Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are changing the ways we communicate – but how do multilingual speakers use social media? Veronique Mermaz, a French branding and marketing specialist, who lives in England, shares her experience and views in our guest post.
When I moved from France to the UK a few years ago I had to build relationships with British people: for work, for fun and also to help me get “rooted” in a rural area after more than 20 years in Paris. I used the Internet and I found it a great tool to navigate between two languages: my mother tongue (French) and a second language (English) that is now my daily language.
I built a LinkedIn profile in English to reach UK businesses and professionals and I started to tweet in English to explore what was happening in my industry sector and around me. I explained my marketing services to British companies in a LinkedIn Company page in English.
Today English and French speakers follow the page and I post updates in both languages. Through time I met online more French people living abroad, and English is usually their second language. On Twitter my contacts have English or French as a native or second language and it doesn’t matter.
Some of my French followers can read and write in English. And many of my English-speaking followers have a special interest in France, the French economy or culture so they understand posts and updates in French.
Context and relevance are what matters in a conversation
When I share an article online in English about France it can be interesting for both English and French readers. When I broadcast a message on LinkedIn or Twitter I choose the most relevant language: Do I want to reach French or English-speaking readers?
When I reply, comment or try to connect I adopt the language of my interlocutor. Sometime I move to the other language during the chat. Juggling with both languages is a pleasant thing to do when you know that the other person is able to do the same.
To be frank, I pay less and less attention to the “mother tongue” or “native language” concepts: context and relevance are what matters in a conversation (online and offline).
Being able to read English feeds gives me access to wider networks of people and various sources of information. On Twitter and LinkedIn I can compare how the same information is shared and commented in English and in French. And I can see how much goes from English to French (and so little from French to English), what is recycled or adapted and what is trendy and where.
Localisation: it is crucial and sometime impossible
Spontaneity, empathy or a tone of voice is difficult to reproduce in another language. Humour and cultural references, points of view and colloquial expressions don’t cross the language barrier well in 140 characters. On Twitter a 130 characters message in English can easily become 160 characters when translated in French. Like good manners, hashtags have a meaning in a precise context.
Translation is not always the solution on social channels. Localisation is crucial. And sometime impossible. How do you translate an outburst?
Social is a young channel for marketing. People use social media to interact, engage, ask and answer questions and share points of view. If they want to get something from it, companies need multicultural teams to develop conversations with their followers and customers in more than one language.
Real-time translation for written language is still far from perfect. So far it looks like multilingual social media is a human job. When businesses want to go from “one-to-one” to “one-to-many” is there another way to do it?
Want to find out more about multilingual social media marketing or professional translation services? Get in touch with our expert team!
Picture: Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho