By Chris Dove – Professional Writing and Editing for Businesses and Individuals
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Immediately after his Grand Prix win on 7 July at the Hockenheimring in central Germany, Formula One racing driver Sebastian Vettel addressed a press conference during which he was criticised for answering questions in English, not in his native German tongue. Vettel replied that since F1 has millions of fans around the world, it was right to speak in the language they understand. Celebrating his 26th birthday just four days earlier, Vettel is already a success in his field – a young visionary role model recognising the value of reaching out to the world’s English-speaking majority.
That majority is increasingly to be found online using English as their first or second language. Globalisation and easier access to internet users in developing countries means english online content could be your passport to increasing online sales as the international language of business and the dominant language of the internet.
Early language lessons
While Andalucía is the second most important destination for foreign language students travelling to learn Spanish, summer 2013 is seeing increasing numbers of Spanish students heading off to Britain and the United States to improve their English and job prospects at a time when the Cervantes Institute that promotes Spanish language teaching confirms English as the most studied foreign language.
Most people agree the concept of a ´global digital village´ is a good thing, enabling us to share common interests and experiences online from wherever we are to near or far-flung locations. For online traders, it´s about capturing those interests and experiences, converting them into sales.
Reaching your target market through their mother tongue is an obvious start.
Learning to speak to potential clients in their language may be challenging, but with commitment can be done – levels of multilingualism are particularly high here in Málaga where we enjoy the large mix of languages used by international residents and tourists.
Choosing one of five languages was compulsory in my school: French, German, Spanish, Italian or Latin – the vast majority opting for French. Though I only once received a score of 19 out of 20 for an English spelling test (a horrible shock after years of scoring 20 out of 20), how I wish my classmates and I had paid attention during French lessons! If we´d known then what we know now – that the four corners of the world would be within easy reach with computer screens on every desk – we´d have taken languages seriously, practised our pronunciation and learned valuable early lessons in communicating with and appreciating other cultures.
English for Business
Growing numbers of English speakers offer opportunities to reach global markets. According to the British Council cultural relations organisation: “One out of four of the world’s population speak English to some level of competence; demand from the other three-quarters is increasing. The English language makes it possible for companies to develop markets, sell into them and form commercial alliances.”
Under UNESCO´s Strategic Development Programme 2000-2007, I sat on the British Council´s Communications Committee and was sent to speak at an internet conference in Bucharest, Romania during which the entire two-day event was conducted in English.
Global demand for online English language learning increased 41% in the five years to 2011 with researchers Ambient Insight “significantly revising our international forecasts for digital English language learning products upward from the previous forecast.” They recorded English learning rates above 30% in Malaysia, China, Romania and Ukraine with Indonesia, Brazil, Poland, India, Georgia and Russian not far behind.
As hosts of the World Cup in 2014 and Olympic Games in 2016, Brazil is preparing for global exposure. The Brazilian Ministry of Tourism is providing English training to 306,000 professionals for the World Cup alone. During a 7-week holiday touring Brazil ten years ago, I was impressed hearing large numbers of English-speakers in a business hotel in its capital, Brasilia, though very few English speakers in Rio´s hotels and shops.
For more than four years I worked as Contributing Editor for a global trade website and magazine based in America. Responsible for trade news and market reports covering southern Europe, my Spanish knowledge enabled me to construct logical sentences for emails to Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian companies – a strategy resulting in high response rates as many of the people contacted said they appreciated my attempts to correspond in their language. Free online translation services such as SpanishDict and Google Translate are invaluable resources, however, even in these cases you need a reasonable understanding of the other language and neither provide 100% correct equivalents for use in official documents.
The Case for English Content
With Andalucía´s high numbers of English-speaking residents and tourists, shops presenting product and service information in both English and Spanish are bound to do better. The same applies online.
Due to an insatiable appetite for reading and a genuine love of language and culture, I´ve become an experienced promotional business writer. Starting off in print writing Duty and Tax Free Shopping brochures for British Airports Authority, I´ve come full circle writing content for many of the Coast´s companies through my Professional Writing and Editing Service.