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Published Date:16-07-2017
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The Language Guide for European Business Successful communication in your international trade4  THE LANGUAGE GUIDE FOR EUROPEAN BUSINESS Misunderstandings occur because of the failure to communicate. Just over two in five European small and medium-sized companies are active in some form of international activity; about a quarter are involved in direct export. The larger the company, the more it tends to 2 internationalise (IES Study, 2010) ( ). 3 In the European Commission survey of exporting SMEs (ELAN, 2006) ( ):  Nearly half said they had a language management strat egy.  Over one in ten declared they had lost a contract for lack of foreign languages.  Two out of five expected to acquire new language skills in the Chapter 1 near future. Just how serious 1.1 The cost of language gaps is the language According to the ELAN Study, amongst the nearly 200 companies that lost potential contracts for lack of foreign languages, 37 valued the lost problem? business at between €8 million and €13.5 million. A further 54 compa- nies had lost contracts between €16.5 million and €25.3 million, and 10 had lost contracts worth over €1 million. Cultural differences are another related communication barrier, where about one in five European companies report problems. And it’s not only in distant parts of the world that companies report the greatest cultural dif- ferences – they can also arise closer to home. Trading across Europe can mean having to negotiate business with hundreds of different national and regional cultures. CHAPTER 1: JUST HOW SERIOUS IS THE LANGUAGE PROBLEM?  5 When companies are asked where language problems lie, they can’t 1.2 Where are your language and cultural needs most always be precise, but they know roughly the area or activity in which likely to occur? the communication gap arose: Use of the customer’s language is critical to your business prospects in Reasons listed by companies for their communication failures: a range of situations:  Staff couldn’t speak the language.  Describing your business on your website.  Information inquiries or quotations weren’t followed up on.  C omplying with local laws and regulations and completing cus-  A lack of confidence in using the foreign language. toms declarations.  Breakdown on receiving foreign call at phone or switchboard.  Preparing employees for secondment or posting abroad.  Errors in translation or interpreting.  T endering for public procurement and other types of contracts.  Inability to capitalise on opportunities.  Dra wing up contracts in the proper style and in conformity with  Lack of cultural affinity. local regulations. Source: ELAN Study (2006).  Attending court proceedings (such as pursuing bad debts and defending patents). Failure can come in different forms, often due to a lack of native speakers:  Advertising and launching publicity campaigns abroad.  The company failed in Germany. The software was translated but the  Undertaking market research in a foreign market. company didn’t employ native German speakers to sell the product in their  Selecting and managing a local agent or distributor. country. There was a lack of cultural strategy and vision. The German  Managing and training multilingual workforces at home and abroad. branch had to close down… and it has only reopened two years later.   Providing customer care and ensuring the quality of after-sales (Everteam, France, PIMLICO Study) service.  Pursuing payment and recovering bad debt. This can also apply in certain markets where English is not used:  Handling local documentation, pr otocols, in-house styles, and  The company started communicating with the Spanish market in Eng- technical specifications. lish, but could not fully communicate. Once it employed an account man-  Negotiating joint ventures, acquisitions and take-overs. ager who spoke perfect Spanish, the situation changed completely.  (Fotona, Slovenia, PIMLICO Study)6  THE LANGUAGE GUIDE FOR EUROPEAN BUSINESS Where using the customer’s language can bring additional benefits:  An international survey of international recruiters found that nine out  Establishing a positive rapport and sense of trust with major cus- of ten executive recruiters believe that the ability to speak another lan- tomers. guage is critical to success in Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America. They  Showing respect for cultural and religious differences. believe that executives who are multilingual (i.e. speak more than two  Demonstrating a long-term commitment to a foreign market. languages fluently) have a significant competitive advantage.  4  Showing your employees and foreign clients that ‘you mean business’. (Korn/Ferry survey, 2005) ( )  Increasing the flow of market intelligence and customer feedback and understanding its real meaning. 1.3 English alone is not enough Most businesses recognise the need to establish a rapport or sense of Stating the obvious about English… trust with their clients. In other words, the ability to create one-on-one  English is the most studied foreign language in the world and is relationships can be a vital ingredient in a successful business. likely to peak at about two billion learners in the next decade.  English is the dominant language of global trade.  Talking to customers in their own language leads to better communi-  English proficiency is now seen by business as a generic skill much cation and can prevent misunderstanding. It shows our customers and like computing skills or numeracy which people in international business partners that we foresee a long-term commitment to their mar- trade are assumed to possess. ket. Each partner is more confident in business meetings, and ‘speaking  English is the preferred language for intra-company communica- the same language’ can save time, allow for a more relaxed meeting and tions in many global companies, and increasingly in medium-sized result in better business.  (Nikwax Ltd, UK, PIMLICO Study) ones as well as more and more cross-border mergers take place.  W ithout basic English skills, your company will have difficulty trad- What knowing foreign languages can do for you personally: ing across continents and even beyond neighbouring countries.  I ncrease your self-esteem, confidence and self-reliance abroad.  T he use of English is frequently disconnected from its cultural roots,  Enhance your personal job prospects. for example, many non-native speakers of English use a simplified  Demonstrate your respect for your trading partners. form called ‘off-shore’ or ‘mid-Atlantic’ English.  I mprove your understanding of the business environment. CHAPTER 1: JUST HOW SERIOUS IS THE LANGUAGE PROBLEM?  7 Proficiency in English is essential to expanding your international trade. Many languages called for However, not everyone speaks English, and more to the point, not eve- ryone wants to speak English, for example, when receiving a sales pitch Most European SMEs cite English as the primary language used for busi- in one’s home country. This idea is summarised in a quotation attrib- ness communication in their major export markets, but there is wide- uted to former German Chancellor Willy Brandt: spread use of other languages as well.  If I am selling to you, then I will speak your language, aber wenn du mir  German is frequently used when exporting to 15 countries (including etwas verkaufst, dann muβt du Deutsch sprechen  (…but if you want Germany and Austria). to sell me something, then you must speak German).  Russian is frequently used in trade with the Baltic States, Poland and Bulgaria. While English remains as important as ever on the Internet, other lan-  F rench is frequently used in 8 countries, including France, Belgium guages such as Chinese, Russian, Spanish, and Portuguese are becom- and Luxembourg. 5 ing comparatively more important (English Next, 2006) ( ). Languages used by SMEs for exporting 6 The Confederation of Danish Industries carried out a survey ( ) among Others 15 % their member companies in 2007 which showed that languages other than English are used by more than a third of all companies and that 4 out of 10 companies have experienced more or less serious commu- English 51 % Spanish 4 % nication problems with trade partners in other countries as a result of linguistic deficits. Russian 8 % The Austrian Institut für Bildungsforschung der Wirtshaft published French 9 % 7 a report ( ) in 2006 projecting future language needs in Austria. In addi- Source: ELAN, 2006. tion to English, companies will need Italian and the languages of their trading partners in Central and Eastern Europe, in particular Czech, German 13 % Slovak and Hungarian. In Eastern Europe, German and Russian are still used almost as often as English as international languages. 8  THE LANGUAGE GUIDE FOR EUROPEAN BUSINESS T here are other reasons that your language approach should be multi- lingual, rather than English-only:  English suffices f or first contacts with overseas clients, but to go deeper and make a medium-term investment, you’ll need to know the local language and local customs.  Japan and the emerging markets such as China and parts of South East Asia may be adopting English as their language for doing busi- ness with Europe, but will welcome business opportunities in their own languages.  T rading in Latin America is almost impossible without a few words of Spanish or Portuguese.  T ravelling around Russia with only English is not for the faint- hearted  There is growing enthusiasm for the use of local or regional lan- guages such as Catalan, Welsh, and Basque, which are increasingly accepted for use in everyday communication.  The company Golla Oy (Finland), a manufacturer of sleeves and cases for mobile technologies, advocates the idea of total adaptation, i.e. using the language of their business partners whenever possible (as opposed to their own mother tongue or a third language). The company plans to develop in- house skills in Chinese and Portuguese within the next three years. Fluency in Chinese will give the company an added advantage in communication with its China-based production plants and knowledge of Portuguese will ease busi- 1 ness communication with Brazil ( ). CHAPTER 2: WHAT IS A LANGUAGE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY?  9 A language management strategy is a company’s package of measures and techniques used to prevent linguistic and cultural barriers from occurring in new and expanding foreign markets. The strategy addresses specific communication issues relevant to the particular market. Many of these methods can be transferred to other markets. As companies enter new markets, they tend to adapt their strategy to new linguistic and cultural needs. 2.1 What does good language management look like? Chapter 2 What makes a company’s language management strategy successful is the targeted combination of various elements. What is Companies such as Baest develop their language management strategy a language by selecting from a range of various language measures:  use of local agents to solve language problems; management  creation of specially culturally and/or linguistically adapted websites;  use of linguistic audits; strategy?  use of professional translators/interpreters;  translation of promotional, sales and/or technical material;  language training and cultural briefing schemes;  online language learning;  employee selection and recruitment policy;  suppor t for employee mobility, ‘buddying’ and secondment schemes;  link-forging with local universities;  foreign student placement programmes;  native-speaker recruitment;  e-commerce involving multilingual operations;  product or packaging adaptation in line with local tastes and customs.10  THE LANGUAGE GUIDE FOR EUROPEAN BUSINESS 2.2 Impact of language management strategies on trade Companies that invest in language management techniques are more likely to have higher export sales than those that don’t. If your company invests in four language measures, there’s a strong like- lihood that your exports will grow 50 % more than your competitors who don’t. Tip: These four language techniques are connected with higher export sales:  Recruiting native speakers from your target markets.  Appointing company employees who already possess language skills.  Using professional translators and/or interpreters.  Baest, a.s. is a private producer of welded steel frames and in Benešov, Cen-  Developing a language plan or strategy for handling communi- tral Bohemia (40 km from Prague). It has 240 employees and a turnover in cation barriers before you start exporting to a particular country. excess of €30M; exports make up about 80 % of sales. It has experienced expo- nential growth since the fall of the Berlin Wall and its success is due in part to The table below shows the impact of these techniques in increasing its language management strategy. Staff with the language skills required in exports as a share of total SME sales. German, French, Russian, U.S. and Ukrainian markets have been hired, and the Percentage increase in exports Language Measure company website has been translated into each of these languages. Staff can as share of sales handle any situation in English, Russian, German or French. The company plans Hiring staff with language skills 16.6 to expand into Slovakia and the UK. Through its excellent language skills, the Establishing language strategy in advance 13.5 company has never faced communication or cultural problems. In the past three Employing native speakers 7.0 years, Baest has undertaken training in four languages: English, German, French Using professional translators 7.4 and Romanian. The company is aware that it needs additional expertise in French (for correspondence) and Polish (for negotiations), as well as additional know- Source: ELAN, 2006. 1 ledge about cultural differences in the UK, Germany and France ( ).  © ShutterstockCHAPTER 2: WHAT IS A LANGUAGE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY?  11 2.3 Facts and figures 1 In a survey ( ) of 40 successful European small and medium-sized exporters who had introduced a language strategy, in 3 out of 4 of these companies, sales turnover increased by at least 16 % through language management. Percentage Increase in Companies’ (40 companies) Turnover Due to LMS Implementation Increase 1-5 % Increase 6-10 % 6 %  The Slovenian company Bisol, which specialises in the production of high- 9 % Increase 25 % + Increase 11-15 % quality mono- and multicrystalline silicon photovoltaic modules, sees a direct 41 % 9 % correlation between its introduction of new languages as part of its strategy and a 35 %+ rise in sales turnover in the past business year: 35 % ‘The company added Italian and French in the last business year and sales were 1 Source: PIMLICO Study (2011). directly affected’ ( ). Increase 16-25 % LMS = Language Management Strategy Entek, a manufacturer of polyethylene battery separators from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, successfully uses its customer’s languages in the company: English, Polish, German, Chinese, Russian, and Latvian. In their view: ‘Customers come back to us with their orders because they know we speak their language. Polish customers in particular have responded positively to the use of Polish. As a courtesy, all order confirmations are sent back to customers in their 1 native language: things may not be as well understood in English’ ( ).  © Shutterstock12  THE LANGUAGE GUIDE FOR EUROPEAN BUSINESS Common Language Techniques Used by the Top Ten Successful Export Companies Kart. Steel- Language Management Techniques IKO Evricom Filc Golla Oy Danfo NikwaxStenderaTar me ko Huber Press  1. Language training for staff 2. Intercultural training for staff      3. Recruiting staff with language skills 4. Recruiting native speakers   5. Recruiting local agents for language issues   6. Employing professional translators/interpreters   7. Buddying/secondment schemes     8. Cooperation with universities 9. Multilingual websites (3+ languages)    10. Cultural adaptation of websites Source: PIMLICO Study (2011). 2.4 It’ s all down to your people and your hiring and training the right people for the foreign market or focusing company’s image abroad… on how your company creates a positive perception of itself in the mar- ket place, even a superior price/quality ratio will not guarantee success Your strategy comes down to two key features: management of peo- in exporting. ple and presentation of your company to customers. Getting both of these right in your company’s language management strategy will lay The rest of this guide focuses on: the foundation for successful international trade.  Your people: how you select, train and manage the people you need for your international trade. Some would argue that success depends only on the price and qual-  Y our company’s presentation and image to the customer: how ity of your product. Of course, both are critical to your business, but you market, promote, publicize and present your product or serv- success also depends on the quality of your communication. Without ice in the marketplace.CHAPTER 3: DEVELOPING YOUR PEOPLE  13 3.1 Language training: what can it do for your business? Here are a few tips before you or your colleagues start to learn a language:  You may only need a few words. Try to learn the basics for travel- ling and greeting people. It could save you a great deal of incon- venience and frustration when travelling, and help you feel independent, but it will also please your hosts.  Don’t worry about gaining a perfect command of the language before you start speaking. You don’t have to be fluent to show you mean business. Still, you should always leave complex nego- tiations such as those involving legal and contractual issues to lan- guage professionals. Chapter 3 Important tips in setting your company’s language training goals – training may be: Developing  Short-term and operational with limited objectives (e.g. skill-based telephone/receptionist training); or your people  L ong-term and strategic, i.e. training for ‘stock’, when you expect to be in a market long-term. Specify to your trainer what language skills are needed for various jobs or tasks (i.e. job-specific skills, speaking or just understanding, basic or advanced knowledge, and so on). Examples of methods:  Face-to-face: generally this is classroom-based learning with a tutor, either on a ‘crash’ course, or on a regular weekly basis (i.e. a ‘drip-feed’ – four hours in two two-hour weekly sessions) which may be delivered in small groups or one-on-one.14  THE LANGUAGE GUIDE FOR EUROPEAN BUSINESS  Distance, open learning, or self-study: generally there is no tutor: Here, your personnel will need to learn ‘survival’ Chinese, as well as you either work entirely on your own using self-study materials or cultural norms so as to avoid unnecessarily behaving in a disconcert- receive support for self-study. Usually organised through a univer- ing manner. It may help to learn key technical terms and the vocabu- sity or college, you may receive telephone tuition once a day and/ lary for giving instructions. or upon payment of a subscription, you can drop in at a language centre at your local college or university to use their materials.  You have been receiving telephone enquiries from abroad about  A c ombination of face-to-face and supported self-study: this is your new product (although you have only displayed it in your the most comprehensive and effective learning package, provided own country). In some cases, the overseas enquirers may have that the two parts are integrated and geared to your needs. very poor English. The most common type of training is short-term and is intended to meet At a minimum, you might consider training your switchboard operator an immediate need for verbal communication. to distinguish various callers’ languages (e.g. Chinese or Japanese), and providing training on key phrases, such as ‘One moment, I’ll put you Here are a few examples of how even a short language training course through’, or ‘Sorry, Ms ‘X’ is out of the office today, please call back tomor- can help: row.’ Providing the phrases in phonetic form, for example on a mouse- mat, or developing a script can help your staff enormously.  Your company receives a sales lead from abroad which necessitates telephone calls, letters, or meetings in the customer’s language. 3.2 Adapting language training to your needs Your options may include training in telephone-sales, word-processing, Language training does not suit every company: it involves time, effort and or on making short presentations in a foreign language, particularly if commitment on the part of your key staff. So before you start, you need to you already have people with some knowledge of the language. be clear about what language training can and cannot do for you  You are in the running for a large order in China; you must send  I t cannot address all your company’s communication needs. over a technical expert and a training specialist who will need to  If you’re starting a new language from scratch, it will demand a great be posted to the area for several months. deal of time, effort and personal commitment.  Staff must still continue with their primar y skills and duties unless you decide to invest in an immersion course in the language.CHAPTER 3: DEVELOPING YOUR PEOPLE  15  Language skills are secondary skills and enable employees to Tip: Is your training benchmarked to a set of common European standards? enhance their effectiveness in international environments.  A balance must be struck bet ween developing these skills and the The Common European Framework has been developed by the Coun- main objective of the organisation. cil of Europe and provides a common basis for the development of lan-  Time and money may be wasted if training schemes are not rele- guage syllabuses, curriculum guidelines, examinations, textbooks, etc. vant to your business. across Europe. It comprehensively describes what language learners  I t is not generally designed to produce a level of skill which can need to learn in order to use a language for communication and what replace the normal work of language professionals (i.e. translators knowledge and skills they must develop in order to act effectively. The and interpreters), but it will reduce your dependence. description also covers a language’s cultural context and the framework defines levels of proficiency at which learners’ progress can be meas-  Unless the learner is exceptionally gifted, learning a new language at ured at each stage of learning and on a life-long basis. the business level will take several months full-time, a bit less if the Source: Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, 9 Assessment ( ). course takes place in the country so that the learner is fully immersed.  8 (Cultures and Organisations, Software of the Mind, 2010) ( ) Your company may not have the time or resources to train people in dif- Consider these other factors and discuss them with your training provider: ficult languages, especially when the purpose is speculative. A language  Relevance of your training materials. management strategy gives you many more options to consider and ena-  Suitabilit y of your learning methods. bles you to select the right package of measures for your company.  Visits to the country (and in-country learning).  Training environment, number of fellow students and educational You will find more examples of these measures in section 3.4: Recruit- standards. ing the Right People.  Quality of training providers and background of trainers (native speaker or your own nationality?). In conclusion, language training is an important option because speak-  Level of proficiency required to fulfil tasks. ing and understanding your customer’s language can:  Qualifications and certificates available for staff undertaking these  Help you understand what makes your customer tick. courses.  Give you direct appreciation of your customer’s lifestyle and culture.  Other available support such as Web-based programmes, software  Increase your credibility, respect and goodwill in the eyes of the on DVDs, distance learning courses with tutors via telephone. customer. 16  THE LANGUAGE GUIDE FOR EUROPEAN BUSINESS 3.3 Developing cultural awareness in your company The impact of cultural differences on your business What is meant by ‘culture’ in business? One distinguishing feature of top-performing companies is that cul- tural differences are not regarded as problematic but rather as enrich- Culture has been defined as ‘a community of people united by similar ing and stimulating. Understanding the culture of negotiations and the rituals, values, heroes and symbols. It has a unifying effect and creates mindset of different cultures is for many an essential requirement to a sense of pride, belonging and familiarity.’ (Tony Fernandes, Global international business. Addressing cultural difference is arguably one 10 Interface Design) ( ) of the most overlooked aspects of doing business internationally. When your business operates overseas, collaborates with people from Cultural differences in practice abroad, and must carry out familiar tasks in unfamiliar circumstances, being a ‘fish-out-of-water’ can have a significant impact on the business, How to negotiate the following cultural hot-spots varies between cul- and getting it wrong can result in your losing the business altogether. tures – and an inappropriate response could damage your business prospects: You need to be aware of cultural differences if you and your colleagues  How you address people and in what order. want to be as effective in dealing across cultural boundaries as you are  How you relate to gender and age. on home territory. What’s more, cultural awareness is not limited to your  How you relate to authority. interpersonal relations, it is inherent in the style and design of your busi-  Decision-making processes. ness processes, in the way you hold meetings, and in knowing when  Personal space. to speak and when to remain silent.  Material wealth.  Management and purpose of meetings, etc. How you design your Web pages and packaging and use graphics or symbols, your choice of names, and even the date of the product launch can all be culturally sensitive. CHAPTER 3: DEVELOPING YOUR PEOPLE  17 Meeting etiquette varies greatly between countries. Issues such as punctuality, meeting attendance, and agenda topics can vary enor- mously. In some cultures, the purpose of a meeting is to discuss and debate an issue before arriving at a consensual decision, while in oth- ers it is simply to rubber stamp the boss’s decision.  A E uropean manager who expects to reach a concrete agreement on his or her first trip to East Asia is almost guaranteed disappointment.  Showing sig ns of impatience while sipping tea and waiting to talk business with a prospective buyer in the Middle East will do you no favours.  Addressing your German host by their first name at a preliminary business meeting may provoke a negative reaction since informal- ity normally takes many years.  Evricom of Bulgaria initially encountered communication problems in  Business travellers should be aware of the respect given to busi- Albania, which led to the end a business partnership and a financial loss of ness cards in many parts of Asia: the exchange of business cards is nearly €50K. The company responded by employing local people with relevant often a ceremony in itself. language skills to do business in Albania. Its experience in France was similar:  Business people who translat e their business cards and job titles the company had also lost business over intercultural issues. In response, the into the local language will be one step ahead of the competition. company hired a Bulgarian residing in France who spoke fluent French. Other sensitive areas are entertainment, socialising and gift-giving. The The company has responded to these experiences with a comprehensive HR ‘rules’ of best practice naturally differ from country to country, but here strategy: it now tracks staff language skills and can handle business situations are some of the questions to ask about the cultures you trade with: competently in four foreign languages: English, German, Greek and Romanian. To overcome cultural barriers, for the past three years staff have received inter-  Humour: International managers should proceed with caution, but cultural training dealing with France and Germany. Native speakers have been humour can be an engaging way to bridge cultural differences. hired for the Romanian and Greek markets. Hiring native speakers has boosted Shared laughter is particularly meaningful on cross-cultural teams, company confidence in expansion and increased company capability. Its next where it can bring differences to the surface and contribute to team 1 market is Italy ( ).  bonding. Is the culture one in which self-criticism, self-deprecating © Shutterstock18  THE LANGUAGE GUIDE FOR EUROPEAN BUSINESS humour, and jokes at one’s own expense are appreciated and found Intercultural awareness, knowledge and skills training funny or would this be considered bad taste?  Teasing: In many Western business cultures, teasing is routinely Intercultural awareness, knowledge, and skills can be acquired. The start- used as a means of social control. Typically, it serves to chastise ing point is an awareness of one’s own culture and the end point is a rec- a latecomer to a meeting or to mark mild displeasure while avoid- ognition of the distinctions between two cultures and the ability to ing confrontation. But in certain Asian cultures, making fun of function effectively in a second culture. Intercultural skills help you com- someone may leave managers feeling uncomfortable. In Japan, municate with people from other cultures with flexibility and sensitivity. managers use after-hours drinking as a functional equivalent to Source: Cultures and Organisations. Software of the Mind (2010). criticising with humour.  Entertainment: Who pays for the lunch, the host or the salesper-  Respecting and understanding the customer’s culture and mentality son? Will someone be offended if you insist on paying for their are the most emphasised points. Stendera also focuses on intercultural meal? How should you avoid escalation in the quality, lavishness skills and keeps a record of the staff’s intercultural skills. It has under- and cost of entertainment? What are your business partners likely taken intercultural training in the following cultures over the past three to enjoy doing in their spare time in your country? How should you years: Russian, Finnish, Japanese, Polish, Chinese, Egyptian, Slovenian, dress for the evening social? English, German and French.  (Stenders, Latvia, PIMLICO Study)  Gift-giving: While in many parts of Asia gift-giving is a normal token of courtesy, in some Western cultures it may be seen in a very There are two generally separate types of cultural training: different light. At what stage of a meeting should you present the  Cultural briefings focusing on knowledge of the target country: its gift? How much should you spend on it? What would be appreci- geography, major features and recent history. ated? Where can you get good advice on these questions?  Awareness and skills training focusing on process rather than con-  Greetings: Australians and Americans prefer a strong handshake, tent. Learning how our own culture ticks so we can understand the French use a lighter, single handshake, and the Japanese usu- how another one ticks. ally bow. How should you respond? Mastering a language is often only half the battle: awareness of cultural differences can also be crucial. Shaking hands, blowing noses and mak- ing direct eye contact communicates different messages in different cultures. Business etiquette, meeting protocol, punctuality and social- ising vary tremendously between countries. CHAPTER 3: DEVELOPING YOUR PEOPLE  19 Tailor-made courses Many consulting firms and training organisations offer culture-specific, tailor-made programmes designed to meet an organisation’s needs, often run in-house or in a local conference centre. Courses often follow from a language review or training needs analysis where inter-cultural problems have come to light. Depending on the aims of the programme (general awareness or enhanced individual effectiveness), the training format may range from twenty participants for a half-day course (very basic general awareness session) to six people for up to three days per target culture. Where the aim is general internationalisation, several cultures can be covered in two-day seminars, though clearly the learning remains at a fairly super- ficial level. 3.4 Recruiting the right people Native speakers and language graduates When asked which of his six languages he used for business, a Dutch businessman replied, ‘I use whichever one gives me a commercial advantage’ You may not have reached this level of language expertise  Kartographie Huber, a top export performer based in Germany (PIMLICO Study, yet, but why not consider hiring someone like him Hiring a language 2011), recruits native speakers and provides language and cultural training to its graduate with 2-3 languages can make a real difference employees, developing deeper intercultural understanding based on a respect for ‘differentness’ . The company uses professional translators and interpreters and Most successful European companies have adopted good HR policies, its websites have a significant multilingual dimension and are culturally adapted. including recruitment of the right kind of people: multi-skilled staff pro- The company recognises and values its access to linguistic and cultural expertise ficient in several languages. This makes good economic sense, since the and to foreign student populations of local universities.  © iStockphoto20  THE LANGUAGE GUIDE FOR EUROPEAN BUSINESS combined impact of hiring graduates with language skills and hiring native speakers to handle language and cultural issues is an export rate 23 % higher than in companies not adopting either measure. These exemplar companies have also adopted the good practice of keeping careful records of their staff’s international profiles, including language ability, cultural competence, and international experience and back- ground so they can talent-spot and move people with the right skills quickly into international positions (ELAN Study, 2006). On average, more than one in five European export firms employ native speakers full time in support of their foreign trade, demonstrating a rec- ognition by European companies that this is an important element of an international communication strategy. Linking to universities Many European companies make special use of universities by hiring language graduates and placing foreign students within their compa- nies. Foreign students are able to help open up new markets by han- dling the phone calls and providing an easy interface with clients from their own countries. Kartographie Huber, for example, works with universities for their exper- tise in language audits. It works with the Universities of Munich, Augs- burg, Chur and Eichstätt, Pristina, Kuwait and Bahrain. Its unique  Nikwax (UK) found a correlation between its employment of native speakers innovation is the geographic diversity of these international universi- 1 and its increasing trade volume in France, Austria, Germany, Poland and ties which are selected for their relevance to the company’s markets ( ). Switzerland. Employing native speakers clearly fulfils language needs in exporting while supporting labour mobility policies within the EU and the 1 wider world ( ).  © ShutterstockCHAPTER 3: DEVELOPING YOUR PEOPLE  21 Many foreign students and interns carry out business placements 3.5 Using local agents for your language needs abroad as part of their course. This may provide you with a way to test your export plan without committing to a permanent employee. Suc- Using local agents who speak your own language can be the first step in cess is not guaranteed, but the student can develop some prospects opening up a new and sometimes unknown market. On average, three and make initial contacts without breaking the bank in ten export SMEs use local agents and/or distributors who speak the language of the company. France and Germany lead the way in their For example, bringing in a foreign student from your target market may widespread use of French-speaking and German-speaking local agents. help you to:  set up a foreign invoicing system. For smaller companies that seek to enter new markets but lack the  access local market inf ormation and make new business contacts resources for recruiting native speakers or language graduates, using in the market. local agents is a common practice.  develop a positive attitude among your own staff to the idea of working alongside nationals from other countries on international Without a local agent, no sales could have been made in Saudi Arabia teams. and the same is true for France.  introduce new language skills, knowledge of ways of doing busi- (Bitmedia E-learning solutions, Austria, PIMLICO Study) ness, fresh ideas, enthusiasm and motivation. In conclusion, native speakers and/or local agents can help you check Who knows, you may later decide to employ the person full-time the linguistic and cultural appropriateness of:  your sales literature; Tips:  your publicity campaigns;  C ontact your local university or business school for more information.  your promotional literature;  T alk to your local chamber and other business organisations for  your business cards; possible leads.  your pricing policy;  your compliance with local regulations;  your website and all relevant webpages;  your correspondence;  your telephone operators’ response to incoming calls in their language;22  THE LANGUAGE GUIDE FOR EUROPEAN BUSINESS  your representatives’ expenses in the foreign country – receipts, etc.;  your general translations into their language (for style, accuracy etc.);  your outgoing emails and messages in the customer’s language. They can also help with:  preparing your staff and their families for a secondment abroad;  language training;  cultural briefing;  cultural a wareness and skills training;  recruitment of new staff and testing of language competence via interview;  non-specialist translation;  non-specialist interpreting;  meeting and greeting your foreign clients;  preparing briefings for your visitors in their own language.  Spectrum Technologies, an aerospace engineering company, has recruited a significant number of sales partners (or agents) in its key markets, who were chosen for their local market knowledge, contacts, previous customers and other partners/suppliers. This has grown to 22 agents covering 27 countries. In some cases local staff were also recruited and employed by Spectrum – usu- ally in locations where competition was fierce and service levels had to be guaranteed, or where it was discovered that it was financially more advanta- geous to employ rather than contract staff. The company has six field staff or branch offices – one in Hong Kong (branch), two in China (branch in Shanghai, engineer in Beijing), one in Mexico, one in Italy and one in India. Generally reps are used in countries where there is little English spoken and where for cultural or linguistic reasons it is easier to do business in the local language, as is the 1 case in Japan and the Far East, Russia, and South America ( ).  © iStockphoto

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