When I chose to devote my post-secondary education to language, I had no idea what I was really in for—how it would affect how I see, hear, and experience the world. I was ever-altered by learning, firsthand, how non-native English speakers hear communication that is translated, but not interpreted, as many sentences do not come with a one-to-one comparison. Translation rarely, if ever, works.
Animated Disney movies, wrought with fewer dubbing issues than other films because the character’s lip movements weren’t so egregiously mismatched to a script, taught me that the humor was different and that play-on-word and other jokes simply didn’t work in the other language. After subscribing to Latino cable channels, I found that the commercials were directly translated, therefore missing the mark by being off-message, confusing, or distracting due to how unnatural they sounded in the target tongue.
What I learned? Communication. Language. Semantics. These are core challenges when determining just how to get your message across to your audience.
Say what you mean.
An estimated 40 percent of the U.S. population speaks a language other than English. Figuring out how to say what you mean may mean communicating in a language that isn’t as familiar. Even if English is your audience’s primary language, it may not be what they choose to speak at home, as they keep culture alive and appreciate both the challenge and amelioration of their overall experience brought by walking, daily, in a world of blended language.
Communication is more about what your audience hears than the words you use to speak to them. The issues or concerns of a specific non-native English speaker in your demographic may warrant a unique or specifically directed approach. How do you give them the right message when they tune into your channel?
Know your audience.
Determining what will intrigue your audience may vary based on their background. What will catch their attention? If you’re marketing clean water solutions, what will pique their interest: more cost savings or that a viable solution for potable water exists?
As part of the audience, I want to feel understood. Present a well-tailored message that speaks directly to me and you give me cause to turn my head and pay attention. I would support a brand that mastered the difference between translation and interpretation… even if I had to pay a premium.
Start asking questions.
You are likely to have a multitude of people around you, in your business, who speak a language other than English. Start asking questions. Leverage their talents to ensure that your message is on point and truly crosses over the language barrier. It’s a sure-fire way to stand out from the competition and you’ll know that what you mean to say is truly what your audience hears.