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A guide is both an interpreter and a storyteller. They are the cultural gateway that provides information and insight into the destination or activity. And the reality is, the way things are explained or described is not the same in every language. For example, humor, especially when it’s subtle or a play on words, can be quite challenging for someone to understand when it’s not their first language, leaving the guide with a failed punchline. With that in mind, consider the benefits of offering tours in a language other than English.
Avoid the “Secondary Translator” Scenario
If English is your second language, imagine the difficulty of having to be concentrated on listening in your second language trying your best to understand everything. And then, on top of that, having to be a secondary translator for your friends or family who don’t speak English and are relying on you for the information in their mother tongue.
Although English is the world’s most common second language, only around 20% of the world’s population (both native and non-native) speak English. If one of your guests is having to focus on translating, I can assure you that first: translation is not an easy thing to do, especially when it’s in the moment in addition to listening to the next bits of information. And second: since they’re focused on translation they are not getting the full enjoyment or experience of the tour themselves.
Variety of Options to Consider
While larger international groups may be travelling with their own interpreter, for smaller groups; friends, families, couples, or single travellers, this is almost certainly not the case. It’s a much less interactive experience when you’re the only person in the group walking around with an audio guide or a written-up booklet version of the tour to read along with. But this is certainly a great option to provide material to guests who speak another language if you’re not able to get a tour guide for that language.
Be sure to have the translation either professionally done or written by a native speaker to avoid any clumsy errors or confusing phrasing. Although not as ideal as having a guide, an intermediary solution like it’s is still something. Maybe you’re not able to have a full-time guide in another language, but you could still work with one part-time, offering these tours during the busiest days or times. Or you could also look into having an on-call guide for alternate language tours booked in advance by people wanting their native language tour experience.
Don’t Forget Your Website
Another language element to consider is your website. While your site is likely already in English and your native language if you’re located in a non-English speaking country, what about adding another language? Here it’s important to understand your destination and the market. If you know there is a high volume of, for example, German-speaking tourists who visit your location, why not cater to that audience directly. Additionally, as people are searching for tours on their personal devices which are configured in their preferred language, this also affects search results. In other words, if my Google Search is configured in Spanish, then the top results will be ones that have Spanish content.
Ultimately don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth or online recommendations that tourists of another language will then pass on. By capitalizing on offering a tour in a language other than English, you’ve set yourself apart from your competitors in your ability to specially cater to those tourists and provide them with the best experience possible.
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