The Multilingual Market Dilemma

By Slava
Aug 13, 2009 · 3 min

Garnering an international audience has always been the ultimate objective of many Internet-based businesses since the concept of e-commerce first came to fruition. It is no surprise that the world-wide-web makes it a lot easier and cheaper to connect to millions of people from all walks of life and from all corners of the world. Industries involving online retail, multinational companies, web-based content, online gambling, software development, and many others have used the Internet for promotions with the caveat of eventually breaking into the promising and lucrative international market.


Not so fast. If your company is one of those organizations seeking to globalize and expand themselves with the help of cyberspace, you'll soon realize that there are obstacles and obstructions on your path to international success—namely, the language and cultural barriers of each and every last market or region you try to penetrate. The knee-jerk reaction that many of these companies have for such a problem is to provide multilingual support for their customers.


Solutions to the Multilingual Market Dilemma


  • Multilingual Support Centers: In truth, this is quite an effective way to solve the above mentioned impediment: establishing support centers in various locations filled with native speakers of different languages. You'll be able to pass the hurdles of translation gaffes and cultural boundaries simply by using the resources of the market you're trying to penetrate to help you with your translation work. However, this method tends to be so cripplingly expensive that only would-be multinational enterprises can avail of it. Small companies who depend mostly on Internet access to garner an international audience will not be able to afford setting up multilingual support centers; that's simply out of the question.
  • Multilingual Email Support: For smaller or startup corporations, they'll just have to settle with the next best thing to multilingual support centers: multilingual email support. Either that or they have no choice but to limit support to English-speaking customers only and hope that one day their company will grow large or successful enough to get better options.
    • Machine Translation: Machine translation a la Google Translate or Yahoo Babel Fish is also a viable option for a largely English-speaking business that clamors for a worldwide Internet audience. Unfortunately, the problem with most machine translation tools is that they tend to make your work look worse than better. Until the time when these programs become advanced enough to understand normal human conversation the way normal humans do, they won't be able to produce satisfactory results. In that regard, human translation is infinitely better than its machine counterpart.
    • Translation Services: Companies can also opt to use professional translation services to translate all incoming emails, have the support team answer them in English, then have the translation service translate the reply back to the language native to their customers. However, this approach is quite time consuming and expensive, especially for emails that tend to go back and forth.

In conclusion, the choices you have for providing multilingual support depend on the financial circumstances and size of your company. If you're a multinational company who could afford getting multilingual support centers for your customers, then by all means, avail of that method. You'll get to have full control of the quality and volume of your translation department, there's no lag time in between replies to messages, and your native-speaking workers won't be committing any cultural gaffes and faux pas that could reflect negatively on your company.


If you're a small business looking for a more affordable way to have your support email translated, then Transbox or similar Internet-based solutions may be the answer. Either way, avoid using machine translation for International customer support if you want to retain your customers.


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