Why you no longer need to learn Chinese for your business…

As a business owner there’s no doubt you’re already busy, in fact you’re probably stretched to the max.

So why not throw learning a new language into the mix. How about Chinese?

For most of us, it’s just not feasible.

But the reality is that the consumer landscape is becoming increasingly global and in all likelihood your customers are not just locals but people from around the world.

Leading the global stampede for new products and services is China – a country with enormous spending power but where only one per cent of the population can understand English.

So the bottom line is you need Chinese language skills.

However, learning Chinese is almost impossible and employing Chinese speaking staff is expensive. So what to do?

There’s no doubt the language barrier is a problem but it’s one you must solve to ensure you don’t miss out on the millions of dollars that are being spent here by Chinese tourists, immigrants, visiting relatives and business people

For business, a new perspective on language is needed and maybe if we think outside the square, speaking another language doesn’t need to be that hard.

China Blueprint’s Lisa Goodhand speaks fluent Chinese but surprisingly doesn’t believe studying Chinese is the best solution for business.

“I dedicated four years to learning Chinese but I truly believe that this pathway is now extinct. It’s time to let technology do the hard work for us,” she explains.

“It’s the only way business can realistically keep abreast with the ever-changing consumer market. And although China is the talk of today, what happens when a new language rears its head and becomes the next best thing?

“In my view the future looks a little bit like Star Wars, Return of the Jedi when R2D2 was asked how many languages he spoke, his response “I am fluent in over 6million forms of communication…” He’d be a handy guy to have in your store right now – right!”

Artificial intelligence is the intelligent solution. The good news is that it’s ready to implement and more accessible than you may think. Whether it be an app on your phone, a handheld device or an API you plug into your website, it’s all here and Microsoft and Google are two big players that have taken the lead in the market.

In fact, tackling the language barrier has never been easier and for a country like China, where the internet has such a powerful influence, online translation applications are an absolute must.

“The quality will surprise you – it’s quite astounding and continues to improve as more data is fed into the technology,” Lisa said.

“You even have the ability to customise your AI using your own glossary of terms, so you have a translation service that is tailor-made for your business.

“If you’re worried that this is beginning to sound expensive, there’s no need. There are a number of free apps that are simple to use that you could be using in your business today.”

Two apps you can download right now are:  Google Translate and Microsoft’s Bing. They can be used on your smartphone to translate words and short sentences between you and your customers.

Picture this: A group of Chinese customers walk into your cellar door and want a wine tasting. With these apps you can ask them “Do you prefer red or white?” You will be able to talk to them about their tasting preferences allowing you to put your best wines forward and hopefully nail a sale.

These apps are also super handy for simple things like understanding your customers colour preference, size, number of products and so own. Simply speak into the microphone and your English words are translated into Chinese. Then let your customer answer in Chinese and hey presto – a sale.

It really is that simple and you don’t need to invest in any high-tech equipment. After all, who doesn’t have a smart phone these days?

For long-distance work, Skype is a great solution and it’s an app that is also readily available and popular in China.

Skype’s greatest feature (and it’s free!) is a simultaneous translation capability, allowing you to have a conversation with your Chinese customer that is translated in real time. The way it works is that you speak in English and your words are translated into Chinese. Your customer replies to you in Chinese and you receive those words in English.

“The only hitch with robot apps, is that they are not perfect – yet,” Lisa said.

“But if you keep your sentences simple, they work perfectly well. They are also great for single word translations.

“Your customers will appreciate the effort and you will be surprised at how much fun this can be.”

Both Google and Microsoft also have next level translation solutions. If translation is a big part of your business, then you may want to consider their advanced options which allow you to input glossaries and terms of reference to better enhance the translation result.

Of course, they are paid options, but they can dramatically improve the translation process and increase your output volume. Check out Google AutoML and Microsoft Azure for more information.

So why is business not already taking advantage of this? According to Lisa it’s probably a case of ‘too hard to understand.’

“I have to admit when I was researching the technology for this blog, it was a little challenging,” she said.

“Thank goodness for YouTube, where you are guaranteed to find a tech guy who can manage to simplify it for you!’

“If you’re just starting out with translation apps and devices YouTube is a great way to find out how to master the process. Once you’ve got the hang of it it, it’s easy.

“I encourage small business to think outside the square and give translation apps and devices a go. Not only is this the way of the future but it’s a quick way to get you where you want to be and that’s a sale!