Language barriers hurting Kiwi exporters

Language barriers hurting Kiwi exporters

Less than half of New Zealand exporters would consider actually learning the language of the country they are doing business with.

The number sounds even lower when considering how many countries exporters deal with that don’t have English as a first language. According to a DHL Express NZ survey, 91% of exporters do not speak the language of the countries they do business with (where English isn’t the first language) and half of New Zealand exporters face business challenges because of cultural and language barriers.

According to the survey results, while 62% of exporters think it's important to speak the language of the market(s), only 47% would consider actually learning that language.

“What we’re seeing in the data bears out what we’ve encountered anecdotally with regards to learning other languages. However what is noteworthy is the extent to which this is impacting exporters,” says Tim Baxter, country manager, DHL Express New Zealand.

“Another way of looking at it is that every second business transaction an exporter is conducting to a market where English isn’t the primary language is potentially being held up or costing the exporters business.”

Most exporters rely on the people they are dealing with being able to speak English. Fifty nine percent (59%) of exporters claim they don't need to speak the local language because the people they deal with speak English. This is followed by 27% having a business partner based in the export market who manages all the communication for them and 26% conducting all or most communication via email, then using translation software such as Google Translate.

“We recognise it can be daunting exporting to a market when you’re not familiar with the language and businesses practices. This is why at DHL in New Zealand we have Customer Service Representatives who are fluent in over 11 languages including Mandarin, Malay, Taiwanese, Japanese, Hindi, Spanish, Portuguese, Fijian and all Polynesian languages,” says Baxter.