- Posted by Triin Kristian
- On 21 March 2017
Couldn’t we all just choose to communicate in English to always understand each other all over the world? Even though English is often considered the official corporate language and is used for communication when travelling to a foreign country, the answer is still no. There are approximately 6900 different languages spoken in the world and English is the third-most spoken, after Mandarin and Spanish. What’s more, language is not only used for understanding the words when communicating but to express thoughts, feelings, and ideas and the meanings behind them. So what exactly do we gain by communicating in more than just one language?
Understanding Culture, Meaning and Context
Haven’t we all experienced the situation where a friend says that they cannot translate a joke or story because it just wouldn’t make sense in another language? Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein has said, “If we spoke a different language, we would perceive a somewhat different world.” It is true that small nuances and cultural references can often be “lost in translation” or almost impossible to explain in another language. Let’s take an example from the movie industry where it is a known fact that the original title and the same title in another language is hardly an easy translation (the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind becomes something totally different when translated back from its Italian title – If You Leave Me, I Delete You). It is more about making the meaning understandable in a specific language and culture than just purely translating the words. Also, most forms of art are more honestly represented in their native language (lyrics of a song, a classical novel, poetry or a movie). A study by Harvard graduate students suggests that speaking in different languages can even go as far as shaping our preferences.
Doing Business Worldwide
As mentioned before, English is widely used as the official company language, especially when it comes to doing business internationally. But this is not true everywhere. English is not considered a necessity when operating in some of the world’s biggest markets, including China and Brazil. As a matter of fact, 95% of Chinese online consumers find websites in their own language more comfortable and trustworthy. 
Providing localized services also helps to create higher value and build trust with your international customers. According to Common Sense Advisory, 56% of surveyed consumers find the availability of the information in their own language more important than low price. Furthermore, effectively sharing new business ideas and strategies can be very challenging in a different culture and language, but almost three-quarters of multinational companies believe that successful global operations result in increased revenues. 
This also explains why the ability to communicate in more than one language is often considered a competitive advantage when hiring new employees. Multilingualism is one of the key factors to boost processes and guarantee success when taking your company to the next level internationally.
Multilingual communication is a powerful tool, whether you want to become an insider in another culture or create higher value and be more efficient in doing business. It is easy to get “lost in translation” when trying to understand a movie, novel or even just a story told by a friend without knowing the nuances of the language used in the original content. In business, it’s not enough to just rely on “business English,” as some of the world’s biggest markets like China and Brazil do most of their operations in their local language. In addition, consumers all over the world prefer products and trust companies that provide localized content and services. Therefore in order to successfully speak to the world without losing the true meaning behind your message, it is important to do it in the languages most familiar to your global audience.
 Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2016. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Nineteenth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com
 Forrester Research, Translation and Localization of Retail Web Sites, 2009
 California State University at Chico, 2007