What Tactics Do International Business Managers Use to Overcome Language Barriers?


    What Tactics Do International Business Managers Use to Overcome Language Barriers?

    In the diverse tapestry of international business, overcoming language barriers is crucial. We've gathered insights from CEOs and communication experts, exploring tactics from utilizing context and non-verbal cues to leveraging cultural knowledge and tools. Discover six successful strategies that these professionals employ to bridge the language divide.

    • Utilize Context and Non-Verbal Cues
    • Hire a Local Interpreter
    • Employ Localized Messaging
    • Invest in Language Training
    • Communicate with Mathematics
    • Leverage Cultural Knowledge and Tools

    Utilize Context and Non-Verbal Cues

    Our diverse, global team includes people from dozens of countries. While the majority of our team members speak and understand at least some flavor of English, there are definitely times when concepts do not translate. I personally lean on a combination of context clues, clarifying questions, and non-verbal cues over Zoom calls or Slack huddles. I find asking my questions 'face-to-face' like this to be the most efficient way to quickly get on the same page and confirm my understanding.

    Susan Snipes
    Susan SnipesGlobal HR and Payroll Strategist, RemotePad

    Hire a Local Interpreter

    Language is culture, and international business is shaped and driven by culture. One of the best tactics I've used to navigate language barriers in international business is to hire a local interpreter to teach me how business is done in the area where I am looking to create business relationships.

    Jesse Tomlinson
    Jesse TomlinsonInterpreter, Tomlinson Translations

    Employ Localized Messaging

    Our mission is to make global communication easier for businesses by bridging the gaps between them and their clients worldwide. Along the way, I've faced many obstacles, particularly when overcoming language barriers in global business environments.

    One of the most effective strategies is to use localized messaging. At Messente, we've created advanced tools to tailor messages to each market's local language and culture. This is not just about translating; it's about understanding context, slang, and local preferences.

    An example is when we adapted the tone and content of our SMS campaigns in Japan for the sake of formality and respect. This dramatically increased our customer engagement rates.

    This tactic is based on the fact that 75% of customers prefer to shop in their native language. This shows how important linguistic adaptation is in a global business strategy.

    At Messente, businesses should not only connect with their customers but also connect with them in ways that respect and embrace local cultures.

    This approach has helped us build trust with our clients, which has helped them succeed in international markets.

    Uku Tomikas
    Uku TomikasCEO, Messente

    Invest in Language Training

    An effective strategy employed to navigate language barriers in international business is investing in language training for key team members. By equipping our staff with language skills relevant to our target markets, we foster better communication and understanding with clients. This initiative enhances our ability to negotiate and collaborate while demonstrating our commitment to respecting various cultures.

    Employing this tactic can result in improved interactions with international clients and partners. Team members will be better equipped to communicate nuances, understand cultural contexts, and foster stronger relationships. Investing in language training is a strategic, actionable solution that can contribute to the overall success of international business endeavors.

    Amresh Singh
    Amresh SinghCEO, HomeAbroad Inc.

    Communicate with Mathematics

    As a Hungarian-based software R&D consultancy that conducts business internationally, one tactic we use to navigate language barriers is to focus on the universal language—mathematics. As Galileo so famously said, “Mathematics is the alphabet with which God has written the universe.”

    Of course, mathematics is second nature to software engineers who are obsessed with core algorithms. But when it comes to client communications and making sales, we let our numbers do the talking in a different way. Whether it's to exceed the expectations of our clients or to convey the value of our work to sales leads, we use numerical-based data, quantifiable outcomes, and visual representations—such as graphs and charts—wherever possible to ensure we're on the same page as our international clients.

    Balázs Keszthelyi
    Balázs KeszthelyiFounder & CEO, TechnoLynx

    Leverage Cultural Knowledge and Tools

    We bridge geographical gaps by leveraging the cultural knowledge of our internal team. In our hiring process, we strongly consider candidates with a rich cultural background, an interest in travel and learning, or the ability to speak a second language.

    We also form partnerships with organizations all over the world and collaborate with them to achieve our mission in culturally relevant ways by producing tailored, native-language learning content. In addition, we leverage a constantly evolving suite of translation tools where possible, with the understanding that the human touch is always needed.

    Together, we pool our knowledge and resources with our global community to communicate and overcome barriers, preparing us to attend international conferences and engage in vibrant conversations with collaborators and potential customers overseas.

    Shannon Ewan
    Shannon EwanCEO, ICAgile