How many languages do you speak? Three? Five? One? If your native language isn’t English, it is extremely likely your second language is. We can deduce that because you’re reading this in English, but also by the high prevalence of English as the first choice of foreign language learners.

This choice stems from the language’s prominence in computing, economics, and international law and politics, not to mention the emergent global culture. From a native English speaker’s perspective, it might actually seem that the whole world does speak English! 

However, non-English speakers still outnumber English speakers by multiples, even in statistics that most favourably consider the total of L1 and L2 speakers at up to 2 billion. Moreover, plenty of events and activities are occurring in those non-English speaking areas. Due to the interconnected nature of global economics and society, events happening in one area are likely to affect events elsewhere in the world through supply chains, social media movements, and global capital markets. 

There are at least three reasons to pay attention to content in multiple languages: English is the lingua franca, but not the first; local events spread beyond domestic borders; and varied framing of issues between audiences.

If you don’t speak any foreign languages, our Gold plan translation feature can help you.

Be the after-guy, not the before-guy, with CityFALCON’s translation feature!

The World’s Lingua Franca

Throughout history, different languages have had the enviable position of being the language shared among peoples of different cultures and native languages. Today, that language is undoubtedly English on the global scale. Certainly some regions, like the Islamic world, Hispanic America, and Western Africa use Arabic, Spanish, and French as their cross-border language, but for the whole world, English is king.

This leads to most newsworthy stories being published eventually in English. Oftentimes, such as in science journals, English is the first language of publication, regardless of the native languages of the authors. If English isn’t the first, it will certainly be a close second. If you want to know what’s happening in the Chinese economy, there are plenty of English sources for it. If you want to know how a political situation is destabilising mineral prices in some region, there is going to be English coverage, even if the region only speaks Spanish. If there is a major terrorist attack, it will be covered in English.

World events that affect world economics will be published in English. 

However, the markets today are extremely efficient, in the sense that new information is incorporated almost instantly. If a terrorist attack occurs in a non-English speaking country, it is certain that local tweets will be coming out in the local language before any English news publication picks it up. And there will be a flood of those non-English tweets giving plenty of details. Smart traders will be able to identify the trend – potentially using the CityFALCON trending page – and will act swiftly to preserve capital when the markets inevitably fall.

If a CityFALCON trader doesn’t speak the local language, it doesn’t matter. We provide translation services into English for all of our content, so the trader can keep track of what’s going on in the regions in which they are invested. 

Moreover, local events that won’t affect most people across the world may face a delay in the publication of the news. But the local news outlets will cover it, and slower-moving traders and investors will still be able to capitalise on the information before the broader world knows about it as long as they pay attention to local sources.

For example, say a national politician is railing against an industry, but few international outlets pay attention, because this politician has a low international profile. You might get a few headlines here and there, but most of the information is being published in the local language. You could conduct a much clearer analysis of the situation if you had all the information that was published locally, especially social media. You might even discern that the politician could win the next election based on local social media posts, but if you don’t speak the language, you’ll need some translation assistance.

To give another example, a small but potentially disruptive development of a small company in Argentina may not be known to the English speaking world for some time, but if you have investments in South American ETFs, you might want to know about it. This is where translation can be a competitive advantage to CityFALCON users who leverage translation.

But we all know in the connected economy, few consequential events remain local for long.


The domestic snowball that goes international

Small, seemingly local events can have far-reaching consequences in the future. A mine collapse will make international news, but will an early complaint to the local oversight committee? Probably not. The municipal authority may publish the complaint and explicitly name Company A, but if you don’t speak the language, you’ll probably never hear about it – until the mine collapses, hundreds of people perish, and Company A crashes along with the stock you invested in it.

A broader example may be the arrest of protesters, which sparks widespread social media reaction. This may cause national fervour, which could quickly spread via public platforms. If you can monitor the situation through the native language of the social media posts, you will likely have a deeper insight into the situation – and therefore a better chance of predicting the outcome. Translation can reveal the entire world of resistance to you while international media outlets are only dedicating a few stories to the developing events. Once the protest reaches a breaking point, the issue might spill over onto the global economy as the country is gripped by upheaval. 

Prices of currencies or commodities spike as soon as the investing world starts to realise what’s happening. But you were already positioned because you were paying attention at the local level, even though you don’t speak the language.


The mood and framing of events

Continuing with the protesters example, international and domestic media outlets may be publishing stories that frame the situation in conflicting frames. This is especially likely with state-run media, such as those common in countries like Russia and China, two nations that may only be ignored at the global investor’s peril.

The people of the country are receiving one interpretation of the events while the international community receives another interpretation. This can easily lead to misunderstandings and missed opportunities because accurate information is critical to correctly pricing assets. The way the domestic population is informed will be reflected in events like elections, entering trade deals, and private business decisions. 

Does the international audience receive one take on the South China Sea debate while Chinese nationals receive another? Almost certainly. For anyone doing business with Chinese partners and companies in China, this can have major consequences. Chinese consumers may be less likely to purchase products from your company or companies in your portfolio if they’re negatively viewed due to domestic Chinese media coverage.

Another good example is the international coverage of American politics, which can often be juxtaposed with domestic coverage, especially from outlets like Fox News. Will a German media station cover the US-Mexican border crisis differently than Fox News? Very likely, if it is covered at all. 

Non-English speakers will never read Fox News’ English coverage, but with CityFALCON Translation, they can easily stay tuned in to how many Americans are informed. The way they are informed has consequences for elections, in turn impacting economics and international relations.

Non-Persian speakers won’t be able to read Iranian state media that covers an event where a US drone was shot down by Iranian forces. Persian-only speakers won’t understand claims by the US that the drone was in international waters. 

The international news media may also disregard much of the political and cultural background of events while domestic media will cover it more fully. Are you watching two countries escalate a trade dispute sparked by political wrangling, perhaps between Japan and South Korea? International news media may dedicate a single paragraph to the historical factors and grievances. Domestic media and especially social media, on the other hand, are more likely to continually mention the historical injustices perceived on both sides, giving a user of CityFALCON’s translation a deeper and fuller picture of the situation. A more informed investor is more likely to make better investment decisions.


Lost in Translation

It is important to understand the nuances of language, especially in controversial or contentious topics. In regular business, this may be less vital, but in politics and culture, it can be quite important. The latter two will eventually influence the former.

When translating, there are two problems here: ignorance of nuance and loss of ideas. Machine translation is continuously improving, especially for widely used languages. Spanish-English tends to be quite accurate. Unfortunately, other language pairs, say Czech-Navajo, may not be so robust. Regardless of the language pair’s accuracy, though, sometimes nuance can still be lost through machine translations. Word choice may have powerful implications, but a poor translation algorithm may ignore these. 

A good example is the fine distinction in English between look at, see, and watch. In some languages, this idea may not be fleshed out into three words with their implications. A news story that states “Traders see earnings reports, react” carries different implications than “Traders watch earnings reports, react”. This nuance may lead investors to make different inferences. 

Along these lines, it is also possible that an idea is not easily encoded in both languages. Sometimes whole phrases are required to describe single words in other languages, as words can encapsulate whole concepts. These words are sometimes imported wholesale into other languages (e.g. Schadenfreude, ennui, dukkha), and, while often translated into one or two words, their broader implications are better described by the foreign word itself. However, this is not the case all the time.

For daily business and finance, perhaps these won’t have much of an influence. Thus, for most of our CityFALCON readers and users, this may not affect you at all. Which is good, because you won’t have to worry about it. After all, money speaks all languages, and generally, the more the better. 

However, if you want to do a deep dive into local sentiment, politics, and culture before investing in the markets of a foreign country, this kind of issue may arise periodically in headlines or on social media. The latter platform may be particularly peppered with slang that is hard to translate, and that itself may be critical to follow. So while we wouldn’t discourage use of translation, we also do not claim that machine translation is going to be a panacea for language barriers and international misunderstandings. You should be aware of this shortcoming when using any translation service.


CityFALCON Translation and our mission

At CityFALCON we have already implemented a client-facing front-end solution to help our users follow local news that is not in their native language. Our solution is to use machine translation. This feature can be enabled with a Gold plan subscription. While we don’t have free trials for Gold plans (as we do with Silver), you can still sign up for just a single month to see how you like it and cancel before the renewal date.

So far, we’ve only implemented translation for languages into English, but, in the future, we will have other target languages, too. For now, into-English translation should be sufficient for everyone who has read this long blog post, which is in English.

We are also working on another solution on the back-end, which was a major driver for our expansion to Malta. This will involve connecting and tagging entities (companies, people, organisations, etc.) in different languages to make search more accurate and ensure you are receiving relevant news. This means we can track your watchlist topics across all languages, so you never miss a story, even when sources are written in different languages. But we only translate once you ask us, so you can either read in the original or translate when you want.