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Business Expansion Overseas: How to Overcome Language Barriers

I'm the owner and founder of PIT Designs. I love creating digital presence and creative digital solutions for our clients.


Posted 7 months ago on June 18th, 2022.

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Launching a business in your own country is a massive undertaking. But embarking on a journey toward business expansion overseas is a whole different ball game. From cultural differences to legal considerations, there’s a multitude of aspects to consider. However, one of the most challenging roadblocks might well be overcoming the language barriers you'll come across when you enter overseas markets.

With a mere 4% of the global consumer market situated in the U.S., it’s pretty clear to see why there’s a need to break through the language barrier so you can communicate with your international teams and clients.

From on-demand remote interpreting solutions to visual communication techniques, here are some tips to help make things easier for you when it comes to overcoming language barriers:

Get Specific About Your Target Market

There’s no sense in pursuing every market in the world at once, and when it comes to global expansion, the aim is to successfully engage with one new market at a time.

When determining which markets are the most suitable for your brand, you need to keep regulatory and legal factors in mind that might impact how easy (or hard) it is to do business in a particular territory. Other aspects like the cost labor or raw material as well as the local consumer market also need to be considered.

Gain an Understanding of the Local Official Languages

It’s not necessary to speak the local language fluently the moment you roll out your product in another country. But having some basic knowledge of the local language shows your local clients that you respect their culture and linguistic preferences.

It's also important to keep in mind that some countries have a few official languages. Switzerland, for example, has four official languages. South Africa has 11 of them. You can only begin effective marketing campaigns once you start exploring your customer's local language.

You’ll need to understand the basics of the new language in order to launch effective marketing campaigns in your customers’ language, so some linguistic homework is definitely in order.

Work with a Professional Interpreter that Understands the Native Language

Your new team will need feedback in their native language, and this is where a professional interpreter can really come in handy. Language interpretation services minimize the risks of miscommunication and facilitate smooth communication, which is essential for business success.

You can also download an interpreting app for free to use on the go in less formal situations where the language barrier needs to be overcome.  

Hire Professional Translators to Tend to Your Documents

Before you hire a new team of employees in the country you’re expanding to, it’s essential to get your document ducks in a row. This means translating key work documents and training materials into your new team’s native language.

The reason why it’s better to work with professional translators for written translation and not an online translation tool is because machine translation tools perform literal, or word-for-word, translations, which could see the meaning of a term getting lost in translation.

Professional translators, on the other hand, translate content while keeping cultural nuances in mind to ensure that the message is accurately delivered in the target language.

Don’t Downplay the Power of Visual Communication

Humans are essentially visual learners, and visuals are extremely powerful when it comes to communication and overcoming language barriers in new markets. Images, videos, and other visual aids can be so much more impactful than text if you want to get a message across to a new audience of international customers. But it can also be a beneficial tool to use within your new team to facilitate smooth and effective communication.

Consider Partnering Up with a Local Outsourcing Partner

Many international brands rely on multilingual outsourcing services to help them establish a presence in a new market. The benefits associated with outsourcing are far too great to be ignored. Even more so when it comes to international expansion.

Outsourcing allows you to focus on your core business functions. In contrast, the outsourcing provider takes care of non-core functions like customer service, which can have a massive effect on the way your brand is perceived in the new market. You'll also gain a competitive advantage by working with an outsourcing partner as they might already have a better understanding of what it takes to break through the local language barriers.

Localize Your Website for Multiple Languages

A multilingual website is an absolute must if you’re expanding into the international market. When you localize your website, you show your international audiences that you’re focused on their needs and that you care about their cultural and linguistic preferences as well as their local customs.

The fact that you communicate with them in their native language also makes it easier for them to get in touch with you, after which you can start building rapport with them.

Ready to Break Through the Language Barrier?

Whenever you expand to a new target market, it is essential to gain a deeper understanding of your new audience’s language and culture. In some countries, your audiences might speak multiple languages, and you will need to deploy tactics far more powerful than Google translate to navigate the cultural differences and the language barrier.

By using professional interpreting services, partnering with in-country service providers, and translating your existing content into the target language, you’ll already have one foot in the door for ensuring your message never gets lost in translation. The learning curve of understanding a new language might be a little steep, but with so many great tools and professional service solutions out there to help you, you don't need to be multilingual to transform your existing business into a global business!