Don’t let language be a barrier to entering new markets — or should you?

Amex’s Open Forum recently posted this tweet about entering new markets:

The shortened link points to their article Language Lessons: Tips for Accessing Emerging Markets.

In the article, the writers point out that approximately half the world’s population communicates using just 10 languages—but what do you do if you need to reach a market that doesn’t speak one of them? Continue Reading…

Caught between three languages

Having Finnish as your native language, living in Estonia and working with the Estonian language in your everyday life, and doing most of your reading, blogging and writing in English is something of a challenge to your brain.

I’m finding myself getting caught in the intersection of three languages. Sometimes it’s irritating: I can’t for the life of me remember my native language words for certain things I’m used to describing in another, and it’s difficult to switch languages in mid-sentence, like when I met Mark Schaefer in Tallinn and had to give my order to the café waitress in Estonian when talking to Mark in English.

Then again, they say polyglots live longer because juggling languages keeps your brain more active. There’s also a certain pleasure in knowing you can express yourself pretty fluently on any subject in three languages. Instant gratification, if you will.

But the point of this post is not bragging with my language skills. Actually, I’m a bit worried.

If you’re constantly switching between three languages, will it in the end mean that you will not be fluent in any of them? Or that you will mix them up, accidentally slipping words in one language into your speech in another?

It would be interesting to hear your view on this, if you live in a multi-language environment. Let me know in the comments! Thanks.

Language barrier or cultural barrier?

So you’re thinking about taking your business beyond your home market? Obviously, you will need marketing materials for your new prospective customers. You know that your existing literature, including anything you have online, is focused on your home market, so you will at least get the stuff translated.

What if you’re a US company starting to woo European customers? You already know the Old World is much more fragmented than your American home market, but close to 50 countries and 230 (yes, you read that right, two-hundred-and-thirty) languages? Ouch. Continue Reading…

Now that you’re preparing your annual report, pay attention to its language

It’s that time of the year again—looking in the rearview mirror and accounting for what happened in your business last year.

In line with my mission of turning more and more business-to-business companies into B4B, or Business-FOR-Business companies (read more at ), let me point you to the SEC’s guidelines on how to present your financial and corporate information in language that people can actually read.

(Not a bad idea for your marketing materials, press releases and announcements, either.)

Amplify’d from

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s “A Plain English Handbook: How to Create Clear SEC Disclosure Documents” is available in PDF format. To view a PDF file, you need the Adobe Acrobat Reader.


Writers, get your names right

There was a hilarious story by Kirsten Grieshaber on Associated Press the other day, Heil Hound: Nazis dogged by Hitler-mocking mutt.

The story about a Finnish businessman’s dog trained to lift its paw in a mock Nazi salute is in itself both amazing and hilarious. There’s some sloppiness, however. Although the people’s names are spelled correctly, a total of three typos have managed to find their way to the name of the businessman’s company, two words. Continue Reading…

How Santa’s boots destroyed an ad campaign

Years ago, when print advertising was still going strong in the B2B arena, there was an advertising agency working with a client, a paper machine felt manufacturer, who wanted to run a Christmas campaign in the US.

The agency was in Finland, the home country of Santa Claus (although I’ve also read a claim that he lives in New Jersey—obviously an uninformed source). Santa in Finland wears felt boots, which sparked the visual idea of connecting his felt boots and the paper machine felt.

There wasn’t too much time available, so the agency advanced on all fronts simultaneously. The idea was presented to the client while copy, visual and photography were being done simultaneously to meet the deadline.

Everything went just fine until the layouts were shown to the client’s US sales office. The first thing that happened was that everybody stared at Santa’s boots. You see, the American Santa wears leather boots.

So, everything—the copy, visual and photography—had to be redone. You can imagine the extra work and cost.

All is well that ends well, though. The media deadlines were met, the now leather-booted campaign (with totally remade copy, of course) ran as planned and everyone was happy. I just have to hope the accounting departments of both the agency and the client managed to work out how the cost was divided.

Moral: Be attentive to detail when communicating to a foreign audience. A seemingly minor issue may trash the best of intentions.