thebigword guest editor Rocco Filomeno Vice President of Sales (Europe) shares his insights into understanding the language of European trade

This morning the dreaded “Engine failure – reduced engine performance” light appeared on the dashboard of my car. Worried about the potential failing, I immediately consult my Italian user manual for information on the reported fault.

“It is recommended to consult your nearest specialist for diagnosis. In the meantime drive your car in ‘emergency mode’ Please be aware that this will result in a reduction in engine performance”.

As I make plans to take my car to an approved service centre, I return the user manual to the glove box. As I do so I notice the front cover, the content of which has been translated into 21 languages.

I recall the words of a Technical Publications manager at a major US car manufacturer in Detroit. “Our documentation is translated into 3 languages to serve the US market, but we also translate it into the languages of the 18 European countries where we have a dealer presence.”

“it is clear language is an important factor for business in Europe”

It seems that the localisation of the manual was less of a customer service delivery and more of an “obligation” dictated European regulation. Indeed the Machinery Directive 2006/42 / EC require that all information accompanying or located on a “machine” must be expressed in the language of the European Union (EU) country in which the machine is sold. Considering there are 24 official languages within the EU, representing 28 member states, it is clear language is an important factor for business in Europe.

This is not just a matter of rules and regulations though because cultural differences are also a challenge for conducting business across Europe. It could be necessary to negotiate with hundreds of different regional and national cultures.

cultural differences are also a challenge for conducting business

If I again reference the automotive market, consider how a manufacturer of electric cars navigates a European launch. Their marketing message may be wholly different from one country to the next. For a country with a strong focus on environmental targets the focus may be on sustainability, yet in my home country where the cost of fuel is amongst the highest in the world, cost benefit would be a stronger message.

Language Service Providers (LSPs) can support exporters with these challenges. Through solutions such as ‘Transcreation’ also known as ‘Marketization’, ‘cultural adaptation’ or ‘multilingual copywriting’, bespoke communications are entirely possible. This solution adapts materials so that they communicate the message effectively to the target audience.

So prior to taking your trade across Europe, look not only to comply with regulation and standards but also to partner with a trusted Language Service Provider who can help you to identify and respond to social, cultural and business practices.