When working on global projects English is often viewed and used as the international language of business. There is an implicit assumption that geographically dispersed project teams will all speak, read and write English to an acceptable level. In many ways that assumption is true – but not always. Sometimes regional project team leaders are fully fluent but team members are not so project documentation may need to be translated.
Whether the remote teams are outsourced or employees of the global organisation it is important for everyone working on the project and for the overall success of all global projects that everyone fully understands all project documentation. It is all too easy for important aspects of a project to be misunderstood by those who aren’t fluent speakers/readers. This could include project plans, business case documents and the definition of the scope. If that misunderstanding isn’t identified early then the whole project could be placed in jeopardy.
To ensure the usefulness of all written project documentation, many global corporations choose to fully translate content into the regional languages of their main worldwide locations. In addition, they may also include foreign language voice-overs and/or subtitles for video content. Voice-overs can also be useful for recorded video conferences/meetings. Subtitles can be available in multiple languages depending on how accessible a company wants the content to be.
Clearly there is a practical aspect to how many different languages are used for document translations. Translations should be deferred until documents are finalised, but even then there will be version-control issues to manage if (as frequently happens) details are changed as the project progresses. It is common for certain project documents to be amended through the project lifecycle so take this in to account when deciding on which languages to use and how many.
Here are some of the most common languages used by global corporations for their project communications according to the voice-over agency Matinée Multilingual:
A surprise to many, Russian is the most spoken language in Europe. For that reason alone it might be a useful language into which to translate project documentation where relevant, but it is also important to know that there is no obligation for Russians to learn English so understanding of complex English content may be limited for any Russians on the team.
Spanish is on of the top European languages and is spoken in various forms across Europe but also across the world. If you want to use Spanish as a translated, subtitle or voice-over language it is important to use the right regional variation for your content to be fully effective.
Hindi is a standardised from of Hindustani, and Indo-European language that was standardised in the 19th century. Hindi and Urdu are linguistically considered to be two variants of Hindustani and have many similarities. It is the 3rd most widely spoken language in the world after English and Chinese (Mandarin)
With over a billion speakers it is the 2nd most widely-spoken language worldwide after English. Mandarin was originally a dialect of Northern China before it became the standard form of Chinese in order to help unify China.
The languages above are some of the most commonly spoken languages across the world. Using these on global projects could provide the best possible accessibility and understanding for project teams.