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Walpurgis Night or known to Swedes as Valborg, Lidingö 2012. Credit: Baltic Media, Sandra Veinberg

Breaking Down Language Barriers with Baltic Media’s Translation Expertise

Language barriers are a common problem for companies that wish to expand to other countries. In this article, we explain the different types of barriers, the English proficiency across the Nordic and Baltic countries, as well as how to overcome them. 

What Are Language Barriers?

A language barrier is a wide concept that captures the difficulties two people have understanding each other. You can slot these difficulties in under two subheadings: regular language barriers and cultural language barriers.

Regular language barriers occur when two people simply are not able to communicate. They don’t speak the same language. This type of barrier has decreased over time as English proficiency has increased.

Cultural language barriers occur when the meaning of the same message differs in the context of different cultures. A famous example is when Pepsi translated their slogan to Taiwanese. The slogan “Come alive with Pepsi” turned out to mean “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead”  when directly translated. Cultural language barriers are more difficult to get around, and demand a certain level of expertise.

The State of English Proficiency in the Nordic and Baltic Countries

Regular language barriers have been broken down in a lot of the Nordic and Baltic countries. Although the situation differs somewhat from country to country, most people possess at least a moderate amount of English. Situations where you meet a person that does not speak a word of English are rare, and usually occur when in the countryside or when meeting elderly people. Cultural language barriers do however still exist today.

The Nordic countries are in general very proficient in English. Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes are almost always fluent in English. Considering the linguistic proximity of the Germanic languages, the low level of language barriers is not very surprising. Finns have it more difficult, given that Finnish is not a Germanic language.

As for the Baltic countries, English proficiency is not as high. Before the fall of communism, English was not the default second language in schools – Russian was. Most people who were born before the 90s did not learn English in school. Today, most people that live in the major cities of the Baltics would speak sufficient English, but people over the age of 40 might struggle.

What Are Language Barriers?

Connecting with Audiences on Social Media with Baltic Media’s Translation Services

How Do Language Barriers Hurt Your Company? 

Quite obviously, if people cannot understand your message, all that advertising money is going down the drain. So you should be conscious of what barriers are present. But the degree to which these barriers impede your message depend to a large extent on the channel of communication.

If your main aim is to connect with people online, you do not need to worry a great deal about regular language barriers. People that regularly use the internet typically have a functioning level of English. But, if you’re looking to do more physical types of advertisement and communication, you might need to consider regular language barriers as well.

The more stressing point is cultural language barriers. These remain to a great extent, and can definitely decrease the effectiveness of your message.

To get around both types of barriers, you need a professional translator. At Baltic Media, all our translators have a university-level education. They are also required to live in the country whose language they are translating to, so that they are up-to-date with cultural and linguistic developments. If you are interested in breaking down language barriers, contact us today.

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