So you can speak the language, but do you truly understand the culture?

We live in a country of 11 official languages, one of the highest number of official languages in the world.

This can poses a major challenge to businesses and brands operating in and around South Africa – do they adopt a common language approach, whereby all their communication is done in a single language (with English widely understood by most to be the global business language), or do they offer all, or even the most relevant languages to the area. This is a major decision that businesses and brands need to carefully consider. Language is the one element, which affects every aspect of any organisation. If a business or brand decides to go the route of communicating in an additional language, there is one vitally important element that they will need to ensure they get right - the element of cultural sensitivity and true understanding.

Simply translating any piece of communication into a different language, if not done with cultural sensitivity and understanding, could spell disaster for businesses.

Having proficiency in written or verbal communication in a language, does not equal having proficiency in the specific cultural elements that vary from not only country to country, but also from region to region. A lack of cultural sensitivity and understanding can lead to serious misunderstandings, negative brand perceptions and damage to the business’ reputation.

The trick for businesses and brands is to hire the right people for the job (who have the necessary cultural sensitivity and understanding), do the necessary research and concept testing and never assume that what worked in one language in one region, will work in a new language within a new region. You know what they say about assumption…

Crafted by Chris Midgley

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