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Don’t let your business become a tower of Babel

Companies of all sizes are finding they need to work globally. Large enterprises will by necessity cover a number of territories, each with its own languages, customs and expectations. For most companies, the process of globalization will only accelerate, as mergers, acquisitions and expansions bring more and more nationalities into the fold.

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), too, are increasingly dealing with suppliers, partners and potential customers overseas. Technology has made it feasible, and affordable, to locate, and work with, the best partner for a given job.

The main barrier that remains is language. If the expert or authority you need to speak to doesn’t speak your language or you theirs, it can be tempting to try and muddle on alone, or ask someone who may not actually know that much about the subject but is more accessible.

English is not the only language

The other temptation, if English is your mother tongue, is to resort to the time-honored approach of shouting loudly in English (or doing the online equivalent). English may still be the lingua franca of business, but the more this strategy is relied on the greater the risk of a misunderstanding. Socially, too, it can be rude and disempowering to force someone to communicate in a language they’re not comfortable with.

The logical way to tackle this problem is through automatic translation. While the results may not always be perfectly idiomatic, they enable people to communicate freely and comfortably.

Look for real-time translation

If you choose a tool with translation built into the collaborative processes, you can get your conversation translated as you go along. We’ve incorporated that feature into our Service Manager product: in addition to a multi-language user interface, it provides real-time translation for online discussions. That gives users a choice about the language they use to exchange ideas and information.

Let’s just think about what this means. Users, internal and external, can talk to one another, and to technical experts, regardless of the languages they speak. That means they can always consult the best person for a given situation, instead of settling for someone who speaks their language but may not actually have the answers.

Gerry Sweeney

Written by Gerry Sweeney

Gerry founded Hornbill in 1995 and has been responsible for the architecture, design, and planning of the products and technologies that form the core of Hornbill's solutions today.