If the UK’s Export Markets Speak English, Why Translate at All?

Countries are increasingly becoming multilingual. International trade continues to rise and travel/migration is a much more common occurrence. As a result, the languages spoken in countries worldwide are diversifying.

The common conception is that English is the universal language and that in the majority of countries it is widely understood. In countries with strong UK export and trade markets, English is often spoken widely as a second language.

So we’re often faced with the question; if English is spoken in the UK’s main export markets, why do we need to translate for export?

There are many reasons why translation is important for successful exporting and understanding is just one.

Not All UK Export Markets Speak English
According to Barclays, the top 10 UK export markets (for their customers) are:

  1. Germany (German)
  2. France (French)
  3. United States (English - often localised to US EN)
  4. Netherlands (Dutch)
  5. Ireland (English / poss Gaelic)
  6. Italy (Italian)
  7. Spain (Spanish)
  8. Switzerland (German, French, Italian, Romansh)
  9. Belgium (Dutch, French, German)
  10. UAE (Arabic)

As you can see from the above, just two of the UK’s main export markets speak English.

Although many countries do speak English as a second language, many people only speak English on a conversational level – not appropriate for serious commercial communications or sophisticated marketing channels.

Therefore, to communicate more in-depth product information, it is better to translate the information into the native language of the export market.

To Integrate with Customers
Exporting products in English will instantly separate offerings from those of native companies and other exporters that have translated.

Looking local and feeling native are powerful marketing strategies used by big brands worldwide. Translating product packaging has a positive impact on the marketing of a product, as it will give it a familiar, integrated feel.  A buyer does not pick up a product, for example, and think ‘this has been translated’, they think ‘this is for me’.

Willingness to translate and conform to the country’s native language and cultural preferences shows you want to do business in their country on their terms, not yours.

To Ensure Legal Compliance
When translating the information on product packaging, it isn’t just about being understood. It’s about being compliant.

Every country has its own legal requirements when it comes to most product packaging. No matter what language the information appears in on the packaging, it must comply with these requirements.