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With English being the official language of Australia, you could be forgiven for thinking a website, call centre and advertising in English is all you need. But scratch beneath the surface, and you’ll find large communities speaking other languages, and crying out for information in their native tongue.

Don’t most LOTE (Language Other Than English) speakers in our country know enough English anyway?

We know the stats: since 1945, more than 7 million migrants have made Australia their home, and 45% of our population is born overseas or has at least one parent born overseas. While many certainly do know English, learning the language takes time. Even migrants who’ve been here longer often continue to speak their native language at home and/or within their community and don’t have the same proficiency in English.

So, the question to be considered here is: does your target audience have sufficient English skills to understand technical content and marketing offers, as well as subtleties, metaphors or whatever else you are using to get the message across? Nelson Mandela said it well – we want to not only speak to their head, but also to their heart.

“Why should we invest in translation? Newcomers to our country should learn our language!”

Most migrants make an effort to learn English. But again – to reach a proficient level takes time. Another thing to keep in mind is that migrants who come to live here don’t only bring skills or material values, but also a lot of memories from their home, and a deeply entrenched cultural background. As Senator, the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, stated: “Newcomers to this country are not expected to surrender their heritage, but they are expected to surrender their hatreds.” Culture is something that we cannot expect to just be forgotten. If we want to reach our audiences successfully, using the language that they are most familiar with is the most direct and effective way.

Where to find figures for your geographical area

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) offers a range of reports on numbers of people in Australia who have been born overseas on their website www.abs.gov.au. One particularly useful and free search function is provided through QuickStats by Country of Birth, where you can select a country of birth and further refine the search to obtain results for defined geographical areas within Australia.

The ROI on translating materials into other languages

Australia’s cultural diversity is an asset; it brings to us a knowledge of markets, is a source of economic strength and gives us a competitive edge in an international business world. By providing translations for multicultural Australians, we help to increase their understanding of Australian business and life and thus help maximise these benefits to our economy.

Moreover, information provided on a product or service in one or more foreign languages will also be a driver for its acceptance and sales. Research in Europe and North America has shown that online visitors stay twice as long on websites that offer content in their native tongues; that businesses are three times as likely to buy when addressed in their native language;  and that high-quality translations enhance an organisation’s brand image.

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