Overcoming the Language Barrier on International Business Trips

If you go abroad on holiday, you’ll generally be able to get by talking slowly and loudly while punctuating every other word with a hand gesture. However, in the world of business, it’s a bit different. If you’re looking to overcome the language barrier on international business trips, follow these top tips:

Get a translator

While it may be impractical to take a translator with you on a business excursion, if you have a meeting with a client who speaks a different language, or have documents given to you in another language, there’s a chance you’ll need to use a translator. To ensure everything runs smoothly, it may be a good idea to make use of a professional translation service, such as those offered by London Translations.

Give a little respect

Wherever you go on business, it’s vital that you always show respect for the local language. Even if your translations are poor, showing an appreciation for the language, culture and customs will stand you in good stead.

Mind your language

It’s important to consider certain areas of a country may have variations on the national language. For example, the Basque and Catalan variations on Spanish. Not knowing which language is spoken locally could really rub the natives up the wrong way.

Key phrases are key

If learning an entire language isn’t possible – for instance, if you have clients across a number of countries – learning a few key phrases will help you get by. It’s best to keep it simple and learn the basics, such as how to ask for directions.

It could also be worth carrying a phrase book to help you out. However, a phrase book should only be used for quick references, so make sure you bookmark the relevant pages to save time flicking through the book in public.

Check your hand signals

Hand gestures are a natural part of any language, but an acceptable gesture in one country could be something entirely different in another. So, swot up on the local language, use your judgement and gesture wisely.

Work it out
Some words may look familiar whatever language they’re in, so use your common sense, look at the context the words are being used in, and try to figure out what they mean before asking for assistance.

Let tech take the lead

Using a simple smartphone app could make your life a lot easier when doing business abroad. There are a variety of apps available that can help you properly learn and articulate local words and phrases. Even if you can’t get the hang of the local lingo, the app can to do all the hard work for you.

Be quick on the draw

It could also be worth carrying a notebook around to write down certain words if you have trouble pronouncing them, or even to draw pictures of the thing you’re looking for. While this may not give off the most professional image, it can be a quick way to get your point across with the minimum of fuss.

Take your time

Although speaking slowly and loudly fits the stereotype of the typical Brit abroad, it’s actually a good idea to take your time when speaking in a foreign tongue. Taking your time will ensure that your accent and grasp of the language doesn’t confuse the listener.

Parlez-vous Anglais?

While it may sound obvious, it’s always worth finding out if the person you’re conversing with speaks English – if they do, it could make everything a lot more straightforward and save you stumbling your way through a foreign language.

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