International Trade

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Third of UK SMEs believe English is the only language needed to trade successfully overseas

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Almost one third of small and medium sized businesses in the UK would feel confident trading or expanding overseas only using English language communication tools, according to Global Lingo research.

Of those polled, 59 per cent admitted that their main concern regarding trading overseas would be the ‘language barriers’, while 21 per cent confessed it would be the lack of local knowledge and business practices that they would ultimately face. As well as this, 15 per cent admitted that they were most worried about the difficulties involved in adhering to different legal requirements when operating / trading overseas.

Despite these initial findings, 29 per cent of the SME business owners revealed that if they were to decide on expanding their business or trading overseas in the near future, they would rely solely on the English language for their website, marketing tools and other communications material. 

When asked why they would do so, the majority explained that they believed English to be the ‘international language of business’ and was therefore the only language needed for trading overseas. But 36 per cent also admitted that they wouldn’t want the ‘expense’ of translating their website and communications material into their target country’s language, while 26 per cent also admitted that they would be ‘nervous’ about trading in a language that they weren’t familiar with, or couldn’t speak themselves.

Furthermore, of the 29 per cent who would use English when trading overseas, 53 per cent sold products or services directly to consumers.

Marketing Director of Global Lingo, Richard Michie, said: “Time and time again we see SME businesses believe that in order to successfully expand their businesses overseas they can rely on English communication methods entirely, as they wrongly assume everyone else will be able to speak their mother tongue. 

“This is simply not the case, particularly for those selling directly to consumers, and many could be missing out on a great deal of potential business by not taking the time to communicate effectively with their target audience. After all, would you feel confident purchasing a product or service that claimed to deliver in the UK, yet communicated entirely in Italian?”

“As our research shows, many businesses could benefit from taking the time to explore the various linguistic options available to them. This is precisely the reason we are offering our exclusive giveaway to businesses, hopefully raising awareness of the current lack of communication between UK businesses and their potential customers overseas, and bridging the gap to enable businesses of all sizes to take the leap and expand their services globally.”

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