We’ve all experienced them: misunderstandings, irritations, feelings of exclusion, a sense of inferiority – all common daily challenges when you’re trying to do business with speakers of different languages.
We try and get used to each other’s accents and accept the language mistakes that are frequently made. Daily, we try and figure out what a good translation would be for a particular idiom and how the words are to be interpreted and valued in our own language.
But important details still get lost in translation.
What exactly happens and how can global organizations help employees become more effective in this intercultural language and its various communication styles?
Overcoming the Language Barrier
So, how does one overcome these barriers and is able to do business effectively in this environment? Some tips:
- Learn as much as you can of your business partner’s language. If you want to communicate effectively and build rapport, you should consider learning at least a few words and phrases in their language.
- Use visual methods of communication more than audio. Show more than tell. Explain it with pictures as much as possible. Almost every step in every process can be described in picture format
- Use repetition. As with any new concept, most people don’t learn something the first time they hear it. We need to hear the same message over and over before we fully understand it. Don’t expect people to learn anything after only hearing it once.
- Do not raise your voice or over-enunciate your words; try and speak more slowly and more clearly – not louder and more forcefully. Odds are your audience is intelligent enough to grasp what you are saying as you deliver your message without talking down to them. Speak correct English the correct way, just more clearly.
- Try to limit your vocabulary and to use common words that still convey your message. Don’t talk down – just use a less complex vocabulary.
- Have the audience demonstrate their understanding. Don’t assume they understand; check for understanding. Ask the person or persons listening to repeat back to you the point you were trying to make.
Doing Business with Brazil
Some language tips with regards to Brazil:
- Explain in detail what your company does, where it is, and where you fit in the overall organization – job titles do not always translate well.
- Bring and provide your English business cards.
- Brazilians like direct, private communication, so do make sure you are perceived as being accessible in that way.
- Many Brazilians speak English, but few have a great level of fluency; even if they were fluent at one point, it’s hard to keep it up; many movies and TV shows are dubbed (contrary to what happens in, say, Northern Europe).
- Do not consider a negotiation finished unless you have positive confirmation of what you understand the agreement to be, either personally or through an interpreter that you trust.
- Be careful when Brazilians tell you they understand you “perfectly” (“perfeitamente”); ask for him/her to repeat back to you their understanding. Avoid hurting egos at all cost though.
At Street Smart Brazil we can help you with Brazilian Portuguese – with both language and cultural coaching. Cultural fluency is part of our language teaching approach. As our client Ken puts it:
I highly recommend Street Smart Brazil. They’ll have you speaking Portuguese in surprisingly little time and you’ll learn a lot about Brazil and its people and culture. – Ken S.
Book a Trial Session to see how we can help you speak great Portuguese.