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Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/17/2007 4:27 AM

People may laugh at my topic as they thought the difference between foreign sales and local sales is the lauguage. Is the language a blocking for us? I don't know, so now I ask for ideas for you experts.

Now I have a Brazilian customer, who want to bring in extruder, but he just can speak Spanish, and I, Chinese tongue, English major and a little French, like "bonjour, bonsoir". You can't believe that we can communicate, but we can. We chat happily on MSN, not in email. You know that should be instant. He sent Spanish sentences to me, and then I translate it into English by using online translation tool, and I write down English, translating into Spanish, sent to him. That's it. It isn't difficult as you thought. And I use the online translation tool to tranlate my quotation sheet into Spanish. I can't say all of that is correct, but he understood. And I succeed. I don't expect that this deal will be done, but I am happy during the period. I know the point: language is a tool of communication, not a blocking.

I like this words: Hope is like the sun, when march towards it, the shadow you're burdened with will be left behind.

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#1

Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/17/2007 8:53 AM

There are a number of country's I understand are teachng english at the grammar school level. I believe Japan for one.

In the U.S. this usually is an elective in High School. With the world markets I believe the trend is yes it is a good idea to know a second language. This may improve the adds, that when a language barrier occurs, that the chances are improved to have a common language to improve the communication.

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#4
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Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/17/2007 2:10 PM

I was over in Germany this year and all the younger people I talked to were fluient in english. Apparently they are now teaching English in Kindergarten (he was 5 and his English was as good as his German). I did have trouble with one man who didn't speak english but when I said I was from New Zealand he immediately smiled and said "aah, Kiwi" .

Hooray for progress, the language barrier is getting to be far less of a problem than it used to be.

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#6
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Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/17/2007 2:21 PM

" Hooray for progress, the language barrier is getting to be far less of a problem than it used to be."

Heck, about 12 - 15 years ago I worked with some naval architects from England..... Funny as it is, I found out that I should brush up on my english.

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#2

Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/17/2007 11:43 AM

I have purchased major equipment from a variety of countries. The biggest problem I have had is not in the purchase, but obtaining manufacturer support when the machine fails. If my technicians can't speak the language of the vendor, and the vendor can't speak my language, the expensive equipment is now junk. I have had two events when the manufacturer's technician could speak conversational english, but had no knowledge of the technical terms required for repair.

I now require that all manuals and drawings, including fabrication drawings, be translated into my language, and I review them thoroughly before approving the equipment for shipment. This ensures that my personnel will be able to maintain and repair the equipment. If I cannot get sufficient accurate documentation, I will not buy from that company.

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#3
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Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/17/2007 12:05 PM

"I now require that all manuals and drawings, including fabrication drawings, be translated into my language, and I review them thoroughly before approving the equipment for shipment."

Translation of manuals is very difficult, because not only do they need a translator for the language barrier, but one with also has a technical background to understand which meanings are intended.

Graphical Schematics "usually" are OK and can be understood with little questions, but the wording translation can really create headaches trying to cipher.

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#5
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Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/17/2007 2:12 PM

Trying to use a translation program from German to English on technical engineering text does not work well at all I have found.

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#7
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Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/17/2007 2:22 PM

Thats funny,

I mean't translator as in a person.....

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#14
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Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/18/2007 11:46 AM

I agree that is better, but I have seen Japenese product manuals in German that were totally useless. The pidgin English version was at least 10% better....

You need a technical person born in the language that needs to be translated to.....not the other way round!!!

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#15
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Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign languages?

10/18/2007 11:52 AM

How it would be done I never really thought about of that.

But I think we all have if not horror stories at least interesting ones, when maintaining, trouble shooting or repairing machines using manuals that were translated from the language of origin.

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#17
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Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign languages?

10/18/2007 12:02 PM

I am told by my cousin (translator in Brussels for the EU French, German, Spanish to English) that that is a standard practise when a good translation must be made.....

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#11
In reply to #2

Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/18/2007 5:00 AM

I thoroughly agree with you when it comes to manuals. Originally from the UK my spoken language is English. I currently live in Singapore where the first language is English and is spoken widely by most. I recently worked for a company that manufactured inspection equipment for the Semiconductor Industry. Unfortunately although the person writing the manuals spoke English his cumbersome use of the language left the user scratching their heads to understand what was being said. I found myself translating the Singlish into English.

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#8

Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/17/2007 9:21 PM

That's very interesting that a Brazilian cannot speak his own language of Portugese! I'm sure he can also speak Spanish but Portugese would be his native tongue I would think? It's one thing not understand your potential customer but not to know what language he speaks is another.

Personally I think we should all be learning to speak Chinese. Let's face it the 19th century was the British, the 20th was undoubtedly the American. Most assuredly the 21st will be the Chinese. I've certainly started to pick up as much as I can. It may not help you with a Brazilian but try using names like Pele, Ronaldo, Kaka interspersed in your speech and you'll be sure to get a smile out of him!

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#9
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Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/17/2007 10:22 PM

Is english the prominently second language of most country's? If it is, I believe this is so due to the technical development of words (words developed for technical description), and for basically the U.S. being such a melting pot of immigrants, that the origins of these words may come from such languages as french, german and such. ( and latin. )

And as far as speaking Chinese. The largest difference between the 19th and 20th century to the 21st century is the world wide instant communications. With that factor I don't think Chinese would be the prominent language.

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/18/2007 4:46 AM

Ok then if technology is the driving factor for language useage I expect that eventually we can talk into a device that will automatically translate it immediately to the person we're addressing. Albeit initially with a Steven Hawking type voice! Then again maybe we will be able to choose the voice used.

Actually you're probably correct if you consider the statistic that there are more Chinese people studying English than there are English speaking peoples in the world! At least according to USA Today.

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#18
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Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/18/2007 2:38 PM

"Let's face it the 19th century was the British, the 20th was undoubtedly the American. Most assuredly the 21st will be the Chinese."

200 years of colonisation did publicised the language of the rulers , with local dilects submerged with foreign language basically for trading , same may happen cannot be ruled out , even if so than why japanese , koreanup to certain extent coudnot gain such popularity when there industries ruled the world in past 40 50 years , chinese speakers may outnumber any other language speakers on population terms , but world wide acceptance is deficult just for trading , commerce.to day oil is a major driving factor in terms of economy approx 70% of oil is exported from Gulf & west asia so the world need not speak or learn arabic,persian , urdu for just .

we import certain products from china , while communicating it is emberassing when top executive or CEO speaks or writes in broken english ,it takes hell loads of time to achieve even smaller transactions , now my company has changed th supplyer for this reason .English does have flavours in different sections of globe but over all it is same , understandable.

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#19
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Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/18/2007 2:42 PM

"even if so than why japanese , koreanup to certain extent coudnot gain such popularity when there industries ruled the world in past 40 50 years , chinese speakers may outnumber any other language speakers on population terms ,"

the world? or their realm

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#12

Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/18/2007 5:08 AM

I agree with you royalmachine, language difference can be a bridge rather than a chasm.

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#13

Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/18/2007 10:50 AM

The answer is yes. I am an importer of agricultural machinery and I work with suppliers from Brazil, Argentina, Italy and United States.

Spanish is my mother tongue. Portuguese would be something like my father tongue. I studied English for four years. Those three are the languages I speak very well. I may speak with anyone on the phone and the only problem would be with accent. I studied British, not American English, so the USAmericans confuse me a little sometimes.

I also studied Italian and French. Italian because we started working as consultants for Italian companies and those people are very jealous of their language. A lot of them don't care to learn English. Some people say that Italian, Portuguese and Spanish are mutually understandable, but that isn't all true. A brochure in Italian could pass as Arameic for an Uruguayan techinician without any training in the language.

I have been working part time as a technical translator, and I can tell you that machien translators like Babelfish are just crap. Try them with something yo know. You would get very pityful answers.

It is a bad habit of some companies using machine translators as if they were the real thing. Then, when you read their technical information, you would either laugh or cry on desperation.

Learning Spanish would take you about three years if your mother tongue is non romanic, and that just to survive as a tourist. Five years would be the minimum for the black belt. That is too much time for business. Could help you in the long run, but not now.

My advice? Foreign languages are very important. Hire someone who speaks spanish to open the Latin America + Spain market for you.

Oh, and post job offers at Proz to find good translators for your brochures and stuff. A common mistake is hiring some immigrant who doesn't speak his own language very well. There are a lot of Spanish (from Spain) students in China taking postgrade courses in Chinese, ask at some of yor local universities about them.

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#27
In reply to #13

Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

08/21/2009 4:54 AM

Yes ,i agreed with your opinion we might to learning foreign lanugages for interesting or for work .i am a chinese sometimes i studying English for one course watching US movies .may be i can teaching your some words of chinese when chinese calling other people in the morning.

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#28
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Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/18/2009 12:18 PM

That would be nice. Thanks.

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#16

Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign languages?

10/18/2007 12:00 PM

Learning other languages is the way of the future. English may be the current lingua franca, but it isn't the only language spoken on earth! My daughter (age 24) is currently getting a master's degree in International Relations with an emphasis on Chinese from a university in Great Britain. Her bachelor's degree from a German university is in Chinese. She has spent two semesters studying in China. Even so, she feels that her Chinese language skills are not quite good enough and continues to work on it. The young folks that she studies with come from all over. Her compatriots are from the US, UK, several European countries, Australia, Viet Nam, and other places. She speaks German and English fluently, Chinese passably to well, and has learned some Spanish and Italian -- just because she found them interesting. We may come to a common language in the distant future, but in the near term we are simply going to learn each others' language and culture.

Learning another language really broadens a person's perspective. If you intend to sell to someone of a particular nationality, wouldn't it be beneficial to know something about them, how they think, what their culture is, etc.? Learning a language brings this to you. Expand your horizons and you will be better able to relate with other people. Even if you never master the language, you will improve yourself and your ability to relate to your customers.

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#20
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Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign languages?

10/18/2007 11:41 PM

I agree we should all try to learn as much of the language of our friends and customers. Unfortunately the example of your daughter demonstrates how impractical this can be for sales people who work with customers in many countries. Even with all the exposure to Chinese your daughter still feels her ability is not where it should be. Imagine how difficult it is for people who deal with Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian and Vietnamese customers. Without a common language it makes doing business very difficult. I still maintain having local representation that can also speak english is the most efficient way of doing business. Of course if you're a Spanish company doing business in these countries then you hire a local rep that can speak Spanish as well as his mother tongue. When I lived in Korea I was able to communicate, albeit in very simple Korean. When I lived in Taiwan I was able to order food, tell taxis where to go, greet my customers in Chinese and even ask for the bathroom! I think if we do our best to communicate with our foreign counterparts in their language it's always appreciated. It will certainly break the ice and go a long way to establishing a better business relationship.

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#21

Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/19/2007 3:26 PM

Working with many cultures and their variations of languages. I've concluded that a persons language is a version of how they think.

Their gestalt (kind of mind set) is different from other cultures. Offencive or conforming actions of others is perceived through this gestalt and mastery of their language gives insight to their thought processes.

So it all comes down to how much do you need to know about your client, how much will more understanding enhance your abilities, and is the energy expenditure cost effective. Also will you enjoy the added ability?

Working on tooling from all over the world many times I have thought "what were they thinking designing it like this(negative)". or "Wow! how did they think of doing it that way". After talking to Techs and Engineers from other cultures about this, they had the same views, many times inverse to mine. I heard programmers form different cultures, working on the same program, have the same discussion with not nearly the same tact.

I would venture a guess as it comes down to the persons, the product, and the amount of interaction required to improve market share in your field.

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#22
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Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/19/2007 4:06 PM

"After talking to Techs and Engineers from other cultures about this, they had the same views, many times inverse to mine. I heard programmers form different cultures, working on the same program, have the same discussion with not nearly the same tact. "

odd, sometimes its like communicating on this forum at times, where what seems like a heated disagreement on a subject, it turns out that there was no disagreement at all, but the approach taking was from different directions.

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#23
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Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

10/19/2007 5:43 PM

Those instances are where I learned my fortune cookie philosophy- The coin has two sides and then there is always the edge.

Brad

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#26
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Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

11/06/2007 12:07 PM

There is one universal language and that is Mathematics.

(hope there isn't too many objections from the quatum mechanics people)

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#24

Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign lanuages?

11/06/2007 3:26 AM

Thanks for so many people talking here and I got a lot of experience of next action.

Now, technical background is much useful than language for me.

Hugs from me--mina

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#25
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Re: Should we foreign sales learn foreign languages?

11/06/2007 3:55 AM

Then you will not sell as well as you could in the German speaking areas of Europe. As a technical person who assisted sales many times with regard to computers and ancillary equipment, when a customer is putting out big bucks he wants to hear the technical answers in his own language first.....

Many times, selling against offers from other well known large computer companies, we heard:- "The deciding factor in buying your product was having a European (Africa Middle East and Scandinavia too....) specialist for the product, that spoke our language!"

Scandinavia generally speaks English so well, there is little or no requirement to learn the language from a business point of view....

Of course you will still sell, but nowhere near as well as you could. If this is enough for you, then carry on as you are!!!! Forget what I just wrote!!!

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