Global Business in EDA
Modesto Casas, has 28 years of worldwide market successes. He is multi-lingual and multi-cultural having lived in six countries. Mo has taken several start-ups to international regions and developed them into compelling local enterprises. His company, In Region, takes high technology companies … More »
Global communication requires English to English translation
April 19th, 2010 by Mo Casas
One evening in 1993 when I had just started working in international business, I contacted a very important customer from a well known Japanese semiconductor company. This was a big accomplishment, because many of our people had tried for weeks to find a time when he would be in the office. I was ecstatic and the conversation was going very well. Just as I began to get information on his company’s needs, my other line rang. I could see it was my boss, so I asked the customer to “please hang on”. He immediately obliged me and hung up! Three weeks later, when I reached him again, he explained that he hung up because I asked him to do so.
International communications is a delicate art. In verbal and written communications it is imperative to be sensitive to the audience’s cultural differences, be clear, concise and request feedback to make sure that the correct points are understood. Verbal communication is the easiest, because the feedback can be immediate as in my example. On the other hand, initial verbal contact usually happens on the telephone where listening carefully to the other party’s reaction is most important. A speaker should be cautious and sensitive to hesitation or pauses and out of context commentary by the other party.
I recently spoke with an Electrical Engineer in Europe and I told him that my client was sponsoring a seminar regarding gotchas in semiconductor design verification. Silence… I quickly rephrased the statement and told him that there were many unknown factors that cause problems during circuit verification and that we have a seminar to teach engineers how to avoid them. He immediately engaged by asking some questions.
I always place engaging questions immediately after each main point in a telephone conversation. Carefully phrased, I am able to tell if the other party understood the meaning of what I am communicating. This helps me to keep the conversation focused and make sure that we don’t diverge from the main points. Half jokingly, let me say that asking a non native speaker “are you still with me?” doesn’t work. This idiom is not necessarily understood everywhere in the world, even by highly educated people.
More difficulty can be encountered in written communications, where there is no immediate feedback. I stopped a mailer the other day that said “we are the top of the heap”. A non-native speaker looking for a definition on line (www.freedictionary.com) will find: Heap – a pile or mass; a collection of things thrown together. Not necessarily the technical excellence that the communicator intended. In written communications, forget colloquialisms and trendy speech. This is more important on web sites, because prospective customers and investors are unable to give you feedback and can decide to go somewhere else with the click of a button. The web can be treacherous!
Does your web site tell the world what you do? Does it do it in the first paragraph? Does it provide the ability to get further information? Does it tell the visitor how to talk with a human being? Not just how to contact sales, but also someone who can explain the product in technical depth? Does it give an idea of the cost? This last point leaves a lot of room for creativity. I certainly don’t recommend an on-line price list in a competitive market, but there are ways to express cost by comparison to other products or solutions to the same problem.
It is best to have a native speaker either create or proof every website in a foreign language. I find our staff is more and more involved in editing websites. It is amazing that they always find something that escaped the non-native speaker. There is also a difference between correct grammar and the words or phrases required to communicate messages about products and services.
Excellent written and verbal communications are imperative for success in the Global marketplace. Remember to ask engaging questions after each point in verbal communication and keep things simple, focused and use short sentences without trendy speech when writing. More about geo-cultural differences in future postings, but for now, look out for those gotchas in your global communications.
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