The Rules for Multilingual Business Cards

An increasingly interconnected world leads to far more international and multi-lingual cultural encounters. Diversity has the same effect, as people from all over the world come here and retain their original language and culture. This has led to greater demand for multilingual business cards. But what are the rules for a business card with information in more than one language?

Stick to the Basics

Name, address, phone number, and email address should always be listed on the business card. This information doesn’t need to be translated into another language. However, you can get bonus points with clients if you list local contact numbers or free international phone lines they can call. You could impress your clients by having “email” followed by the local word for email next to your email address as well as a translation for your business title next to the one in English. Remove the string of titles from next to your name unless it is necessary, and ensure that the titles are accurately translated. You don’t want to be incorrectly labeled a nurse instead of a doctorate in the life sciences.

Use the Right Font – and Language

One of the worst offenses you could cause a Korean is giving them a business card in Japanese. It would also be a faux pas in other parts of the world, since it shows you don’t understand the needs or even the identity of the people you’re working with. One workaround is printing a multi-lingual business card, one listing your information in two or more languages. This may make the front of the business card crowded, which makes using a minimalist business card and/or both sides of the business card necessary. Always use the correct language and a font that prints it clearly. Poorly rendered Japanese phonetic text is unreadable and causes others to wonder about the care you put into other business tasks. Use simplified Chinese characters on one side of your business card and English text on the other when dealing with China, Malaysia or Indonesia.

Have a Good Translator

You may or may not have seen the funny translation errors posted on social media, but you definitely don’t want to see your business card among them. Ensure that your business card’s information such as business name, tagline and the service or product you offer are accurately translated into the other language. Don’t rely on Google Translate. There’s a big difference between “we’re cool” and “we’re cold”.

Choose Neutral Colors

Colors matter more than we realize. It isn’t just a matter of the emotional associations with the color, such as red representing love, passion and anger. Colors can have political and cultural connotations. White represents purity for Westerners, but it is associated with death in the East. One solution is changing your logo. Another is minimizing or removing the brand’s colors from the card while emphasizing the company’s name and tagline. Rely instead on images of the product you offer or images related to the service you provide. This has the side benefit of breaking through language barriers, because you’re showing rather than telling.

Don’t Forget Foreign Social Media

Facebook has around two billion users. However, there are smaller social media sites that dominate certain countries. You’ll get points with your customers if you set up a social media profile on their nation’s favorite social media site and put it on your business card.