How language changes business approach | Stillman Translations
How language changes business approach

If you’re looking to improve your intercultural communication skills, speaking in another person’s language may be a great option.

If you’re looking to improve your intercultural communication skills, speaking in another person’s language may be a great option.

There are some baselines common to any business interaction. For example, people should always be respectful. And it’s within our common sense to understand that there is more to what is being said: there’s tone of voice, body language, etc.  

But, aside from paralingual communication, language is important. In a study on multilingualism, researchers observed that their native language and culture influence the way they speak a foreign language. For example, when speaking Hebrew, they showed a tendency to be direct when asking for something or refusing it. However, when talking to Spanish speakers, they tended to be more indirect and less direct, indicating that their background influenced their communication style.  

Keeping this in mind can help businesses adapt more easily to multicultural environments.

How does language change business approach?

Language can influence business approaches in a number of ways. For example, the use of formal or informal language can signal the level of respect and deference expected in a business interaction. The use of direct or indirect language can also affect the perceived politeness and diplomacy of a message. Moreover, the use of language can reflect cultural norms, such as the importance of personal relationships, negotiation strategies, and the appropriate tone and level of enthusiasm in a business conversation. 

When conducting business with people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, it is important to be aware of the differences in communication styles, values, and expectations. 

In addition, the language used can affect the way information is processed and understood. People sometimes process information differently in their first and second languages. Which can translate into a language gap in how messages are framed and delivered.

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash 

Where is this “language gap” most visible? 

Some items to pay attention to include: 

Communication: obviously. That’s what the whole thing is about. But it’s still an item in itself. Communication is crucial to any business deal, and language can play a big role in how well people understand one another. When people speak different languages, there can be misunderstandings, which can lead to mistakes, delays, and other problems. So if you will be handling the meeting or negotiation in a language that is not your first language, maybe take an interpreter with you. Or do some research on business and technical jargon that may come in handy. If the other person is adapting to your language, then be mindful of this. Allow for larger pauses between turns to talk. Make sure you are both on the same page. 

Cultural understanding: Language is closely tied to culture, and understanding the cultural norms and values of business partners is essential for building trust and establishing strong relationships. When people speak the same language, they are often better able to appreciate cultural nuances and to work together more effectively.  

Negotiation: Each language is tied to culture. Each culture is tied to communication styles. And then each style is also personal. Do your research on what the communicational style typically is when it comes to business in the other person’s country. But be prepared for that not to be the case, since each individual has their own history.   

Marketing and sales: Being effective in advertising and promotional materials is the goal. But it’s not achieved the same way everywhere. Be open to each marketplace and how each has its own codes, trends and behavior. 

Legal and regulatory issues

Language can also impact legal and regulatory issues, particularly when it comes to international business. Companies need to be able to understand the legal and regulatory requirements of different countries, which often involves understanding the language used in legal documents and regulations. For the previous steps a language expert could be optional. But in this instance, we highly recommend you count with one. We have many to recommend.

How does it impact people at an individual level?

A person’s native language and culture can significantly influence the way they speak a foreign language. This is because our first language shapes the way we think and process information, as well as our understanding of grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. 

When we learn a new language, we tend to bring the grammatical and syntactical structures of our first language with us. This can result in a distinctive accent or grammar. They may use different levels of politeness or formality based on their background. And, as even native speakers do, struggle from the exposure to different accents and dialects. Someone who has only been exposed to a limited range of accents and dialects may struggle to understand and imitate new ones. 

Overall, business is a complex interplay. Language adds a layer of complexity.  Cultural factors as well as individual learning styles and experiences play a big role. And to make sure no business is at stake, we’d love for our team of language experts to help you along the way.