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Tools to Overcome Language Barriers in Online Business Globalization

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Globalization is not just a phenomenon of large corporations anymore. Small and mid-sized companies that run online businesses have now realized that they can and should market their products and services anywhere on the planet. Many of them also outsource some of their key functions overseas, such as website and app development.

As the world “shrinks,” the issue of language barriers grows. And online businesses need to find the resources to break those barriers if they are to be competitive and grow. Fortunately, people and technology are providing the tools to meet this challenge. Here are some of these tools.

Translation Agencies

There is a number of translation companies that have been around for quite some time. Many have expert native-speaking human translators in a large pool of foreign languages. They serve to translate everything from website content to blogs, social media profiles and posts, and beyond. Using native translators guarantees that your content will be linguistically and culturally correct. This is also known as “localization,” and its importance cannot be stressed enough. There have been many translation errors, as large organizations have globalized over the years. While they laughed about them years later, some were especially offensive. The American Dairy Association, for example, translated its slogan “Got Milk?” literally into Spanish. It translated as, “Are you lactating?” 

Automated Machine Translation

Machine translation tools are getting better all the time. And for basic communication, they may do the job. Consider chatbots that handle customer service, for example. The simple questions that customers may have can probably be translated well enough to be understood. And machines can certainly translate those automated email messages that confirm purchases, send out shipping notifications, etc. The implementation of AI and machine learning continues to improve these tools. Trying to use them for more sophisticated language translation purposes can still be an issue. 

Video-Conferencing Resources

This is an area that is not well-served without human assistance. And companies must understand the differing roles of interpreter vs translator. A translator is normally one who converts written content between languages. An interpreter, on the other hand, sits in on verbal conversations and provides oral translation on the spot. Video-conferencing will require interpreters so that the conversation runs smoothly without the lag of a translator converting verbalizations into writing. Again, machines are beginning to gain the sophistication necessary for interpretation but are not there yet. If you must engage in video-conferencing and neither of you is fluent in the other’s language, play it safe and go to the cost of an interpreter.

Translating Visuals

Photos may come with captions or descriptions, and most marketing videos have sound. Again, companies must be cautious about the content of the visuals and how the words they use translate into a foreign language. Some machine-generated tools can do a lot of this, such as Rev and Kapwing. If you choose such a tool, be certain that it has the most sophisticated AI and ML components. Once it is finished, have a native speaker review it for good translation and cultural appropriateness. When Gerber Baby Foods began to market its products in Africa, it used its classic label of that adorable child. If it had checked with a native, it would have changed that label. At the time, many Africans did not read or write. Food labels showed pictures of what was inside.

Currency Converter

Obviously, this type of tool is for e-commerce companies. The customer should be able to quickly convert your currency into his, so he knows exactly what he will be paying. There are several good tools to choose from that will convert automatically both for website and mobile app use. Check out Exchange Rate API or Currency.Wiki, for starters.

It’s Not a Simple Process

Getting your business into foreign markets is a critical piece of your growth. If it’s done right, you will significantly widen your customer reach. The key, of course, is getting it right. These tools and tips should help.

Author Bio: Merissa Moore is a researcher, consultant, and frequent contributor to blogs on all things of current interest to companies with a digital presence. In her limited spare time, Moore dabbles in gourmet cooking and advocacy for animal rights.

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