The Concept of Mutual Intelligibility

Posted by: in executive insights, Pre-Commerce, Social Media Insights & Trends, Thought Leadership on September 5, 2014

Published in the August 18, 2014 issue of PRNews

It’s more important than ever to monitor the languages of the online world. As communicators spend more time online, language relationships become a key to effective brand listening. “Mutual Intelligibility” means that because you speak language X, you are likely to understand language Y, dialect Z and follow closely what is said in the languages that are one degree of separation from your mother tongue. Basically, what the other party is saying is “intelligible” enough to follow.

All multilanguage customers, which is the majority of the world, have a comfort zone of languages and dialects they will learn from. It’s not about one language anymore.

Mutual Intelligibility listening shows us exactly how an issue is likely to evolve and cross languages and countries. For example, if Czech is your main language, you may also be following Slovak and Polish. If you are Danish, you may be tracking what is said in Norwegian and Swedish. If you are Serbo-Croatian, you may understand Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Serbian. If you are living in China, you may understand Mandarin and Jin, which is a dialect of Mandarin spoken by 45 million people.

And of course, Americans, well, we would say we understand the dialects of the South or the Bronx, but not much more. Not sure what to do there.

What it means is that when you have a listening program in place for your brand, you should automatically track the related languages and dialects of the country or language of origin for the issue you are tracking. In an increasingly globalized economy, not to mention the Web, this should become standard for brands and organizations.

All the best, Bob

By: Bob Pearson

Bob is the President of W2O Group, an independent network of digital communications and marketing companies. He is an author, frequent speaker and instructor for Rutgers center for management development. After the success of his book Pre-Commerce, Bob is currently working on a new book on the future of media titled Storytizing that will be available in 2014. Prior to W2O Group, Bob worked as VP of Communities and Conversations at Dell to develop the Fortune 500’s first global social media function -- an industry-leading approach to the use of social media, as highlighted in the best seller, GroundSwell. Before Dell, Bob was Head of Global Corporate Communications and Head of Global Pharma Communications at Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Basel, Switzerland, where he served on the Pharma Executive Committee. He also serves on a variety of Boards in health and technology. Highlights include serving as an original member of the P&G digital advisory board and being appointed by the Governor of Texas to serve as chair and vice chair of the emerging technology fund for the State of Texas.

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Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

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