Native English speakers often get an easy ride as, somehow, English is spoken internationally. Of course, you may have seen examples of Brits on holiday who operate on the belief that, if they don’t understand, you just shout a little louder!
Our politicians are frequently seen on TV shaking hands with foreign dignitaries and the conversation is either in English or carried out through an interpreter. It’s rare to see any politician chatting away comfortably in French, German, Polish or Russian. They resolutely stick to English and expect other nationals to meet them much more than halfway.
The European Parliament operates multi-lingually, but much of the business is done in English. One wonders if that will continue when Brexit has been completed. However, Brexit can never be an excuse for businesses to continue to expect the rest of the world to understand them.
Government figures have identified that we lose close to £50 billion every year because we can’t do business overseas in the language of the country we want to do business in.
How can you negotiate successfully if you can’t understand what they’re saying? Even if the negotiation is in English, missing any communications where the other party lapses into their native tongue can be critical. As an English-only speaker you will always be at a disadvantage.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. If you talk to a man in his language, it goes to his heart,”
In much of the world it’s expected that people will be able to speak another language. In the UK the fact that one of our British comedians, Eddy Izard, actually presented whole shows in French, was news!
The problem is that, despite, language options in school in the UK, few people become really fluent. Unless they are pursuing a career that requires a language, those who learned a second language often find their skills become rusty.
In an ideal world, organisations that have an international marketplace, would have staff who have fluency in at least one language besides English. However, that’s not at the top of the list of essentials when recruiting (despite the projections indicating a 10% increase in successful trade being attained with fluency in the customer’s language).
What is the alternative? A really top-flight interpreter, who can translate not only the words, but the underlying nuances. It may not be the ideal, but it’s definitely ten times better than relying on the customer (or potential customer) to be able to communicate in English.
Not only does this give communications clarity, but shows respect for the customer – and that’s definitely worth a few extra ‘brownie points’.
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