Almost everyone I have spoken to regarding language and culture in international business has said that it is worthwhile to take the time to learn something about the country’s language – even if the other person speaks your language fluently.
This doesn’t mean that you are expected to conduct business negotiations in the language within the first month though! An experienced interpreter can help you with that.
One of Comtec’s clients, a business owner developing training programmes made this very point. She is selling into Saudi Arabia. By learning a few words of Arabic, it has made a real difference for her in getting a relationship started.
In the end, it is a competitive world. Having a few words of the language gives you the edge, it makes you stand out. You never know, the client might give you the business over someone else because you were the one who took the interest in his language. It is also a good idea to compliment your prospect on their English.
So what to learn?
Well, learn some of the essential politeness words. Your business associates will be greatly flattered and it starts off the relationship well. It shows that you don’t take it for granted that everyone speaks English.
Remember that only 6% of the world’s population speaks English as a first language.
Here’s how to make verbal communication easier for a non-native English speaker:
- Choose your words well. Don’t use slang or abbreviations.
- Summarise regularly, speak slowly and avoid long complicated sentences.
- Use nouns wherever possible rather than verbs. Nouns are easier for non-native English speakers to learn. For example, rather than ‘What are you aiming to achieve?’ say ‘What are your objectives?’
- If you don’t understand, ask the question in a different way, rather than asking the same question again..
If you’re considering expanding your business abroad and would like some advice on translating and localising your business materials, please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on + 44 (0) 1926 335 681. We’re here ready and waiting to help.