After three market research conferences in four weeks – first in DC, then back home to Chicago and lastly in Cincinnati – and lots of interesting conversations with global researchers and technology providers around language and translation and getting it right, I started writing a blog to highlight some of those conversations. During a break, I found myself chatting with a conference participant from India who speaks seven languages. He talked about the connections you’re able to create when you speak to someone in their language, and I referenced Nelson Mandela’s quote:
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
A few minutes later, I hit delete on my draft and decided to pivot from writing a technical blog on translation and transcription best practices for research (you can check out this one for some tips) and instead zoom out to talk briefly about the importance of connecting with people’s hearts – and how to do that effectively through language.
Researchers and brands – and those, like me, who support both – strive to connect authentically with our audiences. Our goal is to understand the thoughts, beliefs and drivers behind their actions and to represent their voice. When working in global markets, this becomes even more challenging, as we often work in languages we ourselves don’t understand, with cultural norms and references that are far outside our expertise. In these instances, we put our trust in others to help navigate linguistic and cultural differences, essentially crossing our fingers and hoping that we understand and are understood – and are able to arrive at accurate and actionable insights.
Language provides a lens through which we see the world. Yet when budgets are tight and timelines even tighter, language often becomes a problem to solve. Can we run our surveys through Google Translate? Crowd-source our focus group transcriptions? Conduct interviews in English, even though it’s not the native language of our participants?
When it really matters, you need that shared lens. Of course there are times that machine translation, crowdsourcing or English will suffice, but if you want to talk to people in a way that connects with their hearts and hear their authentic voices, you need more than that. And that means planning and budgeting for it. Getting your client to understand the value of it. And then finding an experienced partner with both linguistic and cultural expertise that you can trust.
Ready to talk to that partner? Connect with us.