Globalisation is bringing countries together. Nowadays, it’s quite common to have online business meeting among different countries. Last Friday, I had three different business meetings with clients in Spain, France and the US.
However, as organisations globalise, when it comes to doing business in international markets, expectations rise as well, which includes the need to trade in the local market’s language.
And this is especially important in the UK, where over 50% of the trade abroad takes place with our neighbours in Europe. And that’s why mastering European languages is so important for British businesses.
But it’s very difficult to cover the language needs of every business operation:
- How can you business speak every single language in Europe?
- How can you be aware of the cultural differences between your country and your targeted market?
- How can you improve the communication flow with your international clients avoiding misunderstandings?
If you have ever experienced these problems in your business, let’s analyse these smart methods to compensate the lack of language skills in your business.
- The 3 stages of internationalisation and their different linguistic needs
- 3 smart ways to compensate the lack of language skills
- Stage 1: Hire freelance translators and interpreters to cover the exceptional linguistic barriers
- Stage 2: Hire native speakers to cover daily communications and freelance translator and interpreters for specialised communications
- Stage 3: Hire local agents with knowledge of your industry and freelancers for more specific projects
- Language training for your current team
- In conclusion…
The 3 stages of internationalisation and their different linguistic needs
To get to know the best linguistic solution for your business, you should firstly analyse the stage that your business is in when it comes to your internationalisation efforts. Depending on the stage your business is in, it will need different approaches to overcome linguistic barriers:
Stage 1: How to start doing business with your first international clients
In this stage, you’ll start to get in touch with your first international clients, and your communications in the local market’s language will be exceptional.
In most cases, this first contact will take place in unilateral conversations through the translation of your marketing materials or your website.
You don’t need to focus on improving the communication flow yet, your main objective at this stage in to attract the attention of your first international clients and make the first meaningful connections within the targeted market.
Stage 2: How to build a solid portfolio of international clients
You have already done business with your first international clients, and the word is spreading. More clients are coming to do business with you and, little by little, the first connections in the local market are turning into faithful clients.
At this stage, communication in the local market’s language needs to be more fluent to guarantee that your current clients are happy with your products and services, and solve any problems that may occur.
Apart from this daily communications, you’ll also need to cover specialised communication in business meetings or when closing sales with more international clients.
Stage 3: Opening a new branch in your targeted local market
In this stage, you’ll need to master your local market’s language. You should have overcome any linguistic barrier and you’ll need to master all your business operations in the local market’s language.
At this stage you’ll need to communicate in a different language with both, your international clients and your international employees in the new branch.
3 smart ways to compensate the lack of language skills
Stage 1: Hire freelance translators and interpreters to cover the exceptional linguistic barriers
During the first stage, you can cover your linguistic needs with freelance translators and interpreters. It’ll be easier than hiring someone full-time, as you won’t probably have on-going communication with international clients at this stage.
You can save money by hiring freelancers who can carry out specific tasks aimed at attracting the attention of your first international clients, such as getting your website and marketing materials translated into the local market’s language or doing a market research to analyse the main obstacles that your business will have to face within this new market.
Working with projects will help you have a better understanding of your budget and have a more defined action plan with deadlines for each of them.
Stage 2: Hire native speakers to cover daily communications and freelance translator and interpreters for specialised communications
Once communication with your international clients becomes more necessary, you may consider hire a native speaker for customer services purposes. This person may be working part- or full-time to ensure that customers are happy with your products and services and to solve any problems that may occur.
You can still freelance translator and interpreter to cover more specialised communications, such as business meetings or marketing campaigns.
The key here is to find the correct balance between the native speakers working in-house and the projects that will need to be carried out by professional linguists.
Stage 3: Hire local agents with knowledge of your industry and freelancers for more specific projects
Local agents will save you time to learn how to run a business in the targeted country. They must be experts in your industry and in your targeted country. They can focus on the business development side of running a new branch, whereas freelance linguists, who tend to be more expensive in the long run, could focus on more specific and specialised projects.
Hiring native speakers will also ensure fluid communication between your team and your team in the new branch.
Language training for your current team
This would be the forth method to compensate a lack of language skills.
If you decide to go for this method, you’ll have to bear in mind that it will cost you the time that your team spend learning a new language. Learning a language requires time, and they may not be able to use this language skill straightaway.
Ask yourself: does all my team need to speak the language, or could I outsource this task to expert linguists?
This method is especially useful when you think that your team will benefit from a new language in the future. It can be a very good asset when it comes to prove your reliability within the new targeted market.
A whole team who can speak a language shows that you’re willing to establish long-term relationships with your international clients.
- Analyse your business and assess your linguistic needs to implement the right method to overcome linguistic barriers.
- Balance in-house employees and freelance linguists projects.
- Make sure you spend the correct amount of time in each task.
- Outsource those tasks that you’re not able to excel in.