Imagine this: Your daughter wants to go away and study a foreign language… maybe Chinese or French or some other language that you don’t speak. She tells you that she has found two possible schools and wants you to have a look at their web sites. She sends the links to you at the office. During your coffee break, you check out the first school’s site. All the information is written in English. You find out about the school, the teachers who work there, the homestay accommodations available and the program she will be taking.
You move on to the second site. All the same information is there (you think?) but it is written only in the language your daughter wants to learn. You surf around, look at the pictures and try to get back to the home page again.
After you’ve looked at both sites, where do you want to send your daughter?
The fact of the matter is that both schools may have excellent programs, but if students (and their parents) can read about it in their own language, you will build an unspoken relationship of trust with them. It’s both perception and perspective. You trust what you know.
For ESL programs that recruit international students, translating your web site (or at least major points of it) into the languages of your major markets gives you an advantage over your monolingual counterparts.
This post has been adapted from “Idea # 16: Sell yourself in as many languages as possible — translate your marketing materials into the languages of countries you want to target” from 101 Ways to Market Your Language Program.
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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.