Top 3 Takeaways:
- Cultural misunderstandings and language barriers can cost universities and businesses billions of dollars annually.
- As more education and business takes place virtually, there will be increased demand for cross-cultural solutions.
- Educational and business leaders should consider actions to bridge the gap, including hiring multilingual professionals, ongoing training and education, and real-time translation or captioning technology.
Cultural misunderstandings cost US businesses upward of $2 billion a year, according to a study by the US Committee on Economic Development. As trade and commerce continue to globalize, the demand for multilingual professionals and supporting technologies will increase.
What’s more, the 2020-21 pandemic prevented people from traveling, adding more roadblocks to achieving clear communication across cultural lines.
The major shift to distance learning and remote work will remain in effect even after the coronavirus fades, so it’s imperative that educational and business leaders find ways to bridge cultural lines and break down language barriers.
Otherwise, universities and businesses are at risk:
- Retention challenges or declines in enrollment.
- Hurt brand equity and lost sales.
- Failed partnerships abroad.
And more… As many as 80% of executives say they’ve lost business because they have too few employees who can bridge the gap even during non-pandemic times.
But the cost of language barriers extends much further than lost sales. OSHA has reported that up to 25% of workplace accidents are related to language barriers. And for businesses trying to enter new global markets, not being able to speak the native language could be a deal-breaker when establishing distribution partnerships.
In this blog, we’ll explore several options organizations should consider when trying to communicate with others across cultural lines.
Defy the Language Barrier, Opt for Clearer Communication
The language barrier can resemble an impenetrable fortress to businesses and institutions around the world, hindering their efforts to expand, grow and improve. But what are the solutions?
Organizations should consider taking these actions:
- Hiring multilingual talent who can cross cultural boundaries. By some estimates, up to 50% of people in major cities like Los Angeles speak more than one language at home. Organizations must seek out and hire talent with multilingual skills, and help them succeed.
- Translate documentation wherever possible. The website, apps, product and sell sheets, instructions — everywhere organizations need to communicate with others should strive to include the native language for the target audience or buyer.
- Invest in technical solutions that bridge the gap. As more people work remotely and communicate via video conferencing, it’s critical to find ways that supplement communication efforts from afar. Real-time captioning and translation have proven reliable in several applications.
- Ongoing education and training for new or existing employees. While learning a new language takes time and commitment, there is more to learn about another culture that can help add value to business deals, show respect to others, and more.
Certainly, there are more actions organizations from higher education universities to global companies can (and likely should) take. Because every organization is different, it’s best to start with a goal, and then chart a course to meet it.
Cross Cultural Boundaries with Real-time Caption Assist
Up to 93% of school-age children in the US shifted to online schooling during the pandemic, according to the US Census Bureau. Even prior to the pandemic, millions of students attended class online up to the collegiate level. In 2020, up to two-thirds of the American workforce stayed home for their 9-to-5 jobs.
How does this all relate?
People are using audiovisual technology — a.k.a. their phones and computers — for everything now.
One way to help accommodate or diminish language barriers is to integrate caption-assist technology, with real-time translation.
How Captioning Technology Works
Real-time captioning technologies work with audio and video systems to present languages as presenters speak. They’re ideal for:
- Webinars or virtual presentations
- Video conferencing
- Distance learning
The major benefits to the audience is that it allows them to see their language in real-time, preventing miscommunication or confusion. What’s more, captioning systems can also serve as an assistive listening tool for those with hearing impairments or environmental challenges.
Williams AV developed an AI-powered, real-time captioning system, Caption Assist, that can display up to 27 languages and account for up to 70 local dialects. It connects with laptops or desktops, smartphones and audiovisual systems, and it works with major video conferencing platforms like Microsoft Teams and Skype, Zoom and Webex. Find out more about the product here: https://williamsav.com/product/caption-assist/