With increased cooperation between countries and formation of trade associations, trade barriers have started to disappear in the last few decades. The incredible advances of information and communication technology have also contributed to the formulation of a global business context. However, one of the most fundamental trade barriers is still there: language. Unless you understand someone, you cannot possibly do business with them. That’s why it is important to not only translate your products or services into the target market’s language but also understand its customs, culture and sensitivities in order to make sure the translated product comes across as clear as possible.

We live in an extremely polarised world in terms of languages. Currently, almost half of the global population communicates by the means of merely 10 different languages. The rest of the people use nearly 6000 different languages and dialects. This vast lingual diversity makes it very challenging for businesses to become ubiquitous despite the disappearing of other trade barriers, causing a large language service industry.  

Growth of Language Services Industry

The Language Services industry is one of those few industries that achieved double digit growth rate even during the recession period. According to a report by Common Sense Advisory, the language services industry experienced a growth of 7.45% between the years 2009 and 2010. The global size of the language services industry was estimated to be US$26 billion in 2010, which definitely increased exponentially in last 3 years. Some analysts labelled this industry as the recession proof industry. According to a study, the fastest growing types of services include multimedia localisation, on-site interpreting, and video interpreting. Localisation is currently one of the most demanded language service, since it helps a business organisation to adapt their products, materials and organisational contents to a specific local market. Before engaging a local market, it is necessary to understand the context of the current world and decide on the basis of business potentials of the local market.

Emerging Local Markets

Asia is clearly emerging at an incredible pace. Also, the rise of Brazil and the sheer size and diversity of Africa made these two areas lucrative for business organisations. Let’s take a closer look at these markets.

Emerging Asia

Asia currently is the new centre of gravity for consumerism. The shift from west to east is old news. By 2016, Asian consumers will use 25% of global consumer products and contribute to 37% of product market growth. Asian markets have become the engine of global consumer product retailers and companies, as noted in a report by Ernst and Young. According to the same report, it has been shown that 69% of senior executives of 276 top business organisations believe that emerging markets will be the main instrument for growth and profit for the next three years. 

While China and India are the main leaders of Asia’s emerge, other Asian nations such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Thailand are contributing to this staggering growth as well, which business organisations cannot afford to market. For example, Bangladesh is now a market of 160 million people and their economy has had a consistent GDP growth rate of over 6% for the last decade.  Also, the local language Bengali is the 8th most common spoken language in the world with almost 210 million speakers. Businesses need to focus on these markets as well to get the full benefit of the growing consumerism in Asia. Effective Localisation is the key to proper implementation of business strategies and extension to local markets.

Africa on Rise

Africa is growing rapidly in business importance. Considering the high degree of lingual and cultural diversity in Africa, Localisation is critically important for establishment of business and profitable growth in this continent. From a study by Common Sense Advisory, it is revealed that 72.4% of the African consumers prefer to purchase products from businesses that communicate in their own language.  Among 1 billion Africans, just 470 million speak English as their second language while less than 5% of African people speak English as their first language.

Hence, being capable of understanding the language and communicating with the audience in their own languages is key to creating a dominant presence in African local markets. In terms of area, Africa equals the size of China, America, India and Europe all taken together. Imagine the cultural and lingual diversity Africa fosters and then you can get an idea of the Localisation efforts needed to conquer the African markets.

Case Study: Arabic Language

The case of Arabic language shows the reluctance of business organisations towards the adaptation to localising practices in their marketing strategy. Arabic is the third most used official language in the world with more than 300 million speakers. For centuries, Arabic speaking countries played an important role in global politics. In this age of information technology, the Arabic language has reached another level of prominence. We will show the validity of this statement with the facts below.

In terms of online population, Arabic is spoken by more people than Russian, French or German. The economic importance of Arabic cannot be ignored, either. Research showed that the share of Arabic speakers in online gross domestic product is growing faster than that of the speakers of any other language. It has even surpassed the growth of Chinese during the period between 2011 and 2012. However, it is interesting that, despite this growth rate, companies are still lagging with localising their online content in Arabic. A report from CSA found that only four out of the top hundred brands on the Internet have localised their content in Arabic. Only 25 among Fortune 500 companies offer their websites in Arabic. Arabic is also growing at an incredible rate in the social media. For example, the number of Twitter users in the Arab countries jumped from 2 million to 3.7 million in last year. 

While these facts clearly show that a business should not ignore the potential of Arabic, it is also true that Localisation in Arabic requires high degree of skills and attention to details due to the subtlety and nuance of the language, and the right to left scripting style. It is therefore important, when localising your content into Arabic, to be aware of the use of both the form and context.

What’s in it for Business Owners?

The discussion so far shows why the language industry is growing so rapidly, and how Localisation became imperative for businesses to extend their activities to every corner of the world. However, companies are still not realising the changing dynamics of the world economy, and therefore not crafting their strategy according to these changes. Even when companies are localising, often they do not do it the right way.  Vodacom and Nando’s are among the front-runners who made Localisation their integral business practice. The executives of these two companies offered the following four tips for Business Managers to help them conquer local markets.

Partner with a reputable language services provider

For Localisation, you actually need specialist help. Having a language services provider as a partner will greatly improve the speed of your project. However, before taking an LSP onboard, make sure that they meet your requirements and are capable of delivering what you are looking for.

Make sure that the service quality is impeccable

Even a small mistake in translation can have disastrous consequences. While translating your business documents, contents and promotional materials, the local culture and context must be taken into consideration.

Customise your product and let the audience take part in product development process

Service dominant (SD) logic is one of the fundamental philosophies of modern business practices. According to SD logic, every offering must be designed as service and consumers have to actively take part in the development and implementation phase. While you are extending your business to a local market, it is even more important to integrate the local audience into your services. The audience will show a more receptive attitude if they perceive their services as their own.

Start small and extend rapidly

A foreign market is ‘foreign’ indeed, for your business. Despite preparing and maintaining all the requirements for effective Localisation, your effort might be futile and the market might reject your products. That is why it is safer to start small; based on the learning, you can then proceed to extend further. With the implementation of small projects, you are likely to have a steeper learning curve and eventually perform better than your competitors in localising your products.

In addition to the tips above, you need to have a clear idea about the following questions:

  1. Who will have the responsibility of responding to queries and calls coming from foreign markets?
  2. Who is your target audience and what are the means of contact with them?
  3. Who is going to check the quality of translation and Localisation projects and what method will be used to do that?
  4. Are you fully aware of local customs and regulatory compliance laws?
  5. Is there any component of your communication channel and material that might offend the local audience in any way?

Localisation is no longer luxury, but rather an inevitable method of expansion that almost every business in the world need to incorporate with their basic business functions to reach new markets in the changing context of the world. Vocabridge has a dedicated team to help your with your Localisation projects. For any queries, you can call us or reach us through our live chat. We are here to help you take all the benefits of emerging economies all over the world.