Can you run a business without foreign languages?

language learning cambridge

Have you ever got in trouble in the workplace because of some miscommunication caused by cultural differences? Misunderstandings sometimes are caused by cultural differences and language barriers, while being able to speak a language is not equal to fully understanding
a language. It might sound a bit tricky and complicated as you might be questioning why has the person become cold or not reacted the way you wanted. Did you lose a deal or was there awkwardness during the meeting?
Understanding business culture – will this make a difference for your business?
We easily get confused with the business norms if we are not familiar with the local cultures when doing business internationally. Let’s take negotiation skills as examples, the ways people negotiate, view and interpret the negotiation process, closely vary among local cultures.
For instance, from a Chinese perspective, negotiations exist primarily as a mechanism for building trust so that two parties can work together for the benefit of both. In business meetings or other situations, you want to build up the relationship and avoid embarrassing or even raising your glass above your Chinese guest. What is disrespectful to Chinese culture? Do not touch, hug, lock arms, back slap or make any body contact. Furthermore, clicking fingers or whistling is considered very rude. Never put your feet on a desk or a chair, and Never gesture or pass an object with your feet. Blowing one's nose in a handkerchief and returning it to one's pocket is considered vulgar by the Chinese.
 If you deal with  German business people instead, always show data and analytics above all.
 It can come as a surprise for some of us that, from a Japanese perspective,
“Yes” doesn’t mean “Yes”, it means  I understand instead due to its disciplined social system.
So it is crucial to take into consideration that cultural differences may result in misunderstandings when doing business. Moreover, Japan is a more relationship-oriented culture than countries such as Australia, particularly when it comes to doing business. Japanese want to know and trust someone before they do business with them. Relationships are developed through informal social gatherings and generally involve a considerable amount of eating and drinking. I would say that it’s the same if you wish to build up a  work relationship in Italy or Spain.
 If you are meeting Italians, always make sure you invite them to a good restaurant. It’s important for Italians to build a trust prior to doing business. Relationships are very important in Italian business culture. In the ‘Bel Paese, business people want to be familiar with their business contacts, so I suggest you work with a local representative to arrange introductions and appointments before your trip. Italians expect formality. When meeting contacts for the first time, address them a “Signor(e)’ (Mr.)” or “Signora’ (Mrs.),” with their surname. Wait until you’re invited to use their first name in subsequent meetings to be safe. It’s important to show respect for elders, people in positions of authority and people with professional titles such as “Dottore/ Dottoressa (Doctor).” Italian companies often employ a horizontal chain of authority, called “cordata” (which literally translates to a team of mountain climbers on the same rope). To fully understand this concept, maintain a good relationship with contacts who can educate you on theinternal structure of the companies you wish to do business with. Also, bear in mind that anticipate those negotiations often take time. Trying to rush the process or conveying urgency can weaken your bargaining position. For all these reasons we have to be very cautious of how different cultures behave during meetings
and deals can be facilitated overseas. Apart from negotiation skills, being able to express your opinions and writing business
reports are also very important.  Having proficient language skills help you overcome early difficulties in the workplace. B2 Business Vantage exam qualification can demonstrate that you are capable of doing business tasks in business English as it is a globally recognised exam. This test, in fact, is one of the three Cambridge English Qualifications for business  exams. Each of them is targeted at a different level. B2 is a middle level, which shows employers that you are ready to work successfully with international business companies.
The content for the exam is based on real everyday work and business tasks and is designed to develop your business English skills. By getting a B2 certificate, you will improve your career opportunities and easily be accepted globally by top international companies. According to statistics, employees are 18% more likely to have a faster progression than their peers, while 17% more likely to have pay rises.

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Sharing our experience with you
One of our business students Leon, a senior engineer at Qualcomm, in charge of developing Ads and writing code, did his online preparation for the B2 Business Vantage exam at La Dante in Cambridge.  When the course started, our business English trainer Alexis immediately
got to know his background, including his English level and the goals he wanted to achieve. So, Alexis started preparing teaching material to improve Leon’s skills, and realised that being Chinese he needed to be introduced to small talk that is
something British love prior to starting a business conversation. It was really interesting to see how Chinese and British need to learn on simple sentence building that makes them comfortable during the meeting. English business culture was introduced with real-life examples, and Leon’s presenting and communication skills greatly advanced. As language learning is of high importance for export as well as for establishing businesses overseas, at La Dante in Cambridge we pride ourselves of having taught highly regarded firms since 2010: Birkets, Qualcomm, ETT Solutions, and Corepixx among others with promoting business, and language culture in Italian, Spanish and English.

Article written by Dott.ssa Giulia Portuese, Director and founder at La Dante in Cambridge
and contribution from Alexis Loizou, English teacher for professionals