Use lockdown to learn a new language, businesses told

Thu 14 May 2020
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

language learning

Lockdown presents staff and businesses an opportunity to gain the language skills needed to succeed in international trade, translation experts have told the Daily Update (14 May).

Language apps such as Busuu, Memrise and Duolingo have surged in popularity during the pandemic, with much of the UK’s working population staying at home, either as employed or furloughed staff or having been made redundant.

Bdaily reports that London-based Memrise saw a 71% increase in new user registrations in the UK in April and 31% increase globally, while Busuu told the Update they saw a 300% spike in new users from Italy and China in March.

Busuu also said they have seen an increase in businesses using its corporate offerings as a way of “offering support to employees at home or on furlough.”

According to Eva Túnez Salvador, director of Genuine Translations, exporters should also take the time to learn the languages of their target markets.

She told the Daily Update that businesses need to “understand their target client’s language and culture in order to sell products or services to them.”

Language matters

Although English is widely spoken in many markets, 72.4% of consumers are more likely to buy a product when information is provided in their own language, according to the Harvard Business Review.

The same research shows 72.1% of consumers spend most or all of their time on websites in their own language.

As a result, many UK companies lose international business by not properly translating their product information or websites, according to Alan White, business development manager for The Translation People.

Hard work

However, while language learning apps provide a useful starting point, White says becoming a fluent speaker is “hard work” and “requires individuals to immerse themselves in the language for some time.”

Translation companies have an important role to play, both White and Salvador argue, though “nothing beats” having multilingual staff.

“A professional translator has gained qualifications and experience over the years and has specialised in specific fields to make sure your marketing, technical and legal documentation is translated and localised effectively,” says Salvador.

“Translation companies such as ourselves can certainly help,” says White. “However, with regards to sales and direct conversations with clients, nothing beats a member of staff being able to liaise with customers in their own language.”

Top languages

Data from Duolingo in April, reported in Business Insider, showed the most popular languages being learnt on their app during the pandemic are:

  • English for Spanish speakers – 28.6 million learners
  • Spanish for English speakers – 25.8 million learners
  • French for English speakers – 14.4 million learners
  • English for Portuguese speakers – 11.1 million learners
  • German for English speakers – 8.18 million learners