They say that the language of love transcends cultural borders. Love can indeed be lost in translations, or at least confused in translations at times. Sure men might be from Mars, and women from Venus, but imagine if they were not even from the same galaxy! How do you localize a relationship?
So you're a happy single person, with no attachments and a thirst for life and new adventures. You've grown up learning English as a second language, and possibly Spanish or French and even Italian as additional languages. Being a European, you are accredited to cultural and language differences, and the general etiquette of meeting someone from another country, who also understands the internationalism associated with being European.
Now you've decided that it is time for a major change in your life, to try something very different, to go to America and study at an American university to earn an American graduate degree. This can only help advance your career and give you the valuable life lessons of living abroad as a young adult. So you pick a school and pack your bags, buy your tickets, say goodbye to your home, and go. While at university, what do you study? International Business, of course! Now this story is not about international student life at American universities, we'll save that piece for another time …
This story is about that one night at a social outing with your buddies, over bees … from across the distant room, you spot her …
Who is that girl? Where is she from? What is her name? How can I meet her? She's got that, " Je ne sais pas" … You tap your buddy and ask him about that girl … He responds, "Oh her? Yes, she's in my class, I know her, do you want me to introduce you? "
Fast forward a week later, after your first date, and your buddy asks "So how did it go last night?" "Well? I'm not sure if she completely understands me, or did I her … but we're seeing each other again Friday."
In today's global society, a growing number of people are found to speak a language different than their native tongue to their partner. In some cases, the mutually common language is not even the native language of either partner. This is typical in major international cities like New York and London, I personally know tons of tri-lingual couples, for example like this international couple who are friends of mine living in San Francisco, where the husband is French and the wife is Japanese and they speak English together.
Can Love Language be localized? I'm never Dr. Ruth nor Dr. Phil, but I can tell you a few tips that have helped along the way …
Tip # 1 – Honesty: If a woman asks "Am I fat?" No matter where she's from or what language you speak, never say "Well, just a little on the legs and the bottom" even if that might be a compliment in your native country. That usually does not go over well in any language, no matter how cute your accent might be!
Love Language Translation # 1: Although in some cultures, being thin might be considered unappealing; This is normally not a question of body fat. What she is really asking is if you like her the way she is. Be honest, and reaffirm your true feelings for her, in whatever language you can.
A growing number of relationships are multi-cultural or international relationships, and can collectively be attributed to globalization. According to a report by The Economist ( Nov 12th 2011, SEOUL from the print edition ), cross-border marriages have been rising most consistently in Asia, according to the National University of Singapore :
- In Japan: 5% of marriages in 2008-09 included a foreign spouse (with four times as many foreign wives as husbands), the share had been below 1% prior to 1980
- In South Korea, over 10% of marriages included a foreigner in 2010, up from 3.5% in 2000
- Taiwan is the country with the largest share of such unions, where 13% of wives in 2009 were foreigners, a big fall from the peak in 2003 which was at 28%
Tip # 2 – Dating: If you ask a girl out on a date , and she invites her cute Asian friend to join … it does not mean you get to date both girls!
Love Language Translation # 2: While the idea of going out with two girls on the same date, might be appealing to some, do not be surprised if you're only allowed to call on one of the girls. In many Asian cultures, it is common for a friend to join the date to "chaperon" and help keep the evening light. Do not worry, have fun, one day you'll get a chance to be alone.
According to the Economist , Language appears to remain a persistent barrier to international marriage in Europe, and the spread of English as a second language does not seem to have changed that, as Europeans living in Europe tend to marry within common languages. (ie French Swiss person may marry French person from France) However, that is different in America and Asia, as international marriages tend to follow immigration patterns.
Tip # 3 – Romance: If you invite a girl to have dinner at your place, do not give her a raw chicken and expect her to cook it on the spot . Believe it or not, this actually happened to a friend of mine from NYC who went on a date with a New Orleans' native.
Love Language Translation # 3: Cultural differences can even appear within the same backyard. If you invite a girl to have dinner at your place, it usually resembles to modern American women that you want to provide a more intimate or romantic experience, while at the same time displaying your culinary talents. If you do not have any culinary talents, order a pizza or Chinese Take-out!
Why does all this matter? In terms of business translations and localization, it matters because the nuts that marketers are always trying to crack involve the answers to these questions …
Who is my demographic market?
If the household is a multi-cultural one, then product marketing needs to be understood by more than one culture at the same time. For example, in Spain, I often see products descriptions for Danone Yogurts translated in both Spanish and French, which is appreciated by many Spanish / French households in Madrid.
What makes them buy my product?
In addition to the societal norms by which one lives, cultural habits also play a big part in decision making for consumers. For example, since I grow up with Cheerios in the US, if I see Cheerios here in Madrid, I buy it for my own family, even if there is a Spanish equivalent here.
What effects consumers need to pick one brand over another?
The million dollar question … While top brand managers and marketing strategy experts may roll out a list of analyzed data to answer this question for global firms, my response would include, a very basic but important question – who does your buyer love? If you are buying a product for your Spanish girlfriend, you should not be able to read the brochure in Spanish? If you purchase a brand new 50 inch TV for your Japanese husband, would not he appreciate having the operating instructions in Japanese?
So there you go, Love Language Translations can help us understand that … "Je ne sais pas " … Or at least keep one from getting the cold shoulder … Global companies know that, and so do you!