It's All Greek To Me

October 4, 2019

Reading time: 2 minutes

Examining the structure of language and how we see the effects inside our own walls.

Black neon sign that reads "Blah blah blah"

In an ongoing effort to broaden our minds, the Marketing team at Mappedin recently came across this article from The Economist on the science of language (or linguistics, as normal people call it), and the structure and rules that come along for the ride. 

Languages are built from many different segments, and factors. Based on the focus of the language and its overall grammar structure, “languages differ not in what they can express, but in what they must.”

And while languages prioritize different segments and build sounds around them to fully recognize those sounds, most languages come out in the wash as being very similar in terms of complexity level, even though their structure is completely different. Take, for example, English and Japanese. 

English is a low-context language that has less constraints on how its syllables can be structured, meaning there are a lot of syllables that a speaker can choose from. Japan is a high-context language, meaning it uses fewer syllables with strict structure rules to convey the same amount of information. 

One takeaway from Johnson’s article is that the language components that make it difficult for new speakers to master that language are the same things that fluent speakers prize. Things like slang, canon mispronunciation, and contractions.

Kevin Malone from The Office tv show

With so much science behind how we say things, it got us thinking about how we use language every day, and how it affects what we do. 

While language does fascinate us, there’s a more tangible benefit we’ve seen to hiring people who are multilingual and from all across the world as part of our company culture. Naturally, there are a number of different languages that flow through the office on any given day. 

Not only does it make for a very interesting soundscape, it also helps us with our customers. Mappedin operates in over 25 countries around the world, which means our clients have different backgrounds, experiences, and requirements for what success of Mappedin means to them. The more we can do to enhance their experience, including in-house language support and translations, the better. 

This understanding of language also helps us to better adapt to our customer’s communication style. Depending on the country they are located in, whether it is a high context or low context culture, the information needed for sales and support could be entirely different. 

A chart showing which countries have low and high context cultures

via Southeastern University

As we continue to expand our customer base internationally, having people in office that speak the language helps us break down communication barriers more quickly, and allows us to make our customers feel more comfortable with the level of service and support they are receiving. Showing that we speak the language (literally and figuratively!) lets them know that we care. 

A top-down photo of coworkers meeting their hands in the middle of the table

Having a diverse team also helps with problem-solving and solution creation, as a range of cultures also means a range of experiences and ways of approaching a problem. Not only can individuals think differently based on their experiences and background, they can also help provide context about cultural specifics our customers are facing that might not occur to us otherwise. 

This is not only a local phenomenon for us, but also stretches outside our office walls. We have continued to hire local representatives for sales and customer support in cities across the world to better help serve our clients. 

We want to be supportive and proactive with how we approach every experience. While hiring multilingual and international employees helps us achieve that, it has the added benefit of making every day at the office a little different and a lot interesting. 

And honestly, who wouldn’t like that? 

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