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The Importance of Language


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English is the global language so why would you need to bother speaking anything else when trading abroad?

Many companies across the world have realized the need to speak English if they want to do business but having access to someone who has learned at least the basics of another language could do your company a lot of good.


Firstly, the person you're talking to in another company might not speak English as well as they think they do. Obviously you will want to have important documents and contracts thoroughly checked to make sure that mistranslations aren't going to foul things up at a legal level but you need to be sure that a simple mistake in a conversation doesn't lead to bigger problems later on.

To avoid this, a lot of companies use the services of a translator. This is all but essential for documents but not a great deal of use if you find yourself negotiating on the telephone. Since a great deal of interaction with foreign businessmen is now carried out through the medium of e-mail or instant messaging, it may be impractical to use a human translator but beware the automated services.

They can offer a rapid (and free) translation but obviously the machine has no idea of the meaning or the context of what they are translating. A tourism executive in France recently lost her job when she used an online, automated translator. Following a quick internet translation, she authorized the printing of full colour posters which loudly and proudly bore the headline "Welcome to the Land of Blue Cocks" which was not what she meant to say at all and there are many other examples of computerized translations that have gone wrong. Even typing "Cher Michael" into an online translator will give you the French to English opening of a letter as "Expensive Michael" so there are obviously many, many similar mistakes that you can make without being aware of it. They might not be crucially important errors but if making a good impression is vital, you don't want potential trading partners sniggering about your or your organization.

If you absolutely have to be certain about a translation, make sure and use a reputable translator. They can be expensive but offer clarity and security. There are registered agencies and officially accredited translators in most countries, the contact details of which can be found at the local chamber of commerce or equivalent organization.

Having considered how to avoid problems when working with another language, why not look at how you can turn the comprehension gap to your advantage? Many people in non-English speaking countries feel some slight resentment over the dominance of the English language. Everyone is proud of their own language and heritage and experienced travellers report that even learning and using one or two phrases in the local language can have a hugely positive effect when doing business. So make sure that you can at least say "hello" and "goodbye" in the local language. Showing that you have gone to the trouble of learning the bare minimum will carry an awful lot of weight when developing relationships with suppliers or customers.


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