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Creativeworld: The Language Barrier

One of the most frequent questions that I get asked about attending the Creativeworld show at Messe Frankfurt in Frankfurt, Germany, is how to get around in Germany and at Creativeworld while speaking only English.

[Disclaimer: Messe Frankfurt is a Scrapbook Update sponsor.]

The surprising first part of the answer to that question is that a lot of what show attendees will encounter, especially in places like major transportation hubs, is actually bilingual and perfectly understandable to English speakers. Even the automated rail ticket machines have a language option for English. (In Europe, remember that you’ll choose the British Union Jack flag on machines like that to access the English option.)

Believe it or not, even some of the trash cans are multilingual – like this one in the Frankfurt airport complex!

Within the Messe Frankfurt fairground itself, the signage is designed to accommodate their large populations of international visitors that come for their various shows throughout the year. Building numbers and names, arrows, and easy to understand graphics for things like the train stations and restrooms.

Cafe and restaurant menus are also bilingual, and many Messe Frankfurt staff can speak at least a small amount of English. In addition, the Messe makes most of its printed show publications on-site and the Creativeworld show app all available and readily accessible in English.

The biggest thing, however, that concerns many show attendees – especially exhibitors – is how to handle doing business in a booth when they don’t speak the local language.

In fact, many people overestimate the language barrier they will encounter dealing with international clients. English has become in many respects the common language of the world. A surprising number of people encountered at Creativeworld speak at least a little bit of English – often while apologizing for their lack of skill, which is quite humbling to hear when you don’t speak a word of their language!

But there is inevitably some language barrier to be encountered. Hiring European bloggers or designers is one way to bridge that gap (and it’s also extra booth help without the expense of travel for a U.S. staffer). In the American pavilion this year, Lou Ann Tischler of GelliArts was drawing a crowd doing demonstrations, and had a European designer that works with Gelli Arts (in the brown shirt) translating for her.

Gelli Arts demo

Another approach is to just hire a European designer to do all of the demonstrating. My German designer friend Baerbel Börn demonstrated for several companies this year, including demonstrating the new Tim Holtz Stamp Platform for Tonic Studios (below).

Baerbel Born

Of course, hiring a local staffer is no guarantee that you won’t encounter a language barrier when someone walks into your booth, since Europe has a multitude of languages and the show attracts global buyers. But it certainly can raise the odds that you will find common language ground when someone approaches your booth.

And, if all else fails…thanks to the era of the smart phone, we can all have an instant translator in our pocket with the right apps. It may not be the fastest way to communicate, but it can get the job done.

Remember, in the end, everyone at Creativeworld speaks the same native language…a love of creativity! And that goes a long way in understanding each other.

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6 Responses to Creativeworld: The Language Barrier

  1. gabmcann March 31, 2017 at 5:01 am #

    I love how easy it is to get around in Europe because so many people are multi-lingual

  2. Bärbel Born April 3, 2017 at 1:29 pm #

    Thank you for this profound insight! I was hired by a UK based company to speak mostly german, for german customers, but because I love practicing my english so much I tried to do both. It worked perfectly fine.

    Maybe some of the visitors struggle with english, but there is always someone around who is happy to translate. If a company is thinking about attending the show, the language is really not a problem. Having a native german speaker at hand is a nice way to show additional customer service.

    I hope we can spread the word. Europeans are so proud to have you here.

    Yours, Baerbel

    • Nancy Nally April 4, 2017 at 1:25 am #

      Thanks Barbel! So great seeing you in Frankfurt!

    • Nancy Nally April 21, 2017 at 11:02 am #

      Your English is beautiful – and way better than my German! And you are so right…having a native speaker on your team for the show is another way to show that you have an understanding of the market that you are entering at Creativeworld.

  3. teresafsmithT April 6, 2017 at 8:49 am #

    Germans take six years of English during their school years.

    • Nancy Nally April 21, 2017 at 10:57 am #

      Well it definitely shows! Most I’ve encountered speak the language beautifully. I struggle to do basic things with my two years of high school German till they take pity on me and switch to English lol

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