Could French economic happiness be infectious?

The champagne corks weren’t quite popping but the French and German finance ministries were no doubt pleased with themselves last week.

The news that both economies have emerged from recession was welcome, leading French economy minister Christine Lagarde to comment “These are obviously very positive numbers, which have surprised us and made us quite happy.”

The front page of last Friday’s City A.M. also adopted a positive tone, stating “European pair lead recovery”, hinting at a view of a wider recovery across the Eurozone.

Less heralded was the news that Portuguese-speaking Brazil is also now no longer in recession having grown by 1.5% in the second quarter. Along with growth from China and Japan, this means that six of the world’s top 10 economies are now out of recession.

Meanwhile in the UK, the picture seems more bleak. Discussing the outlook and success of Quantitative Easing in his eclectic but always insightful and intelligent blog, Newsnight’s Paul Mason says:

“Even with 0.5% interest rates right through to 2011 and the full £175bn still in circulation until then, the Bank of England is predicting inflation will undershoot the 2% target for CPI. That means we should expect interest rates to be low for at least that long. It also signifies the recovery is going to be pretty appalling: weak and fragile.”

So much for the economics, what does this have to do with translation? Apart from professional translation being effected by the wider economy, I’ve argued before on this blog that translation can be part of a business survival strategy and that the global recession is not playing out evenly.

As Business Secretary Lord Mandelson points out:
“Different economies will show different patterns of behaviour. But the key point is all these economies rely on each other; 55 to 56% of our trade is with the rest of Europe. So when [they are] recovering that is good news for our manufacturers and our exports here.”

The French or German economy may not be booming but if they are pulling ahead of the British, some businesses – not least SMEs – may well wish to revisit the idea of translating a product brochure into French, or translating their website into German. This could not only open up new markets for them, but mean busy times ahead for those of us in the professional translation business!

Why FIGS translation matters to business

Look up figs in a dictionary and it will describe a fruit or the tree that produces them. In translation and localisation the word has a quite different meaning. FIGS translation is simply an acronym describing French, Italian, German and Spanish translation.

This combination of languages opens any document or product up to a wide range of potential users. Turning to the strangely ever-useful CIA World Factbook, some plain economic facts bring this home all too clearly. Germany alone is the world’s 5th largest economy with an estimated 2008 GDP of US$ 2.8 trillion, more than a quarter greater than the UK’s equivalent output. France, Italy and Spain are 8th, 10th and 12th respectively on the same scale.

The numbers are even more staggering, with a combined GDP of about that of the United States, once you add in some of the other countries and regions where these are primary native languages – Austria, Mexico, Argentina, French-speaking Belgium, Switzerland, Quebec, Venezuela, the list goes on and on. There are also large numbers of people around the world who speak one of the FIGS languages as a foreign or second language.

As the FIGS languages use the Roman alphabet, they are relatively straightforward to use in a range of typefaces and on the web. This, combined with their large audience, makes these languages a popular choice especially when considering translation for a west European market. Many companies and organisations wanting to expand their reach are making use of FIGS translation and localisation services for their products, websites and documents.

After all, whether you are trying to win someone’s business or convince them of your point of view, there is no substitute for a stylish, well written translation in their native language. Everyone should give a fig about that!