Are you talking my language?

Only recently I was reading over a media release released by a former company. The story was interesting, the news was relevant, and the magic financial numbers were included. It was a great news piece. There was only one problem; the press releases was in English and we are in Saudi Arabia.

It was frustrating. I’d spent two years trying to drum into the communications executives at the firm the importance of putting into the local language all external and media announcements. Why? Well, quite simply our aim as communicators is to reach out to ministries, customers, and the public to both build awareness of our products, successes and the brand in general.

By not releasing news in a country’s native language any company is missing the chance to communicate with consumers, businesses and governments. This is even more marked in a place like Saudi, where there’s few English language media outlets (I’m not counting the internet here).

What I’m saying here is the basics of communications, but let’s take a bigger look at how companies talk to their customers in the Gulf. While I’m not going to even attempt to try and dig out figures of how many firms don’t have any marketing material in Arabic, have a look at the websites of well-established multinationals in the Middle East. Too few of them have any material online in Arabic.

I’m going to hold my hands up here and say I’m just as guilty as everyone else. Trying to Arabize thousands of web pages is a daunting task which can take months if not years. However, we all have to start somewhere and a holding page in Arabic is a simple project for any comms executive to undertake.

There’s no better way to communicate with a customer than in their own language. We sometimes forget that. Put it this way, how do people reach to you when you’re on vacation and you talk their language as opposed to trying to converse in your own. Their eyes and facial expressions should say enough for you to see and understand the difference.

Communications executives at a Group level need to understand that they need to talk the same language as their target audience. Putting everything in English for a non-English audience is either ignorance or arrogance. I’m only sorry that my own advice didn’t seem to sink in with former colleagues.

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