Lost in translation

Besides English, I have tried to learn two languages in my time – German and Spanish. Unfortunately, German never really stuck. All I can remember is the phrase – “Ich habe lockiges haar” or “I have curly hair”… which I don’t – so even this phrase wont help me out. With Spanish, I do okay.

I remember when I was learning Spanish I got to a point where I could translate in my head fairly well from Spanish to English and back again. But as anyone that has learned another language call tell you, to truly learn a language you have to get past the mental exercise of translation and move to a higher level where you start to think in the other language (it is really cool when you even start to dream in the other language).

The hard part about being in the “translation stage” is that it is very taxing. It takes a lot of time and energy to push past The Dip and on to a level of proficiency. I remember a lot of memorizing, headaches and feeling mentally spent (yes, learning another language can be exhausting).

I’d say that this is not unlike many of the communication that goes on between businesses and consumers. Often times, businesses speak in a different language then their customers and the customer is left to translate what it means. For example, a marketer may have bullet points of their products features:

  • Our hair stylists are professionally trained
  • Our hair stylists know the latest trends

And the customer is left to translate what it means to them:

  • Professionally Trained – “They do not use a Flowbee for their haircuts and certaininly will not use the phrases – ‘oops’ or ‘I’ll just have to try and even that out’”
  • Latest trends – “No mullets or mutton chops or anything else that will limit my social life”

The problem is, when you do not take the time to think and speak in a way that your customers understand, few of them continue the metal exercise of translation of what you are trying to say. They usually just end up moving on to a different company that speaks their language.

Happy Tuesday!

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