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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   June 2012

Breaking the Language Barrier

Grow your business with successful cross-cultural communication

Mortgage brokers constantly are looking for ways to expand their client bases and removing a communication barrier is certainly a step in the right direction. A company that communicates with clients in their native languages immediately can set itself apart from the competition and win clients’ loyalty.

One way for a company to attract a particular group of non-English native speakers is to translate its financial services and marketing materials into this group’s language and in addition, perhaps have one or two staff members who speak the language fluently. This will help eliminate any concerns clients may have regarding the company’s services or processes.

Growing market

Many mortgage companies recognize the role that the Hispanic community plays in the recovery of the housing sector. This past March, the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals reported that Hispanics increasingly were driving growth in housing demand. For instance, in third-quarter 2011, Hispanic homeownership increased by 47.6 percent, making up more than half of the total growth in homeownership nationwide in the same period, according to the report.

The report also projected that Hispanics will account for 40 percent, or 4.8 million, of the estimated 12 million net new households within the next 10 years. With this huge client potential, companies can tap this market with distinct customer-service offerings, particularly as many clients coming from different cultural backgrounds and financial systems may not be familiar with the basic terms of taking out a mortgage.

In this regard, a successful mortgage originator will need to be an excellent communicator who can provide marketing and informational materials that read perfectly in Spanish. Additionally, that professional should be able to educate a potential customer on issues related to homeownership, responsibilities and credit consequences in case of default.

Translation tips

When a mortgage company decides to produce marketing or financial services information in a foreign language, the trick is to begin with high-quality written material to make the translation process more efficient and more accurate. Keep in mind the following points:

Typos and incorrect punctuation can alter the meaning of a sentence.

Ambiguous writing forces a translator to decipher what the writer is trying to say.

Some languages use more words than English. A translated document can be 25 percent to 35 percent longer, which can cause problems and delays when the text has to fit into a designed brochure.

Date and number formats, colors and symbols vary in use and meaning from one culture to another.

In addition, don’t forget to examine the entire chain of communication. If a Spanish-language brochure sends a potential client to an English-only website, you probably will lose this client. Similarly, if you don’t have a staff member who can take a phone call in this particular foreign language, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

• • •

Having a successful bilingual team and well-translated material can be rewarding for everyone involved. Borrowers will have better understandings of the process and will be in a better position to make knowledgeable decisions regarding the type of loan products they take out. Mortgage originators and companies also can reduce the cost of account maintenance and attract more loyal customers who eventually may turn into reliable sources of referrals.

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