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  • María Palomares Tarí

HOW MINORITY LANGUAGES MAKE THE DIFFERENCE IN MARKETING







We already know that professional language services like translation and localization are imperative for reaching foreign markets, but what about those languages which are less-commonly translated? Could minority languages also offer major branding opportunities?

Well, in the words of Nelson Mandela: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

Very little can be added, right?

Let’s clear the basics first!

There are many interpretations of the term “minority language”. In fact, it enjoys a natural, but problematic definition as the notion is indeed, polysemous. For example, the definition given by European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages is: “Languages that are different from the official language(s) of a given state, and are traditionally used within a part or region of this state by a group of its nationals that is smaller than the rest of the population (minority).” Therefore, in the most straightforward sense, a minority language is one spoken by less than 50 percent of a population in a given region, state or country.

But make no mistake! These languages offer a competitive edge for domestic and global brands and ‘minority’ doesn’t mean ‘insignificant’. In fact, these definitions do not account for a language’s total number of speakers nor the potential growth of minority languages.

Need some evidence? Catalan is considered to be a medium-sized language of the European Union in terms of number of speakers. It is estimated to have 10 million speakers across all Catalan-speaking territories! That is the approximate number of native speakers of Finnish, Danish, Norwegian, Bulgarian, Swedish, and Lithuanian respectively. Another example: The Welsh Government has set a target of growing the number of Welsh speakers from 570,000 to over 1 million by 2050.

But how can these languages help global branding?

Language has become an increasingly important element in marketing communications in the global marketplace. For that very reason, differentiating a brand based on local characteristics can have very positive effects for any company and for business communications.

Local brands are in fact gaining larger marker shares in many emerging markets.

But why? Here are the main reasons:


  • languages in general form part of cultural and ethnic identities and minority languages in particular work as a brand differentiator because they offer a competitive edge in a crowded market;

  • consumers prefer domestic goods for many reasons, including familiarity;

  • their speakers often have a deeper, more emotional connection to that language than the official language of the state;

  • it is easier for small businesses to stand out from the crowd;

  • regional and minority languages can be used by a company to highlight to customers and potential customers the regional origin of the product itself, which can build a loyal customer base within a region.


In all, it is essential to keep in mind that language makes us what we are, it constitutes our own specific way of being in the world. For that reason, multilingualism and minority languages specifically, can add real value to companies and help create strong brands and corporate identities.


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