The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Working in a Diverse Culture
Cultural awareness and diversity awareness are increasingly prominent buzzwords for businesses large and small these days. Diversity training is sometimes seen as a punishment for those colleagues who can’t keep their politically incorrect opinions to themselves, but it should be regarded in the same way as any other form of training. Appreciating diversity of cultures, languages and approaches to business is vital for successful commerce not only within a multicultural society but also in the global marketplace. Language services are the best way for businesses to reach out to other cultures around the world.
If you are trying to penetrate a developing overseas market via online content, you need to localise your sales copy. Research shows that consumers are much more likely to follow and buy from brands that speak to them in their own language. Simply relying on translation technology isn’t sufficient in these circumstances; one must invest in professional translation to reach these markets. Google Translate, although helpful, does not meet professional standards, and relying on translation software can result in embarrassing mistakes.
Some employers think immigrants are only good for unskilled labor but there are more valuable human resources available that can help bring a business to the global marketplace. Graduates should also be looking at language learning to compliment their existing academic skill set. If you are qualified in a specific industry and are also bilingual then you can provide valuable translation services to businesses in that industry. Other countries have figured out that language learning and multilingualism are good for the economy in an international marketplace. But people in English speaking countries have a tendency to assume they can get by with their native tongue alone.
Professor Nigel Vincent, president at The British Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences laments the lack of polygots emerging from British universities and argues that our monolingual workforce may find it hard to compete globally.
“It would be self-defeating to think they (Machine Translations) remove the problems we face if we become a nation of monolinguals in a world of polyglots.” He comments, adding “I don’t see any evidence that the Chinese or the Germans are standing down their language teachers, and I think it would be foolish for us to imagine we can do so.”
When Coca Cola was first launched in China they named it Ke-Kou-Ke-La without knowing that this means “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax”, depending on the dialect. By the time they realised the mistake, it was already plastered across thousands of signs in China. This kind of cultural knowledge can mean the difference between success and embarrassing failure.
Diversity awareness should be more than a PC buzzword. It should be a call to get serious about understanding cultural difference and how this can effect sales and relationships with clients and customers around the world.