The uniqueness of the international business lies in a wide array of languages, religions and cultures, all coming together to exchange experiences, markets and strategies. There is no doubt that such an environment poses challenges – barriers to communication, lack of understanding of cultures and values of a given geographical region or business environment. Overcoming those is paramount in achieving international presence, and a strong language policy – a multilingual and multicultural communication strategy – is indispensable in the global development of an enterprise.
Language has a market value. European SMEs miss out on millions of euros in revenue due to the language barrier and inability to communicate effectively in the business environment of a foreign country. Lack of language skills stands in the way to fully benefit from international business and financial opportunities.
The PIMLICO project (Promoting, Implementing, Mapping Language and Intercultural Communication Strategies), carried out by the European Union in 2011, lists the most important areas, in which high language competency is key. Some of them are:
It is clear, that as a business owner, you can come across choices and circumstances, where a relevant language competency can determine the success or failure of your company. Even if your business runs smoothly abroad, a badly designed marketing campaign, poor customer service in the local language or lack of language skills to negotiate new contracts can be detrimental to your company’s reputation.
Language and culture come hand in hand and the second component of your international success is understanding and overcoming cultural differences. Even though some of the cultural discrepancies might not seem very important, they matter in building and maintaining strong business relationships. Understanding of how to address people, the choice of register, moderating meetings, presenting ideas, sales and negotiation strategies and even timekeeping is key when doing business abroad. What’s more, understanding your consumer’s language and their way of thinking is key to a well-localised marketing campaign or website.
ELAN 2006 research gives us the recipe for success. It suggests, that in order to build a solid business presence abroad and achieve the financial targets set, you need a language strategy. This includes:
This is good news for all business owners wanting to grow their company internationally –all you need is language awareness and a strategy. Follow the advice of language specialists, understand the local market and the business culture, set up a sustainable business language policy and you won’t have to wait long for the dreamed international expansion of your business.
By Justyna Gutowska