Knowing another language besides your own is really a great advantage, offering benefits for many areas of your life. With this other language, so many doors may be opened to new possibilities and opportunities. An ability to speak a foreign language well and avoid misunderstandings with diverse people can really take you far, not just in personal spheres, but also in the business world.
Business is now done on a truly global scale. Nobody can deny the importance of being multilingual when participating in our international business world. You simply can’t compete if you only speak one language because you will simply not even be able to be a part of the conversation. Business discussions such as crucial negotiations, important decisions, and talks of incredible opportunities all are taking place with people from around the world who speak widely varying languages. So, just having that ability to participate with the use of a non-native language can definitely put you ahead.
However, having that advantage is not as simple as just having all the vocabulary and grammar down. You may be able to write a professional letter like a native and have flawless pronunciation, but all of this does not guarantee you success in business situations. Your knowledge of the language may still fail you if you don’t understand the culture at Live Enhanced.
Misunderstandings May Arise when Cultures Collide
Just because you know a language does not mean that communicating with someone who speaks that language will be no problem. Unless you have a strong understanding of the other culture and know-how to interpret its nuances and navigate its specific cultural contexts, it is still possible for issues to arise. When conducting international business, you must always be aware of any possible differences in a culture so that misunderstandings can be avoided.
After all, communication cannot really be done without including both language and culture in the first place, as the two are intrinsically linked. They developed together, and both have an influence on each other. For example, the Alaskan natives, used to seeing a world of white in their snowy environment, have many different words for white in their language. And the significance of hierarchical respect in Japanese culture is made apparent by the use of honorifics in their language. Really, the need for understanding of both language and culture is very important in the business world.
While you may know the language, if you leave culture out of the equation when approaching an international business situation, the misunderstandings that result may still be very disastrous. You may really upset your business partner with some mistakes that you won’t even realize you made. This might be because you forgot an important gesture of good manners, made an innocent gesture that the other culture considers offensive, or even mixed up the language itself by using a word that means something else in one particular cultural region (be careful about using the Spanish verb “coger” outside of Spain).
How Culture Affects Communication
Language is a lot of what makes up communication. Language is a lot of what makes up who we are. It’s not just how we connect with each other, but also how we come to get to know our own selves. Thinking with words and knowing ideas only through the language used to communicate them, language is what forms our perceptions of ourselves and the world around us. Language influences the very way that we see the world. With all that said, you may realize that language is just another part of the culture, which makes it even harder to separate culture from communication.
Even beyond the language itself, there are cultural aspects that may come in the way of efficient communication between two people of different cultures. We all know these unspoken rules of communication of our own culture to the point where we don’t even have to think of them. Simply from being brought up in a culture, we learn the right and wrong way of communicating with others of our own culture.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t help us out so much when it comes time for a cross-cultural communication situation. Navigating the circumstances of a high-context culture meeting with a low-context culture, an affective culture meeting with a neutral culture or the meeting of two people of any cultures with differences in paralanguage (the non-verbal communication that takes place in every conversation through things such as gestures and expressions) is certainly not easy.
Breaking Through the Cultural Barrier To Efficient Communication
To efficiently communicate in the business world, you simply have to get to know the cultures of those you will be doing business with. Just as you can’t expect to get by in the global economy with only one language, you also can’t expect just one culture to cut it. To succeed, you need to ensure complete cultural understanding.
To start learning about another’s culture, you might first do some basic studying. Conduct some internet research or read books to find out more about the history, communication style, and overall differences of the culture of the person(s) you will be doing business with. While just doing this research may not give you all you need to completely avoid mistakes, it can really help in explaining some of the basic principles. Additionally, this research cannot be skipped over, for it is essential to keeping you from making some of the biggest mistakes.
Once you have a good understanding of the culture, you may then feel a bit more confident about talking to someone from that culture. You may still want to start out with a situation that is a bit less of a high stakes scenario than that very important business deal, but you still want to get talking with people. You need to actually get to know the people of a culture in order to learn how to keep the facets of that culture from interfering with communication. If you can clear up any possible cultural misunderstandings through an immersive conversation before an important business proposal is on the table, you’ll be much better off for it.
Success through True Cultural Understanding
By bringing cultural understanding into what you can do with a language, no communication goals will really be out of your reach. At the core of these matters, it is just humans connecting with other humans. Once you get pesky little cultural barriers out of the way, there’s really nothing stopping that human connection from growing and deepening. Without cultural misunderstandings popping into the picture, there’s really no reason why you can’t truly find great success for your company.