Going Global: Why It’s Important for Your Business Documents to “Speak” Local Languages

Doing business globally – either online or off line – is challenging, in a sense that you are dealing with people with different language, culture and local laws/regulations. This probably less an issue if you are doing business in a country with English as the first or second language, but what if you are doing business in, say, Italy, Korea, China and in other countries where language barrier is higher than the rest?

McDonald’s Jakarta, Indonesia – photo credit: chrissam42 via photopin cc

Imagine you need to do business in China. Unless you speak Chinese, you do need someone who can translate for you. Not only conversational, you also need someone to translate your legal documents, marketing materials and so on. You need to find a local contact person AND hire someone or a company (like our friends at EVS Translations) to translate your business documents.

But why is this necessary, you might ask…

Why your business documents should “speak” local

Well, here are some reasons why you need to speak your future partners’ language if you want to create a successful partnership:

1. Legal language is complex – misinterpret a legal document can be fatal

Even for an English-speaking businessman, legal documents are often difficult to comprehend. Often, you need the help of lawyers to interpret them for you. Things get more complicated when your partner doesn’t speak English.

You do need to partner with local lawyer, but most importantly, you need to translate your legal documents. And we all know it’s not an easy job due to the formal legal language used. Hiring someone to translate your legal documents poorly, and yours can ruin the whole partnership.

2. Marketing materials which speak local language well will convert well

It’s embarrassing to say, but in my country, marketers often make mistakes when translating English ads into local language ones. Not only grammatical, but it’s translated poorly in such a way that it changes the context of the ads.

Google does a good job here in my country, doing their homework in crafting commercials, print ads and online ads in local language. It seems that they are partnering with the right marketing agencies. But in my humble opinion, they are not talking to people the way ads should – they are too formal.

McDonald’s, in the other hands, is doing a great job in their ads. They talk the local language and culture; we use a lot of slang here, and McDonald’s incorporates those in their ads.

3. In certain industries, translation accuracy is paramount

Not only in legal and marketing, when you are involving in IT, medical, pharmaceutical, automotive and so on, you clearly need help in translating the prescriptions, manuals and documentations into local language correctly.

There are often dozens of variation of translation from English to a local language, and choosing the wrong word can be fatal, especially when it comes to medicines.


It seems that some companies don’t really do a great job in translating their documents – translations are often underrated. I’ve seen plenty of poorly translated documents, and to me, it seems that the companies are not really serious in entering the local market.

Business-wise, with diminishing geographical boundaries – thanks to the Internet – every company can now do business with anyone. The barrier to entry is at record low. So, if you want a competitive edge when entering a foreign market, the first and foremost thing you should do is to take local language more seriously.

If your business documents “talk” the way locals do, you win.

Ivan Widjaya
Go International, speak local