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Get in Gear for the New Year in Any Language!

(Originally published January 2012)


Now that 2011 is quickly fading into the past, 2012 promises to be a year filled with opportunities for growth and change, particularly when it comes to effectively communicating in the languages of your target audiences.  So, what language services trends should you be aware of and what you can you do to get in gear for the new year?


Consider the impact: The BRIC countries have added an “S” for South Africa. The BRIC markets of Brazil, Russia, India, and China, often key drivers of language growth and market expansion, officially added an “S” for South Africa to their acronym at the official BRIC(S) Leaders Meeting in Sanya, Hainan (China). So, why and what is the impact? Well, South Africa is the gateway to about a billion people, and according to the International Monetary Fund, BRICS will account for as much as 61% of global growth over the next three years. This also means that the 11 languages of this country are even more important now when considering market expansion through language growth.


This change is also impacting growth in the rest of Africa, which adds another 2,000 + other African languages to the list. There is also an increased demand for Portuguese as Brazil works to strengthen its ties to Portuguese-speaking Angola and Mozambique. A similar trend is occurring as China increases its investment in the extraction of natural resources and infrastructure development in Africa.


Many languages, one market? In countries like South Africa with 11 official languages and India with more than 450 languages, 22 of which have more than a million native speakers, how does one know which languages are optimal to effectively reach out to a particular target audience? There is no need to find the number of languages spoken in a particular locale daunting. It is generally not a requirement to translate into particular languages; rather it is a business decision. So, be sure to do your research and check with local market experts to determine which languages are most widely spoken and would make the best investment in order to effectively engage your target audience.


For example, in India, it would be important to research if your market is concentrated in specific states because each of them have their own official language in addition to Hindi and English, which are sanctioned for use throughout the Indian Union. Also, consult with your language services provider (LSP) to ensure that your systems and programs can support specific languages and character sets, particularly the less common ones.


Global means mobile. According to research by the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), the number of  Internet-enabled mobile devices in the world is set to grow 100 percent from more than 6 billion today to 12 billion in 2020. Mobile internet usage is also poised to take over desktop internet usage by 2014.  So, whether you are expanding to Asia, South America, Europe, Africa, or even to other language groups in the U.S., now more than ever, global means mobile. Therefore, make sure to incorporate mobile marketing into your overall multicultural content strategy and planning. 


Visualize effective multilingual communication. Continue to expect an emphasis on visual content on the internet given that production costs are still low and demand is higher than ever. Therefore, now is the time to think about ramping up your multilingual media strategy by taking the plunge into video voiceover or subtitling to tell your organization’s story in other languages.


Keep an eye out for new corporate initiatives. The beginning of the year is the perfect time to focus on any new corporate priorities and how they may affect language requirements. The trick is to determine which corporate initiatives, such as customer loyalty, faster turnaround times, etc., will have an impact on the provision of and demand for language services. Then, you can make sure you are prepared by doing the necessary planning to tackle any language or market adaptation issues and potential obstacles early.


The smart use of technology matters now more than ever. The increased use and acceptance of Machine Translation (MT) and other language automation tools is a trend that will be around for some time to come, particularly as a means of dealing with the ever-increasing volume of material to be localized, especially user-generated content that might not otherwise get translated. Systems do need to be customized though to produce acceptable results. Therefore, be sure to take a more long-term, strategic approach that factors human linguists into the equation.


For example, most MT output should also be post-edited by a qualified linguist to ensure an accurate, complete translation. In addition, not all material is a good candidate for MT use, such as marketing material where style and nuance are essential or translation into certain languages like Chinese or Japanese, for which MT engines are not as well developed. So, consult with your LSP to find out more about when and how to effectively integrate language automation into your overall multilingual communication strategy.


Plan for the multiple ways to “speak” the language. With the growing need to provide critical language access, there is a shift toward finding a variety of ways to offer spoken interpreting services. Phone, video, and web conference interpreting are gaining in popularity as a means to supplement in-person interpreting. This is especially true in the following instances: a) to support the increased demand for conveying smaller amounts of information in a very timely manner and b) to efficiently bring people together from many locales like for a webinar or e-learning session. Consult with your LSP for more information on which interpreting services will best meet your multilingual communication needs.


With the new year now upon us, this is the perfect opportunity to start watching new trends and begin to do your language services planning to get in gear for the new year in any language! We hope this information has given you some valuable insight to help with this process. For questions or more information on these or other issues, contact us today!

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