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Getting the message across

 

Talking business isn’t restricted to exclusively speaking English. Xavier Louyot (pictured), Dolce Hotels and Resorts, explains how multilingual content can create global opportunities for your business.

Generating content for global markets and communicating to a multilingual audience is a challenge that comes part and parcel of a global position or organisation, especially given the pressure to standardise and comply with internal and international standards.

A common risk is to see the meaning in your messages either lost or altered because of these language differences. Culture, translation, writing, and design always interweave in curious ways when presenting to a multilingual audience; so keeping it simple is often the key to avoid misinterpretation and to keep communication lines clear and concise.

By putting some simple techniques into practice you can ensure that you get your message across effectively and accurately to your associates and clients, not just in their language, but in ways that show that you value and respect their culture.

Keeping it simple

Start by keeping sentences short and, where possible, use bullet points. This is good practice in any presentation; but is even more important if you are communicating to audiences in a language that is not their mother tongue. Bullet points allow a speaker to identify clear key points and keep audiences focused on the most important or relevant elements of the presentation.

In the same way that sentences should be short, the vocabulary and grammar chosen should be as easy and simple as possible for audiences to understand. Sticking to plain words and sentence structures will ensure the audience is focussed on the presentation and not pre-occupied by a word they cannot translate or understand.

Of course, there will always be times when it’s hard to avoid certain words or expressions that do not translate. Perhaps you need to use a colloquial term or a reference to the local dialect, either way, in this instance it is useful and completely appropriate to give audiences an explanation or definition of the word or expression. This enables you to put it within the intended context and avoids any confusion or the message being diluted.

A common interest

It’s often hard with multilingual audiences to find a shared interest but it’s this common ground that helps communities come together and can really make or break a conference. Including references or giving examples that resonate across cultures is an effective way to develop a rapport with your audience and, at the same time, bring delegates together. Building this sense of camaraderie amongst audiences can often lead to more productive breakout sessions and networking around a conference or event.

Finally, it’s useful to remember that it’s best to use formal language when addressing a multilingual audience. Informal vocabulary is very specific to each culture and is not always learnt when a language is being taught at school or university. Sticking to formal language ensures you don’t alienate your audience or worse still, offend them.

The above are just a small amount of tips and hints to put into practice when communicating to a multilingual audience; but most of all, the best tool you have is your smile. A person who smiles exudes friendliness, openness and approachability.

Even if audiences don’t understand everything you have said, say it with a smile and they will feel comfortable enough to approach you with a question. For something that is universally understood and costs nothing to give, the value of a smile cannot be underestimated when it comes to breaking down language barriers and engaging international audiences.

Xavier Louyot is Global Director, Marketing and PR for Dolce Hotels and Resorts.

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