At a conference in Germany last week I was talking to a Japanese guy who worked for a manufacturer of medical equipment… This is how the conversation went.
Me: Do you translate your material for use in markets outside of Japan?
Him: No… hahaha… there is… er… no… er… need
Me: May I ask why?
Him: because… er… the whole world speak Engrish! [and then he burst into hysterical laughter]
While we make light of this (and to be honest the guy’s laugh did make me laugh as well to the point that we both stood there and wondered why we were laughing together) there are real reasons behind why documents should be translated.
Think about it… if you are a Japanese manufacturer selling your products in Germany and all of your support material is in English, how are you going to generate leads? You are immediately restricting your potential business contacts to people who speak English and do business in Germany.
And there are legal obligations to translate your material into the mother tongue of the country that you are distributing. Without the proper translation to accompany your products you may not attain your CE Mark, making it impossible (and maybe even illegal) to sell in other countries.
Deciding to support alternative languages is the first step, after that you have to pick which ones to support. Given that there are around 6,500 languages spoken on planet earth this can be a daunting task. So we’ll look at which ones will make you the most return for your investment (this will change from market to market – but it is a great starting point).
According to The World Bank the largest economies in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are as follows (highest first); United States, Japan, Germany, China, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Canada, Spain and Brazil.
They constitute over 70% of the world’s economy (which is $33 trillion combined) consuming the majority of world’s products and services.
So… if you want to communicate with the people who live in these countries you need to do so in the following languages; US English, Japanese, Germany, Mandarin, Cantonese, UK English, French, Italian, Canadian French, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese.
Translate your material into 11 languages and you can cover $33 trillion of the world’s trade. If you don’t translate your material people who can’t read your material won’t buy your products.