When planning your company’s internal and external communications, it’s worth considering the language or languages in which you want to communicate with customers, stakeholders and your own personnel. The choice of language or languages should also be considered from the perspective of customer service and social media, among other things. For companies, it’s worth thinking over the following questions: Which languages do our customers speak? Do we only want to reach the Finnish market or are we aiming to go global now or in the future? Do we communicate in just one language or do we use many languages in parallel? If we use several languages, do we divide them into their own channels or do we combine them? Do we also provide customer service in all languages? Which languages work in different channels? Who writes or translates our foreign-language content?
There isn’t one right way of choosing a suitable language for your company, but at least one thing should be borne in mind: consistency. You should settle on one language strategy and execute it in all communications.
What is a language strategy?
A corporate language strategy means you decide on which languages will be used, in which channels and how. This raises a few important questions: is all content available in only one or several languages; which language is used on social media; is your website available in Finnish, English or both; and, in addition to Finnish and English, do you need other languages? In addition, the question of who writes, translates and maintains the foreign-language content is also an integral part of the language strategy. Corporate communications should be linguistically consistent, that is, logical. Choose a language strategy and stick to it.
Delingua renewed its brand in late 2020. In connection with the brand renewal, we decided that Delingua’s social media channels would communicate in Finnish and that our monthly newsletters would be sent in both Finnish and English. In addition, our website has been translated into English and customer service is also available in English. This means we have made a strategic decision to be genuinely Finnish but also an international translation agency by using primarily Finnish and also English. And we have stuck to this language strategy since the beginning of the year.
English, Finnish or both?
Brands with a global character that target international markets often communicate in different channels in English. Communicating in English is certainly an asset on the international market, especially if you don’t yet have a specific region as your target market; however, this may not work in every country. According to one survey, people want service in their native language, so find out where your company’s products and services are in demand and which language is spoken there. This means you can choose the languages that suit your company and direct your message to your target audience. However, if the target group is very broad, it is advisable to start with English and add other languages where necessary.
Many Finnish companies that operate internationally are also present in Finland, and they need to communicate with Finnish customers and stakeholders in Finnish, which can lead to difficulties. Would it be a good idea to communicate in Finnish, English or both languages at the same time? In this situation, you should choose one solution and stick to it so that your communications are as logical as possible. For example, the solution may be that all content is published in both Finnish and English simultaneously, or that separate channels are established for Finnish- and English-language communications.
Do you need other languages?
As mentioned above, studies show that people prefer products and services in their own language. Also, online stores that are localised in different languages attract more local buyers. Therefore, a company’s language choices for communication should depend on who you want to communicate with. If your primary target group is French speakers, you won’t win their hearts using English, but French! Of course, English will take you further in the world than just Finnish, but you shouldn’t trust it to do all the work.
Sometimes, a company may occasionally find a few customers from around the world, but it’s not worth translating a website, online store or communications into less common languages for individual customers. Customer service should also be available in the selected languages. When making language choices, it’s worth considering whether you are ready to invest in all languages when it comes to customer service, marketing, communications as well as the maintenance of language versions. If you decide to include, for example, Swedish or German as part of your company’s language offering, we can help you with translations as well as language training for your staff.
Languages in social media
You will need a slightly different language strategy for social media. For example, if you want to communicate via Twitter in more than one language, you should set up separate accounts for content in different languages. As Twitter limits the number of characters in messages, thus reducing the capacity for multilingual content in a single tweet, you will have to tweet separately in different languages in any case. Whereas on Instagram, images and visuality are central, so you should make sure that the same language is used in your pictures and captions. Of course, the caption can contain the same content in several languages, but only the first few lines are visible to the user at first glance, so the content of those lines needs to be carefully considered.
It’s also possible to post a long text in several languages on Facebook, so you can think about your strategy on Facebook yourself. LinkedIn is an English-language platform where all functions are in English only. However, Finnish-language posts work well in a Finnish network. However, don’t forget that if your network is international, you should also post in English. In some social media channels, you can also use a machine translation tool to translate text, which means your audience in different languages will get at least some idea of what you are saying on social media. However, the quality of machine translations on social media platforms is not the best possible. Also check which social media channels are used in different countries to reach the desired audience.
In social media, you should also remember accessibility, i.e. adding subtitles to videos, for example. It’s often a good idea to subtitle videos in the language spoken in the video, but English subtitles may also be useful from an international perspective.
In multilingual communications, remember consistency and keep a clear focus on your target audience. In international communications, it’s worth considering other language options in addition to English.