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How to Express Yourself When You Don't Speak the Local Language

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For those who travel frequently for business, the language barrier is a familiar challenge. It is, of course, always ideal to conduct business in the local language to ensure that everyone present will be able to understand and contribute. However, this is rarely the reality at global companies that operate in multiple countries. Read on for a few tips to keep in mind when you need to get down to business. 

Mind your Manners 

No matter where you may be headed, you will always have enough time to learn a few basic words in the local language. Hello, goodbye, please, thank you, yes, and no are a good place to start. You will hear these words from the moment you step off the airplane, and you should use them too! Be observant and mimic standard patterns that you see.  

Communication is Key 

If you are presenting information, be sure that you educate in a way that someone who does not understand a word of your language could at least get the idea of the presentation. This means that your presentation or documents should include images, numbers, and graphs that clearly display information. Remember to use "global English" in your presentation. "Global English" is the most basic form of the English language...do not use slang, abbreviations, or advanced vocabulary. If you are presenting in another language, use the "global" version of that language if those present speak other languages as well.  

Image of a man viewing graphs

Appreciate Education 

While it is easy to become focused on making sure that you will be understood, it is just as important to ensure that you will have the proper tools to understand your international coworkers. Educate yourself on the local non verbal communication methods. Does an up-and-down nod mean "yes" or "no"? If someone makes a clicking sound, what should you do?  

Conducting business with other countries is a challenge, but it is incredibly rewarding when it is successful. Keep an open mind and find quiet time to ask questions during your trip...you will find that most cultures want to share their customs with you and will enjoy a curious exchange.

Some misunderstandings can be very serious, but for smaller situations may be comical. Either way, make sure it is a learning experience for you and your team. 

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Manners, communication, and preparation are three points to remember whenever you visit a new culture, whether it may be for business travel, vacation, or an international relocation assignment.

To completely prepare for your trip, click here or view our Intercultural Services. If you would like to get started immediately, start learning with CultureCloud today!  


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