Today is a big day at INGCO International – we’re celebrating our SWEET SIXTEEN! We have been providing people with equal access to information for 16 years, and it’s time to celebrate. As I’ve been anticipating this milestone, I’ve reflected on how much has changed, the impact we’ve made, and the opportunities that lie ahead to deliver inclusive communications to people all over the world.
When I first started out, most organizations didn’t understand the value of ensuring their communications were accessible to their non-English-speaking stakeholders. The rise in globalization and immigration have changed all that, increasing the demand for translation and interpreting services. And the industry has kept up by introducing certifications and degree programs that allow linguists to refine their craft and specialize in specific languages and industries, like corporate, medical, and legal. Our expert linguists will continue to be in high demand as the industry continues to grow. Today, more than 67 million people in the United States speak a language other than English at home, and 25 million do not speak English as their primary language and have limited ability to read, write, or understand English.
Technology has also made serious leaps over the past 16 years, with voice search and video translation among the most recent advancements. These solutions help companies communicate with hard-to-reach people, drive efficiency and consistency, and lower costs. Companies no longer need to send interpreters across the world to ensure their message resonates. Instead, they can connect with people virtually, providing them with information in the language they prefer – when and where they need it. With all the benefits of technology, it’s important to remember that technology is not a replacement for highly skilled people but a tool to enhance the translation and interpreting process
Finally, we’ve seen a greater focus on language preservation, particularly within Native American cultures. You might not realize it, but there are 6,000+ languages spoken across the globe. And, according to scholars, we lose a language every two weeks, which is having detrimental impacts on the indigenous communities whose histories and cultures are steeped in these languages. Language is an important cultural touchstone, so it’s encouraging to see that efforts are underway to retain some of our most endangered languages.
More organizations are investing in language services, both for economic reasons and because it’s the right thing to do (people prefer to consume information in their native language!).
Many companies have seen the impact that translation and interpreting can have on their ability to sell products and services. We’ve worked with many companies to pivot their sales and marketing strategies to better connect in local markets, reach an entirely new customer base, and increase potential growth.
Speaking of new customers, companies are more willing than ever to cater their marketing to immigrant populations. We’ve helped organizations translate their point-of-sale and digital marketing into the languages that immigrants in the local market prefer. When I started INGCO 16 years ago, you couldn’t walk into Target and find a gift card in Spanish – but you sure can today!
As organizations expand across the globe, there is an abundance of new opportunity, but currently, more than 4 billion people are excluded from digital conversations because they’re not happening in a language they can understand. Not only is this a missed opportunity when it comes to purchasing power, but there are negative impacts on equality, hunger, poverty, climate change, civil rights, and health crises, like COVID-19.
Companies are finding value in translation and interpreting with customers and they’re taking the same approach with their employees. We help businesses across the globe with translation and interpreting to engage their employees more effectively and bolster their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have also helped many manufacturing clients translate documentation and launch safety training to ensure multilingual employees remain protected on the job. As a result, workplace injuries have declined among people with a limited grasp of English.
And it’s not just global corporations that are taking note. We’ve had the privilege of partnering with school districts across the nation to deliver more inclusive communications. In our home state of Minnesota, students speak nearly 300 different languages in their homes. There are significant racial and educational disparities in our schools, which are only exacerbated when students and their parents have limited access to information. These disparities impact kids’ future earning power, incarceration rates, college admission rates, and more. By removing the barrier to information, we open the door for kids to succeed later in life.
Over the past 16 years, the industry has made great progress in delivering more meaningful, inclusive communications to people around the world – and there is so much work left to do! I’m particularly energized by opportunities to improve equity in education, medicine, and energy.
Companies looking to thrive now and into the future would also be well served to take a more intentional approach to multilingual marketing. Today, many create content in English only and market it in other languages, not realizing cultural nuances may be lost in translation. By considering hyper localization, businesses ensure their message is resonating with their target audience, no matter the language they speak.
Finally, we’ll continue to see a move away from the idea that English is the language of business. We know that people are much more inclined to do business in their preferred language. While English used to be the pivot language (which means people who spoke two different languages would converse in English when they met, even though English wasn’t either’s native language), INGCO International is working with clients today who aren’t using English at all, and we anticipate that Spanish and French will more frequently become pivot languages going forward.
Here’s to the next 16 years of providing people around the world with equal access to information! I couldn’t be more proud of this work or the team who delivers it each and every day.