In today’s globalized economy, being monolingual is a failing strategy. Sure, individual staff members might be able to get by with a single language, but from a company-wide perspective, embracing linguistic diversity is the way to the top. How do you express this strategy on your website, though, without clutter or translation services? There are a few different approaches that can work to your advantage.
Know Your Audience
When we say you need to be multilingual to succeed in business, that doesn’t mean you need to offer access to resources in dozens of languages. Rather, you just need to know your audience so that your materials are accessible to the people who need them. That’s a matter of industry, region, and client base, among other factors.
Consider, for example, Julio Garcia’s work as partner at a Dallas accounting firm. Texas has a large Spanish-speaking population and clients include both Spanish-speaking immigrants and Spanish-speaking investors based in other countries that the firm regularly needs to communicate with. Based on his information, the firm, Alonso & Garcia, writes its direct mail campaigns in both English and Spanish.
Similarly, at Startup Chile, we offer blog content in both Spanish and English. Though most Chileans speak Spanish, startup developers are often comfortable communicating in English due to their educational background and because many of the key investors are in the United States. We interweave this multilingual content for a site that presents itself as open to all users.
Build It Twice (Or More)
Two settings where you commonly see multilingual websites are tourism and government, and in many cases this is accomplished by – in essence – building the website in multiple iterations so that users can toggle between languages.
For example, if you wanted to visit the Tower of London, you might check several sources for information to learn about buying tickets, the history of the site, and other background. If you head to the main website hosted by the Historic Royal Palaces, it’s no surprise that you’ll find an English-language site since the United Kingdom is an English-speaking country. But if you click on “Visit Us,” there are visitor links in Italian, Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese.
On the other hand, if you seek to learn about the Tower of London through UNESCO’s World Heritage Page, it’s possible to toggle the entire site between English and French and then to read about the specific site in eight different languages. It’s designed to reach a global audience.
Most importantly, if you’re going to make business resources available in multiple languages, the best thing your business can do is to hire bilingual employees. Bilingual employees are your lifelines, helping you reach customers, train employees, and write content while translating it smoothly between the two forms. While you could outsource the translation, you’ll always get better results if you can keep the work in-house with the same staff person. It helps maintain a clear, continuous brand throughout the work.
Building a multilingual website is no easy feat and it can’t be done by running your text through an online translator, as much as we might wish that was the case. It takes finesse and knowledge to expand your language base and communicate clearly with your clients – and you have to learn how. The future is multilingual. Are you ready?