International Mother Language Day

On 21 February, we celebrate International Mother Language Day. This event was first organised by UNESCO in 1999 to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity. According to UNESCO, native languages are essential for promoting cultural heritage, but they also play an important role in business communication.

In a world where, according to research by the Statista Research Department, around 1.5 billion people speak English and more and more business communication is conducted in English, at Wilkens c.s. we firmly believe in the importance of native languages for optimal and efficient communication with your target audience.

Language colours our world view

Our native language has an impact on our identity and how we see the world around us. This is based on various factors like our culture, local history, our lifestyle and our geographical location. Language literally colours our world view.

For example, did you know that, unlike Dutch, there are some languages that do not differentiate between the colours blue and green? For speakers of these languages, they are just shades of the same colour. Under the influence of dominant languages like English, most of these languages have now developed separate terms for ‘blue’ and ‘green’. In Japan, however, people still drive through a blue light and eat fresh blue apples.

And the solution is not to avoid translation errors by just communicating in English, because that too can lead to misunderstandings. The fact that English does not always translate well in other markets was evidenced when the company Clairol wanted to market curling tongs on the German market under the name ‘mist stick’. They didn’t know that ‘mist’ in German means ‘fertiliser’. Obviously, their German customers were not keen on using a ‘fertiliser stick’ on their hair.

A question of nuance

So English as a lingua franca is not the best way to communicate with your international (business) contacts. If you want to be sure that your message comes across efficiently and is correctly understood, you should always choose a translation into the native language of your target audience. And then it is essential that this translation is done by a native speaker of the target language. Because they view and interpret the world in just the same way as your target audience and fully understand the cultural sensitivities and nuances of the target language.

Importance of native speakers

Do you want to reach your customers or professional contacts in their native language? Wilkens c.s. will be happy to help. All our translations are done exclusively by native speakers in the target language. So your message will never get lost in translation. Contact our project managers free of obligation on +32 (0)9 265 00 40 or via

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