Nepal Street Sellers Embrace Foreign Languages to Boost Business

Souvenir sellers working on the tourist streets of Kathmandu, Nepal, are increasingly learning foreign languages to help sell their products, according to a report in the Nepalese newspaper Republica.

The article centres around Surendra Shahim, who sells colourful artefacts in Durbar Square to tourists by uttering foreign language words to draw in potential customers. Journalist Riwaj Rai visited Shahi and discovered he trained in French at Bishwo Bhasha Campus and joined the Alliance Francaise De Katmandou to improve his skills.

“When you approach foreign tourists in their own languages, they feel excited and are more willing to listen to what you have to offer. It helps our business”, Shahi explained to Raj.

Most of the souvenir sellers in the area, occupying around 60 stalls, have a grasp of at least two foreign languages (mostly French and English) to help boost their sales and profit. Another seller described the English language as a “breadwinner”.

“We are not perfect in these languages, but we can somehow manage to communicate and they understand what we say”, said Shahi.

The demand for multiple languages
The 60 stalls in Durbar Square all sell similar products; souvenirs in the form of beads, masks and trinkets. As they are in direct competition with one another, any advantage with the consumers is welcomed and speaking multiple languages is often considered the most adaptable method.

Fellow seller Krishna Budhathoki supported Shahi’s statements by emphasising the need for foreign language skills: “It is more like a necessity to us. The ability to mutter something at least in broken English is a must in this business. Or course, it is always better if you know more languages.”

Typical tourists attracted to the area speak English, French, Spanish or Italian, while there has also been a recent increase is tourists speaking Chinese.

Price of business
This particular area of souvenir sellers found itself dwindling as the worldwide economic downturn took effect; while the cost of the materials for their products increased, the number of tourists visiting the area declined.

Shahi highlighted the issue by revealing, “There used to be 108 stalls here but now only around 60-65 are left”.

As the sellers continue to fight back against the downturn, learning new languages will become even more essential to secure additional sales and keep tourists browsing for longer. Tourists who hear their native languages are said to be struck by curiosity and a level of appreciation that makes them more likely to make a purchase.

Professional translation
The inner-workings of the street-seller business at Durbar Square reflects the language needs of all businesses with international relations, clients and partners. The ability to work in multiple languages and approach potential the clients from around the world drastically increases a business’ chances of both competing and surviving in the market.

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