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Why would we need translations in an English-speaking world?

And what a fair question this is! It is a fact that English has long been the worldwide lingua franca, both for diplomacy and business. With 372 million native speakers, 611 million second-language speakers and over 600 million foreign-language students, the quantity of people actively engaging in English language amounts to a whopping 1.5 BILLION people worldwide!

Lenkrad | Why would we need translations in an English-speaking world?

Now, who in their right mind would want (or need) to translate anything, given that the English language alone provides such a humongous user base?... If we do some quick math, we’ll promptly conclude that English accounts for no less than… 20% percent of all human communications! That leaves out only 80% of all mankind…

You might be thinking ─Wait, what?

That’s right. According to, the worldwide population (as of August 2018) is around 7.6 billion people. Which means that if your marketing efforts address English speakers only, you are willfully depriving 4 out of every 5 human beings from access to your product and brand. Not a great way to go global!

What languages to target? (and why?)

Nowadays, it seems clear that targeting a single language for your brand pretty much equals needlessly limiting your reach, customer base, and ultimately your business’ bottom line. So, you might be thinking ─ great, but there are so many languages! Which one(s) should we target next? ─ The answer can be found by following a few criteria:

1) How many NATIVE or USUAL speakers for that language?

It is a well-known fact that effective marketing is all about effective communication. Thus, you’ll be wanting to direct your marketing efforts to your potential customers either on their native languages, or in the language they speak chiefly at home (in the case of countries which use more than one language). An interesting side-effect to this strategy, is that it also allows your company to target countries that have that language as their official one, but which might not be immediately evident.

For example, localizing your website / product to French language would allow you to target potential customers in France, of course, but it would also open up for you the markets in the Canadian province of Québec, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco and Switzerland, just to name a few!

2) How many SUITABLE POTENTIAL CLIENTS on the chosen language?

This is a subtler consideration, and it can depend on cultural, political, religious or other kinds of factors. For example, it is widely known that Mandarin Chinese is by far the most-spoken language on the planet, but the advantage on localizing to Mandarin could be negated if you are unable to do business specifically in mainland China, the country where this language is chiefly spoken.

Another example: Arabic language boasts over 300 million speakers worldwide. However, many of the countries where Arabic is spoken have a majority of Muslim citizens, which would automatically hinder the marketing of certain products (say, alcoholic beverages) for religious reasons.

3) What is my competition doing?

This one is a time-honored marketing tradition which is often considered a viable guiding principle, for entering new markets through translation localization. The good news is that this offers you actionable information no matter what the answer is! Let’s see the two options:

If your competitors are targeting a specific language, you have a fairly good indicator that there is a potential market in that language. After all, it’s reasonable to think they wouldn’t be throwing their money away without good reason!

If your competitors are not targeting a specific language, then there are three possible reasons for that: either they saw no potential in that market, they saw potential but (for some reason, like budget, logistics, etc.) haven’t acted on it, or the idea hasn’t occurred to them yet. Any of these options gives your company hints and information on which you can act. Which brings us to the last, but not least criterion….

4) Thinking outside the box (A.K.A., asking for expert advice!)

Just as happens with so many things in life and business, when deciding which language(s) to localize your product or service to, it is always a good idea to go beyond the “obvious” choices and dig a little deeper into the matter to achieve the best results. Luckily, you happen to have a very handy, knowledgeable and willing-to-help expert just a phone call or e-mail away! Can you guess who might that be?...

It’s your Translation Agency! (deceivingly simple, right?). Against what many people think, Translation Agencies are not just “companies that translate text for you”. They are veritable experts in language-related matters and can offer your company extremely valuable insights and “inside” information to help you successfully enter foreign markets, even before translating the first word of your text.

For instance, your Translation Agency will usually be very knowledgeable about things like:

  • What languages are usually targeted for your specific industry or product.

  • How many significant variations are for a given language, and which ones can you tackle first (or not at all). E.g., The Portuguese spoken in Portugal is different enough to the one spoken in Brazil, that you’d usually need to localize your marketing differently depending on whether market you would be targeting.

  • What not-immediately-evident languages might represent good business opportunities for your company. E.g.: Did you know there are 218 million people in the world which speak Malay, and 697 million that speak Hindustani? Or that more people in the world speak Turkish than Italian?

If you’ve made it this far into this article, then (hopefully!) your mind will right now be just bubbling with possibilities and exciting new ideas: how many languages to tackle? How many countries? How many new potential clients? And the great news is: there are tons of answers readily available for you! Your translation agency holds a veritable treasure trove of information, that they’ll be more than happy to share with you in order to help your business go Global (with a capital “G”).

When it comes to business and marketing, there’s no doubt English is definitely THE must-have language for international expansion. However, if your business already operates in English, and you’re looking forward to expanding it, and really to make it go Global, don’t limit yourself to the beaten path: do a bit language research, ask your translation agency for advice, and you are sure to find all the information you need to start walking the road less traveled by…

…which could make all the difference.


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Hafiz Hasan
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