The European Union is a vast multilingual community that takes fierce pride in its rich cultural diversity. There are upwards of 200 European languages being spoken throughout the continent, 24 of which are considered official in the EU.
The region’s celebrated linguistic diversity thus poses a challenge for businesses looking to break into its market. But as they say, with great challenges come great rewards—today, the EU is one of the biggest single markets in the world, which makes it an enticing goal for businesses around the world.
So how do businesses navigate this environment? The answer may lie in taking a serious approach to language and finding the right partner for the job.
This article will take a look at the different challenges that businesses face in coming to terms with the multilingual environment of the EU, and the role of translation services in guiding them through this environment.
The Role of Translation Services in EU Commerce
The EU considers multilingualism to be a founding principle, and as such its official languages find widespread use not only in administration but also in commerce and other fields. Because of this, there is a thriving economy of language professionals and service providers in the region due to consistently high demand.
This is especially true when it comes to doing business in the EU. “Navigating the linguistic landscape of the EU is always a challenge for businesses because of cultural and regulatory factors,” says Ofer Tirosh, CEO of Tomedes, a translation services company with operations in many countries throughout Europe. Tirosh has extensive experience working with business clients looking to break into the EU market, and whose understanding of its linguistic challenges tend to vary. “It’s important to emphasize, especially for companies that have minimal experience—the need to keep language in mind cuts across many significant domains of business strategy at the same time.”
The region has some of the most stringent standards in the world as well as the most varied in terms of the different cultures that businesses need to take into account. According to Tirosh, companies need to take a holistic approach to language in their business strategy if they want to succeed in the EU.
This can be overwhelming for any business without prior experience in the EU market, but Tirosh shares 3 general domains that a holistic, multilingual business approach should target:
- Multilingual marketing and customer service
- Regulatory compliance for product labels and advertising
- Managing legal and tax documents across territories
Multilingual Marketing And Customer Service
This is perhaps the most straightforward challenge for businesses to address—customers prefer products and services that are available in their own language. That’s where translation comes in.
Research by the European Commission has found that up to 82% of consumers are less likely to buy something if it isn’t available in their language, even in areas with relatively high English proficiency. This makes translation essential for businesses to build a good customer experience design at all points of their engagement with a business, from advertising to post-sale customer care.
Expanding into a new market can be a costly endeavor. Each country has its own cultural patterns and preferences that need to be determined through in-depth market research. Professionals working with translation services are often native speakers of a targeted language, and thus have intimate knowledge regarding the different cultures and consumption trends in a particular country, making them a valuable source of insight.
Businesses tend to retain more loyal customers when they provide good customer service as well. Customer service is a more personal experience and requires good communication skills, which makes language all the more important in this field. Some larger companies in the professional translation services industry may offer multilingual customer service along with translation as well.
Regulatory Compliance For Product Labels And Advertising
The EU is well-known for its stringent regulations regarding how products are packaged and advertised. For food, for example, there is a detailed list of nutritional information that needs to be provided and translated into each of the EU’s 24 official languages, depending on where it is meant to be sold.
Recently, the EU placed into full effect a set of expanded guidelines for translating labels, instructions, and packaging for medical devices, set within a more comprehensive regulatory reform framework.
Professional translation services operating in the EU are well-versed in the regulations that are relevant to the industry, and also make a point to stay abreast of ever-shifting developments in the field. As such, they’re able to provide solutions that are up-to-date and compliant with the standards of different countries.
Advertising is also subject to stricter regulations than most other countries, and language professionals are often able to flag content that doesn’t comply with standards, potentially saving businesses the cost of a penalty or fine.
Professional Translation Services’ Role In Managing Legal and Tax Information Across Territories
A business’s language needs in the EU aren’t just limited to products. They also need to pay attention to it in work behind the scenes, particularly in the legal and finance departments.
Translation in the legal sector is already in itself a specialist endeavor due to the different and highly standardized style and grammatical construction of legal discourse. In the EU, the matter is made even more complicated by the fact that this discourse about the law is mediated through 24 official languages dependent on very different national legal cultures.
Finance is another field that handles extra-sensitive data for translation. Companies that do business transactions in the EU may need to draft information in the language of the countries they operate in. The slightest error could become a costly ordeal if it isn’t placed in the hands of professional translation services that can guarantee the necessary background in the financial sector.
Translation Services as a Partner for Success
We hope we’ve illustrated well enough the need to consider language cuts across very diverse aspects of business, and professional translation services are thus a valuable partner in navigating the highly multilingual commercial scene of the EU. A good language strategy isn’t everything, but it’s a crucial first step.