Writing content for non-native English speakers

Author: Philippa Lowe
Published: 10th March, 2020

Writing content for non-native English speakers

Sometimes, it’s hard to step out of our own bubble. But, in this world, where even the most insular communities are becoming more diverse and we’re all communicating through the worldwide web, more often than not your content is being seen by a global audience. 

No matter who your audience is, you should be speaking directly to them and taking their needs into account. Sometimes, this will mean that you are only speaking to native English speakers. Other times, your audience will be those who aren’t quite as fluent and, if you want your message to get across (which you should), then there are a few tips you should keep in mind. 

DON’T assume your audience speaks English as well as you do. 

Perhaps you’re a business that only operates locally and you regularly use slang or make references that you believe the local community will find relatable and motivating to use your service. You might be right! However, we would urge you to look into the statistics of your local area and see how many families speak languages other than English at home. 

In the 2016 census, over 300 separately identified languages were declared to be spoken in Australian homes with 21% of Australians speaking a language other than English at home. These are the kinds of statistics you should take into consideration when speaking to your audience. 

DO keep it short and simple 

Consuming content shouldn’t be hard work. Keeping your words simple, your sentences short and your paragraphs concise means that it can be consumed easily by everyone, regardless of their native language. 

Don’t use big words to look good and don’t go on and on, even if you want to. Attention spans aren’t bound by language and as content continues to follow the short but powerful trend, you need to keep your content bit-sized and digestible. 

DON’T use slang 

Australians are prone to using slang — it’s almost our entire dialect. Stay away from it as much as possible if you want your content to translate well. This doesn’t mean you can never use it, but if you’re wanting a specific piece of content to speak to those who aren’t native English speakers, it’s best to steer clear. 

DO be consistent

This is a particularly important piece of advice for organisations who need to explain how to use a product or describe features. The temptation can be to pull up the thesaurus so we don’t feel like we’re repeating ourselves too often. Instead, using the same word to refer to a process can actually be a great tool to let the information sink in. It comes back to keeping it simple — repetition makes it easy to remember and your audience doesn’t have to work too hard to take in 5 different words that actually all mean the same things.

It’s important to remember you’re not going to get it right every time. If you remember even one of these tips each time you pull content together, you’re on your way to reaching your audience more effectively. Soon enough, preparing content for a global audience will be second nature. 

If you want to make sure your content is written to capture the attention of your audience Incredible Communications can help. Email us at http://www.incrediblecommunications.com.au/#contact or call 0434 086 072.