If I am selling to you, I speak your language. If I am buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen.
Willy Brandt, German Chancellor 1969-1974
A few years ago, I studied Translation Studies and was amazed at the depth – or lack of depth – that translation goes to for bringing across the full meaning and effect of a text. And it’s not just a text – even images or gestures are loaded with meaning.
Have you ever thought about what this means in the world of the global workplaces and international companies? Let me make a case for language and local skill becoming your new secret career weapon.
Localisation (or Localization for North Americans)
One of the major industries in which your language skills can put you ahead of every other competitor is the localisation business.
From web design to hairbrushes, companies are realising two things:
- The audience is global
- People will buy from people they trust
Anyone wishing to attract new clients online knows that it’s important to make them feel good from the moment they look at your website. If you want them to put their money on you, not the competition, you have to earn the client’s trust. That’s where good localization comes in.
Translation is often taken for the simple process of changing the words from one language into those of another. That’s what Google Translate does. But if you are really building relationships with readers and users, you have to go a step further. The human translator adds masses of value to any business trading across borders, simply because it’s about making the reader feel like your content was developed just for them.
In video games and Hollywood, localisation has affected key markets for some major projects like Inglourious Basterds. In web design, it means doing justice to a great page and ensuring the user interface doesn’t start looking cheap when you have put thousands into it. In exports, it can make or break your success. Consider the case of Tangle Teezer, who didn’t manage to break into the lucrative German market until they found local distributors for their product. The key was not turning the words into other words, but finding a feeling for customers and the needs of that particular country.
If you speak several languages, you can become any company’s secret weapon. Product names, marketing personas and clients all demand infallible local knowledge and in a sea of applicants, it’s the unusual skills that will set you apart. Last year, I wrote about getting creative in the jobsearch and found the Top 10 Language Sectors out there, and also made a case for putting languages at the top of your CV. How you use your new secret weapon is up to you and your own personal situation.
Good luck, and möge das Glück stets mit euch sein!