Sep 25, 2012

The Need for Language Services

written by RussTech

“Most of the folks I deal with speak English.”

Yes, but do you really understand one another?

There are cultures in which people mean “No” when they nod and “Yes” when they shake their head from side to side.

There are cultures that seldom say “No” but have a myriad of ways to say “Maybe.”

There are cultures where the real negotiations start after a contract has been signed.

I’m reminded of an old Soviet joke that still has relevance in parts of the world today:

It’s February in Moscow. A businessman from Siberia meets a businessman from the Crimea - a semi-tropical region in the South. The guy from Siberia wants to buy a railcar full of oranges, and the guy from Crimea says that’s not a problem if the price is right. So they make a deal. Then the guy from Siberia goes back home to borrow some money, and the guy from Crimea goes home to look for some oranges.

When trying to do business in a foreign country it is critical that correspondence, draft contracts, and all technical materials be submitted to your counterparts in two languages - English so you can be as clear and persuasive as possible; and their first language so there is no doubt they fully understand your proposal.

Similarly, when the time comes to actually negotiate a deal, you need to work in both languages, even if your counterparts seem to understand what is being discussed in English. At that time, it is essential for you to have an interpreter on your side of the table - one whom you have engaged and who is working in your best interests. I have seen instances where an apparent agreement at the table fell apart later on when one side or the other fully realized what they had committed to verbally.

Moreover, should you ever need to litigate a dispute, contracts and other agreements will be admissible in court in most nations only if written in the local language. For that reason, we often are called upon to create dual-column, dual-language texts for important documents.

The cost of language services will seldom amount to more than 2 or 3% of your total budget; but the value of those services is immeasurable, if only as an insurance policy.
 

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