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Languages For Business

Here at BonBon Languages, we love everything to do with languages and how they help business. So we thought it would be a great idea to create a series of blog posts showcasing linguistic talent within local businesses. If you’re interested in learning a new language or international business in general, read on for some honest real-life perspectives.

First up, Lauren caught up with Sarah Oxley, Digital Marketing Manager at Electric Design in Drighlington between Bradford and Leeds. Electric Design are a fresh and funky creative marketing agency who specialise in areas such as web development, SEO, social media, design and branding. Sarah speaks German very well.

Sarah, what language do you speak and how did you learn it?

I am lucky to speak German, after having lived there for 13 years as a child. I moved there from the UK at 7 years old and came back when I was 20. Of course, I didn’t know any German beforehand, so I started off with a tutor once a week. Then at school, it was just a case of learning by hearing the same things over and over. Eventually I became fluent in the language.

What do you recommend people do to become fluent?

Totally immerse yourself in the language as much as you can, as I believe you learn languages by repetition. Of course, most people reading this live in the UK, but you can immerse yourself watching TV in that language. I immersed myself when I first arrived in Germany by watching cartoons (being 7 and all, it was a suitable medium for me).

Do you use German in your job now?

I don’t use it every day but there have been times when I have used it. We have had some international clients, including some in Germany, so my skills have come in handy.

How has learning German benefitted Electric Design?

One example is, recently we were pleased to win a new client in Germany. When I made the initial call to them, of course they answered the phone in German. Luckily, I was able to ask for the introduction in German, as it would have just been tricky otherwise. The project soon switched to English as the account manager took over, but the meeting wouldn’t have flowed so well without the introduction. Once we started working with the client, the fact we spoke German really built the trust with them and cemented the relationship.

What would you say to other businesses who have German clients but don’t speak it as well as you?

You can meet half way and switch things to English later. You don’t have to do a full meeting in German. Even knowing a bit can build a relationship and trust.

Don’t all Germans speak English?!

It’s worth mentioning that not all Germans speak English perfectly and confidently, as we imagine. I have come across German clients who were nervous about using English in case they made mistakes. Shyness in speaking languages isn’t just an English thing! Everyone gets nervous speaking different languages.

What would you recommend business people do when they’re shy speaking a language?

It would just have to be: Try to get over it and have a go. Think about getting the good result you want instead of how self-conscious you feel. You learn by having a go and being corrected by people. Don’t feel bad about being corrected either, as people are just wanting to help. And then you will know for next time.

Do you think languages are useful in the marketing world?

Yes. I’ve worked in marketing for over 7 years, and I find having a second language is particularly great for this industry. It’s all about creating and implementing marketing campaigns for brands, and language skills really help with localisation, which is about understanding the culture of the people you’re targeting! You can approach international campaigns much better if you understand the mindset and cultural interests of the people.

Have you had any language barriers in the past at work?

Yes, we once had a client in China, and only a part time Chinese speaker working for us. Calls were difficult, and the client didn’t always have enough patience. Some things were unfortunately just lost in translation, as some English colloquialisms were just impossible to explain. We also worked with clients in Russia and found marketing to Russian audiences more difficult due to not knowing the language and culture.

Having a second language no matter if you use it every day in your job, broadens your own personal mindset which helps you progress in your career. Learning about different language needs and different cultures is especially beneficial for marketeers and people in the creative industry.