Does your company have a good linguistic strategy?
Take this test to find out.
How many languages can your company work in?
Key: Successful companies can tackle linguistic and cultural barriers. Most employees in these companies have an advanced level of spoken English. However, they are aware that although some languages can be understood locally, they are not always used, whether for historical reasons or efficiency.
Does your company hire professional translators/interpreters?
Key: In order to be more competitive, it is important that your company comes across to customers as open and welcoming. A precise and punctual translation/interpreting provides credibility and earns the respect of your customers and foreign partners.
When does your company organise linguistic and/or cultural training for personnel?
Key: For customers, a few words in their own language make all the difference in the way they perceive your company. It is also a message for the workers: "Communicating with customers in their own language is very important, and also fosters my own personal development".
Is your web site multilingual?
Key: Nowadays it is essential that your web site is multilingual if you want to be successful internationally. It is a powerful marketing tool and, for a small amount of money, it will allow you to speak directly with your customers in their language. However, the web site also needs to be culturally adapted. It will not be as effective if the style and format seem "foreign".
Are your employees provided with linguistic technology such as on-line dictionaries?
Key: Linguistic technologies are the first step in enabling your company to work with diverse languages. On-line databases such as IATE (http://iate.europa.eu) are useful tools that are easy to access.
What percentage of your employees can talk at least one foreign language?
Key: The Human Resources departments in the majority of successful companies have detailed records of employees linguistic and cultural skills as well as their international experience. This enables the company to place the employees in the locations that they know about in order to harness their skills.
When your company hires employees with linguistic skills…
Key: Successful companies ensure they hire native speakers of the languages spoken by their customers. They offer employees linguistic and cultural training, which fosters the development of linguistic skills and greater awareness among colleagues.
Before entering a new foreign market…
Key: When entering a new market in which your company lacks suitable local linguistic ability, it is a very good idea to hire local agents to be responsible for linguistic tasks. Many companies confirm that there is a clear link between the use of local agents and increased sales volumes.
Does your company approach local universities to help with linguistic and cultural problems?
Key: Successful companies have found many ways to collaborate with universities in order to solve their linguistic and cultural problems. Agreements can be reached so that foreign students, who are native speakers of the languages spoken by your customers, do work experience placements at your company and help in linguistic matters, from answering the telephone to offering guided tours for visitors.
To what extent is your company prepared for facing cultural and linguistic barriers?
Key: Approximately one in five companies face cultural or linguistic challenges in their commercial activities. How does your company respond to a cultural or linguistic barrier? If your company responds with interest and carries out a brief training course about cultural awareness, or a languages course, that is taught by a native of that culture or language, this shows that the company values and tries to understand the other culture or language and hopes to "get in the mindset" of the customer.
Source: questionnaire based on the Linguistic Guide for European companies. © European Union, 2011