in the world today, the competition is stiff. In order to stand out in an oversaturated market, many businesses are turning to localize their content to better reach and promote their services. In fact, studies have shown that language translation plays a significant role in the business world as 75% of the respondents prefer to buy products in their native language. In addition, 60% rarely or never buy from English-only websites. Making your information more understandable can actually impact profit as translations help businesses to provide better quality service to their customers.
There are many considerations in responding to customers’ needs— your knowledge of the product, clear communication skills and the ability to use positive language. But there’s also one thing: the content of your speech. Business is changing, thus building strong customer relationships is paramount and customer satisfaction is always key. But in order to do that, you have to relate to the people you’re servicing by speaking their language. In prioritizing the customer experience that will eventually build up your business or agency, train your employees to speak the language their customers speak. Often times, when there’s no personalization or localization is when efforts fail since the customer/consumer doesn’t feel valued. Knowing more than just one language also pays dividends because it enables you to communicate with a larger amount of people.
Economic Development and Education
Aside from individual benefits, bilingualism and multilingualism are also very valuable for economic growth and education. In fact, a study has shown that multilingual skills have provided export benefits and better access to new markets. Countries that actively nurture different languages reap a range of rewards, from more successful exports to a more innovative workforce. In addition to this, developing and providing materials and software in local languages fosters participation and inclusion of minorities. As for the educational sector, many colleges and universities are diversifying their materials to better accommodate foreign students.