A guide to reaching new Israeli customers without knowing Hebrew – Jewish Business News
A Guide to Reaching New Israeli Customers Without Knowing Hebrew
By contributing author
Israel is disproportionate in the news, and that’s no surprise. The tiny nation on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean, with nine million citizens and an area the size of New Jersey, is far above its weight in terms of political, economic and technological influence. Known as Startup Nation for its technological innovation and more recently as Vacci-Nation for its rapid success in inoculating the lion’s share of its population against COVID, Israel is now poised for a post-Corona boom. Although diplomatically bolstered by Abraham’s recent agreements opening relations with the Emirates and other Arab-Muslim states, there remain obstacles to overcome in doing business with Israel.
Overcoming the Judeo-Israeli linguistic divide through translation
Perhaps the biggest obstacle is the language. Even for Jewish-run businesses overseas, there is still a huge communication gap due to the complexity of reading, writing, and speaking the ancient Hebrew language. This despite the fact that almost all of Israel’s 80% Jewish population and a good proportion of its Muslim minority can do so. The number of American Jews who can read some of the main language of Israel, most likely in a prayer book, is barely 13%, and other English-speaking communities in the diaspora are roughly at the same level. Much less can write or speak Hebrew, except maybe to order falafel, bevakasha. Part of the problem is an unknown alphabet and character set. Even with Google Translate, right-to-left directionality will cause endless formatting issues. So what must a businessman do to break into Israel’s lucrative consumer base let alone the word?
Ofer Tirosh, founder and CEO of Tomedes, one of Israel’s seasoned translation companies, spoke of the conundrum of reaching out to Hebrew speakers. “A small segment of Israelis, especially those involved in export-oriented tech companies, speak excellent English and even prefer to communicate there for business. You can get by by speaking and communicating in English with them. But the overwhelming proportion of Israelis does not. Additionally, those who can speak and write in Hebrew will have the benefit of attracting the attention of Hebrew speakers. They appreciate that you make an effort to communicate. “
Tips for acquiring a shortlist of English to Hebrew translation providers
The solution, says Tirosh, is to work with an English to Hebrew translation service that guarantees error free and low cost, quick fixes. Not necessarily his, he quickly adds, even though his agency has been in existence for over 14 years and serves over 70,000 business clients. How should a businessman looking to enter the Israeli market get started?
Have a well-connected Israeli parent, Tirosh quipped. But, getting serious, he advises doing web research that goes beyond language and touches your target industry or market niche. “Whenever you try to enter a new market, it is essential to learn the lingo and technical terminology of that industry. So, when looking for a translation agency, also mention both “Hebrew” and the market sector, be it food, textiles, pharmacy or whatever. The more specific your search, the more likely you are to find a language services company that not only speaks, but also walks in the path of your target audience.
Once you’ve done your research on the web and have a shortlist of candidate companies, you’ll want to do your due diligence in selecting the most suitable translation agency. Businesses in Israel may have the advantage of being able to not only provide translations but also related services in SEO, interpreting, captioning and other skills needed for successful communication. They may also offer ancillary services such as managing a local marketing or advertising campaign for a specific sector or population in Israel.
Negotiate a good deal with an Israeli translation agency
Israelis are known for their frankness in communications, although more experienced businessmen in Israel have softened their approach. Yet Israel is in the Middle East. There is a cultural joy to negotiate, and if you just accept the asking price without a bit of compromise, you can be mistaken for a freier, a venerable Yiddish epithet that translates to “sucker.”
After asking your shortlist of candidate translation agencies about their terms and conditions, find out about their rates. Typically, translation jobs are monetized by the word count of the source document. Therefore, Hebrew to English may have a different rate than translation from English to Hebrew, as Hebrew generally needs to use fewer words. But the number of words is only one factor. There is the intangible of the “comfort level” – make sure you have an account manager who speaks your language. Also inquire about post-delivery guarantees. Nobody is perfect. Will the translation agency correct errors found later in a document, and for how long? The best agencies offer up to a year.
When you’re about to sign a deal, here’s a tip. Ask the agency for a “chupar”. It’s juicy Hebrew slang for a treat or a bonus, meaning a ‘candy’ or ‘bonus’. They’ll have a chuckle because of your request, and they’ll probably give you one just for asking. The closure chupar is part of essential Hebrew communication and a step forward towards successful business in Israel.