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SMEs language fail

Sixty-eight per cent of SME owners who attempted to set up business overseas without linguistic help failed, according to a new study by Global Lingo.

A further 47 per cent said the most difficult part of setting up business abroad was attempting to overcome ‘cultural boundaries’. A fifth (21 per cent) explained that the main factor jeopardising their overseas expansion was a misunderstanding of the currency and different tax and VAT factors in various countries. Plus, 13 per cent said that ‘failure to prepare and become knowledgeable on local laws, rules and regulations’ was a contributing factor in their disappointments overseas.

Meanwhile, over half (53 per cent) of SME owners said they did not seek professional help linguistically when first attempting to trade or converse with customers overseas. Of this 53 per cent, the vast majority (71 per cent) said they attempted to speak the language themselves without professional help. Some  42 per cent claimed that they used ‘a mixture of English and target language’ in marketing material when conversing with customers, whilst 37 per cent used ‘online translation tools’ to do business overseas. Only 18 per cent employed native speakers to help with their efforts.

Richard Michie, marketing and technology director at Global Lingo, said: “It seems that many SMEs in the UK are guilty of attempting a ‘DIY’ approach when it comes to language overseas, but although many may have great language skills under their belt- avoiding professional help is never advisable. The fact is that competition is tough, and if you don’t take the care to present yourself in as professional a light as possible, you may well be losing yourself important business and putting yourself in a vulnerable position. It’s unlikely that any businesses would allow spelling and grammatical errors in their marketing material here in the UK, so why should the same be said for overseas?”