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What Adding an "S" to "BRIC" Means for Language Service Managers
Posted by Rebecca Ray on December 22, 2011  in the following blogs: Global Marketing, Translation and Localization
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The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) officially added the "S" (South Africa) to their acronym in April this year during the third BRIC(S) Leaders Meeting in Sanya, Hainan (China). Not only were the 11 official languages of that nation added to the list of possible languages to be considered by translation managers, but so were the 2,000-plus languages that are spoken across the rest of the continent. That's because South Africa is the gateway to about a billion people.

According to the International Monetary Fund, BRICS will account for as much as 61% of global growth over the next three years. Currently, the five countries comprise 42% of the world's population and 18% of its GDP. In honor of the recent 10-year anniversary of the BRIC acronym coined by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill, we spoke with Jaco Maritz, Founder and Editor of the online publication "How We Made It in Africa," for a perspective on how the inclusion of South Africa will affect language service offerings. He highlighted the following facts and trends for language service managers:
  • There has already been an increase in demand for Portuguese as Brazil deepens its ties with its Lusophone (that is, Portuguese-speaking) cousins in Angola and Mozambique.
  • The same trend is evident for Mandarin Chinese in the rest of Africa as China invests in the extraction of natural resources and development of infrastructure. It also applies to some export sectors. Maritz described the recent increase in demand for Mandarin in the South African wine sector as producers sought to localize their marketing information for the Yantai International Wine Festival in September.
  • South Africa's language policy of 11 official languages doesn't have to be daunting for businesses entering that market. There is no law requiring content to be provided in all 11 languages, in any specific combination of languages, or even in a single language. Maritz emphasized that it is simply a business decision for companies who decide to enter the country, just as it would be for any other market.
  • Depending on the product or service, Maritz explained that it can be relatively simple to identify the required languages for maximum impact based on targeted audiences and buying power. Product managers building international business cases for high-tech, life sciences, retail, or manufacturing should generally provide for Afrikaans, English, Xhosa, and Zulu in their initial launch plans. If additional resources are available, they should consider adding Sepedi and Tswana.
  • What translation managers may not realize is that their organizations can also gain access to European languages other than English in South Africa. Maritz cited the example of Amazon.com, which opened a call center in South Africa to serve both its American and German markets in August this year. Cape Town provides access to a pool of German-speakers who can support an online presence in that language.
If you're involved in creating, growing, or supporting international markets in any way for your organization, it's time to take notice of South Africa and start planning for market entry there, if you haven't already done so. Markets are moving in Africa, and so should you. Note: To find out more about the language requirements in Africa, Common Sense Advisory recently launched a survey in conjunction with Translators without Borders. If you translate into or out of any African language, we invite you to take the survey by clicking here.


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Keywords: Ethnic / domestic multicultural markets, High-demand and low-demand languages, Language and market selection, Language policy, Localization, Translation, Web globalization

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