24 Apr 2015

The Impact of Language in a World Gone Social

Ask many people what “hobby” they’d like – or need – to start, and “learn a new language” is at or near the top of the list.

Take that question to another level and ask those in the C-suite, business development types and deal-brokers everywhere, what would help them most as they capitalize on rising markets worldwide, and many – especially in the United States – might respond the same as those hobbyists: “Learn a second language.”

Yet not many do. We simply do not have – or do not take – the time.

In the Social Age, where global economies are brought together with a single tweet, post or comment, this means poor communication, missed opportunities, failure to develop critical relationships and, ultimately, lost business.

This also means that it’s an amazing time for professionals who specialize in translation.

For quite some time, translators – from independent operators to global service bureaus – have been in high demand. Website copy, search engine optimization and blogging have led to increased opportunity.

And, just when we didn’t think demand could get any higher, along comes social media:

  • Facebook posts. Tweets. Images on Pinterest and Instagram. Instant messaging. Text messages.
  • Customer service chat lines. LinkedIn Group discussions. Google+ threads. Online shopping portals.
  • SnapChat. YouTube channels. Zoom meetings. Most recently, Meerkat and Periscope presentations.

The list of new – and nearly instant – digital delivery methods goes on and on; it seems like there are more coming every day. For an organization with global concerns – which you likely are – this means many communications require careful interpretation in real-time. The sense of urgency has never been higher.

Do You Fear Languages’ Impact?

As discussed in A World Gone Social, research demonstrates that many executives and organizations fear the impact language will have on their lives, workplaces and bottom lines. In the Industrial Age, after all, international business plodded along; there was abundant time for careful translation. And even if there were an immediate need, we could count on Google or an enterprise-level solution to translate a document for us, right? Wrong…as many organizations find out the hard way.

This is a whole new world. This is a world gone social.

Social Media’s Effect on Language

Today, in our world of instant communication and gratification, effective translation often must happen before someone in another language can write a 140-character tweet. Or before a social media lynch mob – angry over an escalating issue in Europe, perhaps – fills a Facebook page with caustic comments. Or a group of passionate citizens in Japan hijacks a well-intended Google+ Hangout.

Today’s global economy works at speeds never anticipated. And business giants are coming from every corner of the globe. What business, for example, doesn’t want to become the next Alibaba – China’s colossal entity that is seemingly taking over the e-commerce world?

In addition, many companies leverage low-or-no-cost internet communication methods to expand operations to international offices. While this diversity is generally considered a competitive advantage, cultural and language barriers within these organizations are becoming more common.

And herein lies the opportunity for those who speak multiple languages and understand a variety of cultures. This is real opportunity, brought on by the impact of social media.

In our new economy, how will you enable effective – and real-time – communication in a world gone social? Translators are one big option to consider.

Mark Babbitt is CEO of the award-winning career site YouTern and President of Switch and Shift, a site that champions social leadership. He co-authored the Amazon Best Seller, A World Gone Social: How Business Must Adapt to Survive


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