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Losing A Part Of You

04th June 2019

The pride native speakers take in language and identity is also a factor when they decide how to spend their money. Are you connecting with them?

At one time, over 300 Aboriginal languages and dialects were spoken in Australia. Today a little over 100 remain, with most classed as critically endangered.

A downward spiral? Maybe. But not an irreversible one.

Three years ago the Yuwi language of Queensland’s Yuibera and Yuwibara people had no fluent living speakers and was classed as extinct. Today the commitment of a group of volunteers has brought it back to life. A thousand words of Yuwi vocabulary have been painstakingly pieced together, enough for Yuibera and Yuwibara descendants to communicate in their native tongue and enough for them to spark the interest of the next generation. The much-loved children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar has now been translated into Yuwi. The motivation for the volunteers who made it happen was simple. In the words of Yuibera native Deb Netuschil:

"Our language was near-extinct. That's our culture, and that's what connects us to our land and to our people, so to have lost that culture through our language, it was like losing a part of you”

Like losing a part of you.

The world isn’t always kind to its indigenous communities. They often run the risk of being isolated and marginalised in their own home territories. That’s a strange way to thank the guardians of our culture, and this year the United Nations has come up with something far more fitting. In naming 2019 the official Year of Indigenous Languages it acknowledges the importance of these links to our heritage. Encouragingly, young people are acknowledging them too. Across Australia and also Latin America social media is playing a part in language preservation, with YouTube and Facebook recordings giving endangered languages fresh relevance for a new generation.

At Conversis we understand the importance of respecting different languages and cultures. It’s easy for native English speakers to fall into the trap of expecting the world to decipher our message with no help from us, but even when an audience has a grasp of English, they’re far more likely to pay attention when we show them the courtesy of using their native language. In fact, six out of ten global consumers say that when it comes to making a buying decision, being addressed in their own language is a more important factor than price. We shouldn’t be surprised by this. The sense of pride in their identity that spurs Aboriginal volunteers to preserve an endangered language is also a factor when consumers in China, Japan or Brazil decide how to spend their hard-earned money. Why should they buy from a vendor who make so little effort? Why should they reward an outsider for a show of disrespect?

They shouldn’t. They don’t. Instead, they reward the vendor whose tailored communication establishes them as an insider. They reward the vendor who speaks to them via professional native-speaker linguists.

They reward the vendor who works with Conversis.

If you cut corners and take your audience for granted, then like the natives of Yuibera you risk losing something important. You may not be losing your entire language, but you are losing a crucial part of your message. You may be losing the unique selling points of your service, and that’s hardly a recipe for success. On the other hand, when you put your faith in the right language service partner you lose nothing, and you stand to gain a great deal.


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