Exporting: Selling in Tongues

Translation services are booming because global customers want to buy in their native language

It's easy for U.S. executives to think that English is the global language. Of the world's 6 billion people, 2 billion speak at least pidgin English, more than double the number two decades ago. Americans traveling abroad find English speakers at almost every airport, hotel and restaurant, and foreign executives are often impressively fluent. Even the French, after decades of trying to muzzle phrases like le weekend, seem weary of the fight. In a poll conducted by the European Commission, 66% of French respondents said oui when asked if all continentals should speak what's dubbed la langue du Coca-Cola.

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