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African and Eastern European Translations Increase as UK Businesses Expand Outside EU

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New data suggests a surge in UK business growth in territories such as Africa and Eastern Europe, with business materials being translated into languages such as Zulu, Afrikaans, Serbian and Macedonian at least 2,000 per cent more than three years ago.

In comparison, translations to French (+17%), Italian (+1.9%) and German (+1.8%) have experienced minimal growth, while other languages – such as European Spanish (-5%) – have seen decreases in translation in the same period.

Data from translation and language specialist The Translation People reveals that translations into Macedonian (+3,500%), Afrikaans (+2,400%), Zulu (+2,300%) and Serbian (+2,000%), have the highest reported increases in the last three years.

Figures from The Translation People, which has over 40 years’ experience of delivering high quality translation services in 300 different language combinations, that the 10 fastest growing business languages between 2016 and 2019 were:

  1. Macedonian – +3,500%
  2. Afrikaans – +2,400%
  3. Zulu – +2,300%
  4. Serbian – +2,000%
  5. Burmese – +1,800%
  6. Turkish – +1,200%
  7. Catalan – +870%
  8. Indonesian – +428%
  9. Kazakh – +352%
  10. Tagalog – +329%

In comparison, the fastest decreases in translation have occurred in the following languages:

  1. Punjabi – -75.5%
  2. Galician – -75.2%
  3. Gaelic – -67.5%
  4. Urdu – -48.7%
  5. Swahili – -47.2%
  6. Latin American Spanish – -41.6%
  7. Brazilian Portuguese – -27.3%
  8. Welsh – -20.3%
  9. Malay – -15%
  10. Swedish – -14.4%

Commenting on the insights from The Translation People, Andy Cristin, finance director at Pareto Financial Directive Ltd who specialises in helping UK business expand overseas, said:

“It’s interesting to note these emerging trends in language translation, particularly that there is an increase in translation of UK business material into African languages.

“African and South-Eastern European countries are logical bases for physical supply chain partnerships. They have cheaper labour costs compared to the EU and for the South-Eastern European countries, shorter transport routes than India or China. shorter transport routes than India or China. The workforces are educated, skilled and multi-lingual and the time differences allow for better communications than with the Far East, putting them on a more level playing field with UK employees.

“Overseas expansion to these areas is particularly suited to medium-sized businesses from more traditional industries – manufacturing, automotive and professional services, for example – rather than those with specialist or highly technical operations. For these types of businesses, the sourcing of relevant expertise can work out much more expensive and instead become a drain on a business, rather than an opportunity.

“We expect to see more UK businesses expanding to these areas, too, as the years go by. Brexit is driving businesses to insure themselves with a second source of supply outside of EU territory; those who do so successfully won’t see any need to migrate back to Europe even when trade deals are established, and it will encourage more businesses to consider alternative options to those offered by our closest neighbours.”

Alan White, business development manager at The Translation People, said:

“Language trends such as those identified in our data are indicative of the ways in which UK businesses are changing. Brexit has caused a major shake-up for those that had originally planned to expand into Europe; the uncertain nature of what the future holds in countries such as France, Germany and Spain has seen fewer companies seek a new footprint here and instead they are looking further afield.

“When targeting a new territory, it’s essential to be properly equipped from a linguistic and cultural perspective. Whether a business plans to have a workforce overseas, or to sell to customers there, individuals will more readily buy from and work with brands which are fully localised and are supported by translated websites, videos and user instructions.

“Because we can translate B2B materials into over 300 languages, we are well positioned to help businesses launch their brands or operations into any country of the world, and have supported businesses in sectors as diverse as logistics, car rental services, manufacturing and online learning to do just that. Even in countries where employees and workers are more confident in English, for efficiency, accuracy and inclusivity, it’s always beneficial to have materials translated into the native languages the teams speak.

“This data shows that British companies are feeling more empowered to consider territories they may never have done before, which will continue to put the UK at the centre of global business.”

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