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4 Trends in Multilingual Communication and Business

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There are approximately 8 billion people in the world right now.

However, only 1.4 billion of this figure are multilingual or speak more than two to three languages out of the over 7,000 languages we have.

The remaining 7 billion plus? 

They are either monolingual (one language) or bilingual (two languages). And most of your target audience falls within this category. So, you’ll likely hit language barriers head-on if you want to communicate with them.

To avoid that, we’ve put together four significant multilingual communication trends to look out for and some steps to integrate them into your business. 

But first, let’s see how multilingual communication evolved to become a big determinant of business success.

What is Multilingual Communication?

Multilingual communication is the ability to effectively talk and interact with people who speak different languages. 

This involves using multiple languages flexibly to achieve your communication goals, rather than relying on just one language. It also means using body language, the environment, and other resources beyond just words to help overcome language barriers. 

Successful multilingual communication requires adapting your language and style to the needs of your conversation partners, rather than expecting them to conform to your preferred language. The key is valuing linguistic diversity and finding ways to build common ground using the languages and resources available to you. Overall, multilingual communication is about flexibly using your full range of language skills and other communicative tools to interact productively across language boundaries.

The Rise Of Multilingual Communication In Business

Centuries ago, multilingual communication was less common. 

Most organizations limited their marketing reach within their native borders. Archiach tribes resorted to common gestures and hand signs for enhanced interterritorial collaboration. The more advanced countries used human translators to build diplomatic relationships.

But fast-forward to a decade ago, early influences such as tourism gradually spurred individuals to learn new languages for effective communication and bonding with new geographics. Multilingual communication became more prominent as tourism travels rose to 1.3 billion in 2023 alone. 

Technology and internet access have also accelerated the speed at which businesses extend their reach beyond geographical lines to other regions. Think about Amazon, McDonald’s, Starbucks, and many others.

Let’s not forget a main driving force for business multilingualism in this era – the GenZs. These are digital natives and fore-front advocates for more globalized online content. Unlike the millennials, who are mostly bilingual, GenZs primarily identify as multiracial, multilingual, and non-ethnic. 

According to Ryan Hammill, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Ancient Language Institute, “Although over 1.5 billion people speak English, most GenZs do not consider it a second language but just an addition to many other languages they have learned.” So, it’s unsurprising that this age group pumps more adrenaline for language globalization and accurate communication.

Multilingual communication has become essential for success from tourism and technology to the internet and GenZs. And businesses must harness it for a strong marketing strategy.

4 Multilingual Communication Trends To Look Out For In 2024

We see the need for multilingual communication every day, from connecting with audiences in other geographical regions to networking with foreign business authorities in the industry.

As the hype grows, here are some trends your business needs to look out for.

1. Integration of Multilingual Event Technology

As a business owner or salesperson, you’re either in a video conference with stakeholders today or trying to close a potential client over a call tomorrow. In both cases, there’s a likely possibility your audiences are non-native speakers. And even if they speak your target language, there is a chance the presentation will be too basic and challenging to follow through.

Could you use human interpreters to fill in the gap?

Well, human interpreters are… human and versatile. That’s why they’re not going out of style anytime soon. Some services like Boostlingo connect businesses with professional on-demand interpreters for video and over-the-phone interpreting.

But you can’t work with on-demand interpreters for all types of multilingual content.

Take training programs as an example and assume your target market encompasses several regions with dozens of languages. If you want to hold a training video call with foreign vendors, you can invite simultaneous interpreters to the session. 

However, not all vendors will understand the slides. Some will tune out.

Most leading organizations understand this fact, and that’s why they’re adopting Multilingual Event Technology. For instance, HanesBrands Inc. uses Boostlingo’s Multilingual Event platform to simultaneously host compliance training meetings for vendors in five languages. These tools offer translated slides and spoken word and blend perfectly.

For better results, Stephanie Lingle, Manager of Global Anti-Bribery Program and Product Safety at HanesBrands, says, “Having interpreters there and being able to speak in your audience’s language – first language – makes all the difference in the world in their complete understanding of the material.” 

At the same time, you should look for a platform that can seamlessly integrate with global video conferencing tools such as Zoom and provide live translations of the meeting content.

2. Introduction of Cross-border And Multilingual Workforce

99% of companies reported a language skill gap in 2019 despite a 14% increase in demand for bilingual talents between 2016 and 2019. Most importantly, over 75% of UK employers prioritize bilingualism, and 66% of US employers even offer employees incentives to learn at least two languages. 

All these stats show the growing importance and need for a multilingual workforce within every organization. But it’s not without reason.

Take a multilingual customer support team as a case study. Each team member only needs to handle customer complaint interactions that come perfectly in the language they understand—including cultural nuances, minor abbreviations, interpretations of common words, and even signs. That’s far better than a monolingual team that is only effective when communicating with natives and struggles with complaints presented by non-natives.

Stephan Baldwin, Founder of Assisted Living, also believes multilingualism creates workforce diversity, providing growth opportunities. He says, “A multilingual workforce usually consists of people from different backgrounds and cultural nuances. And each person comes to the table with suggestions and opportunistic strategies based on their personal experiences as natives of your target region.”

For example, a German-born salesperson on your multilingual team will have a more explicit scope of connecting with your target audience in Germany because they understand and respect the cultural and language specifics far better.

When building a multilingual team, you can provide language upskilling programs for your existing workers or hire new multilingual talents, especially those from your target locations. The former is more cost-effective, but the latter offers insight into the region-specific language and behavioral differences.

3. Multilingual AI Tools for Business

In a multinational company, video calls and meetings with international team members are everyday stuff. Here’s the thing: you can’t always have an interpreter for every meeting.

That’s why top companies are now turning to AI-powered translated captioning. These tools can instantly turn what’s said in one language into another, type out what everyone is saying as it’s spoken, and even read translations aloud if you’d rather listen than read.

By using AI-translated captioning tools, businesses can make sure teams are on the same page, which can break down linguistic divides and make meetings smoother and more productive.

For good results, Volodymyr Shchegel, VP of Engineering at Clario, says, “Businesses should integrate an AI-driven language translator that can analyze sentiments, not just the speech. This pinpoint feature allows it to deliver accurate translations and captions, carry the same weight and emotions as though written by the speaker, and resonate better with readers.”

There are also tools for communicating with customers.

In 2023, 88% of customers interacted at least once with a chatbot, and about 62% of companies plan to make chatbots their first customer support line. Given the rate at which technology advances, it’s safe to say virtually every business will integrate chatbots on their websites in a couple of years.

The only problem is that most traditional chatbots are monolingual or, at most, bilingual, and they are configured to analyze or respond to queries in just a few languages. But they can do more than that.

In the words of Brooke Webber, Head of Marketing at Ninja Patches, “Artificial Intelligence is changing the business landscape, including how bots operate. With machine learning algorithms and natural language processing, you can train your chatbots to understand different languages and respond likewise.”

That means when a customer sends a complaint in Yoruba, a tribal language in Nigeria, your AI-enhanced bot can respond with the same. It must be able to do this with the necessary semantics.

To ensure your AI-powered chatbot has a good scope of all necessary languages, you can create a campaign requesting different people from different regions to interact with it. Of course, you should provide incentives to enhance maximum participation. Many companies also offer pre-collated data for AI training in case you want to skip the line.

Once done, integrate your multilingual bots into marketing channels from websites to social media pages to assist customers and respond to complaints. Or use them as virtual assistants to handle various cross-border tasks without a hitch.

4. Multilingual Marketing

According to Jim Pendergast, Senior Vice President at altLINE Sobanco, “The advent of technology and the internet has enabled businesses to break past the restrictions of borders and engage customers continents apart. But this also comes with the need to globalize our marketing approach to cater to our diverse audiences equally.”

Take Amazon as a case study. 

This book company initially started from a Garage and primarily served the locals. 

Amazon serves the whole world—save a few regions with particularly strict laws, like North Korea. However, this cross-border marketing also comes with language disparities.

While over a billion people speak English, about six billion don’t, whether as first, second, or just catalog language, so Amazon’s lingua franca page was bound to fail due to its inability to meet the multilingual needs of all its audiences. Lingua franca means an agreed language used by natives and non-natives for communication, and the most common one for businesses is English.

To resolve this, Amazon had to roll out multiple translations of its pages besides English. Customers from Spain can now toggle the language button (a universal toggle button that often starts with EN) and quickly switch to their language of choice—Espanol. The same goes for Portuguese and Chinese users.

Most importantly, this change affects all Amazon pages, blog content, youtube channel, product descriptions, and other materials that customers might want to access.

Source: Amazon

Anthony Martin, Founder and CEO of Choice Mutual, also contributes, saying, “Multilingual marketing goes beyond your website only. Your social media pages, from LinkedIn to Facebook, must be optimized to cater to other ethnicities whenever they visit your profile. The same goes for your email campaigns. Create multiple language variations and personalize for each region.”

Wrapping Up

There’s so much pressure to meet the needs of your potential customers or risk losing them to competitors. And one of the ways to tip the scale in your favor is by proactively implementing the multilingual trends we’ve discussed. You want to speak in a language your audience understands.

For training departments, integrate multilingual event technology into your conferencing tools to enhance global training programs. Multinational teams should use AI-powered translated captions to improve communication during day-to-day meetings between teams of diverse cultural backgrounds. Other steps include building a multilingual workforce and implementing a multilingual marketing approach to cater to a broader audience.

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