Talking Global

The challenges of international communication

The dawn of Globalisation is yesterday’s news. It was fun while it lasted but its novelty value has worn off. After all, the term came into the mainstream in the early 1980’s – an age when mobile phones were brick-sized and the Internet was still a glint in Tim Berners-Lee’s eye.

Talking Global

Today, Globalisation is part of the fabric of modern commerce and few major businesses ignore it. But embracing the phenomenon has brought fresh challenges – difficulties with communication probably being the most significant.

As trading between nations has become more prolific, so has the diversity of the markets we sell to. Even countries that traditionally lag behind in adopting new technologies have made great strides in recent years. The result is that the world is much more closely connected than it was even five years ago.

So what are the challenges?

Communication. The lubricant of global commerce. The conduit to more business or, in the event you get it wrong, less business.

Together, the human race speaks around 6,500 languages. Out of these, there are around 10 major languages with local variances and dialects.

Without spending a fortune on translators, how on earth do you get your head round that if you want to make the most of Globalisation and sell into as many markets as possible?

Sometimes you have to spend a fortune on translators. It pays dividends in the long game.

There are, however, other ways of overcoming language barriers to smooth the path of international communications. Some are fairly simple to adopt whilst others are a bit more complex. Whatever, Google Translate is not one of them. And English is the third most spoken language in the world – behind Mandarin and Spanish – so is not always your easiest option either.

Implications of Culture

But wait. There’s cultural differences too. Another conundrum to add into the mix. How do you navigate the minefield of myriad cultures that can frown upon something we might not even think about? Did you know, for example, that the colour white has very negative connotations in India?

Colour expert Kate Smith writes:

“White is the absence of color, and is the only color widows are allowed to wear. It is the acceptable color at funerals and ceremonies that mark death in the family. It reflects the basic quality of the color itself, in principle; white, as a color, repels all light and colors and therefore, when a widow wears white, she disconnects herself from the pleasures and luxuries of active and normal participation in society and life around her.”

Fascinating, and something to think about if you’re selling bridal garments in Mumbai.

Locally Globalised

As if this wasn’t enough, Google and the like now think local. You type in something into a search engine and the top results will be those that are most closely associated with your location and language.

How, then, do you rank highly in Chinese search engine Baidu if you’re based in Yorkshire and exporting to Beijing? Doable. But complicated and costly.

These are just a few of the challenges presented to the modern-day exporter.

Thankfully, as we’ll see in the next few blogs in this series, there are some pretty smart solutions and some interesting opportunities that go along with them.

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