Sure, many people around the world speak English – it has become the language of business. Does that make doing business across borders easy? Simple things can be difficult. Even native English speakers across the globe can have misunderstandings due to language! Be diligent about product naming, translation of instructions, advertising and more.

History provides many examples on this topic:

– The American introduction of the ‘Nova’ car in South America did not “go” very well
– ‘Snapshot’ is slang for ‘butt’ in German and Dutch
– Japanese hotel notice to guests ‘You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid’
– A Hong Kong dentist claims to extract teeth ‘by the latest Methodists’
– In Copenhagen, an airline once promised to ‘take your bags and send them in all directions’

A personal example: I was attending a conference in a large hotel in a country where I didn’t speak the language. After a full day of meetings a large group of people rented a small bus to visit a local science and technology museum. I decided to join them at the museum later, and asked the Porter to get me a taxi to take me to the museum to meet the bus. Imagine my surprise when my taxi driver sped down narrow streets, informing me that “we will catch the bus”. I tried to explain, but he drove on, forcing the bus to pull over so I could join the group, and calmly announced to me “Madame, your bus”. What could I do? I paid the driver and got on the bus.

Advertisements