As the population of the United States continues to grow and diversify, the need to communicate in multiple languages becomes more and more of a necessity. Likewise, it is imperative to have multilingual capabilities when beginning to work with target audiences in foreign countries. There are countless opportunities for manufacturers to globalize their supply chain. Although the thought of bringing capabilities up to the international scale may seem daunting at first, it’s very much attainable and most importantly, profitable.
Where do I start to begin working internationally?
This is a topic discussed often within our company and with the Connecticut District Export Council (DEC), with whom we partner with frequently. DEC works closely with manufacturers across the state to support them in international business efforts. From DEC’s experience, many manufacturing firms choose to begin working with English-speaking countries such as Canada and Australia . This avoids language barriers (although not the need for localization), but may not be the best strategy for every business.
No matter the country or market you are looking to expand into, a great place to start is at trade shows in the local market you are considering. Trade shows are an opportunity get feet on the ground and start making connections with the goal of establishing a local partnership, which is often the key to success in foreign markets.
While it is easy to slip into the mindset of wanting to only work with a partner who speaks fluent English, you may not be able to rely on this for all communications. Be ready with translated written materials!
Be prepared to work with interpreters. Did you know that there are multiple types of interpreter services? There is no need to feel restricted when working internationally. Through a strategic and logical language plan, you won’t ever have to worry about communication barriers. At least none that have to do with language..
Types + Benefits of Interpreter Services for Manufacturing Firms
In Person Interpreting
In person interpreter services are by far the most effective and favorable solution for communication barriers. When an interpreter is physically in the room, they can do a much better job of reading body language and facial expressions, allowing them to facilitate the conversation in a more effective manner. Dr. Albert Mehrabian is known for his breakdown of human communication into 7% spoken words, 38% tone of voice, and 55% body language. While there is some disagreement on the exact percentages, all experts agree nonverbal communication dominates verbal.
Another benefit of working with interpreters in person is that it allows you to build a personal rapport. You’ll have ample time to brief the interpreter on the given situation. Having a positive relationship will also increase the effectiveness of the interpreting session.
There is much more flexibility in your chosen mode of interpretation when working with in-person interpreters. If you need to set up a video conference, the interpreter can either call in on their own or go to your office and sit with you to interpret. If you have a deaf or hard-of-hearing employee or one that does not speak fluent English, an interpreter can come to their HR benefits meetings and assist them with filling out paperwork.
There are two modes of in-person interpretation, each suited for different circumstances:
Consecutive interpretation is when an interpreter facilitates a conversation. One person speaks then pauses for the interpreter to repeat what is said and vice versa between the two parties. This is ideal for meetings, interviews, and general conversations.
Simultaneous interpretation is when an interpreter translates what is being said in real time with about a 2-3 second delay. Equipment such as a microphone and headsets are typically required for this mode of interpretation as to not disrupt the rest of the audience. This is mainly used for presentations, conferences, training, etc.
Video Remote Interpreting (VRI)
VRI has many of the benefits of face-to-face communication, without the requirement of all parties being in the same room. It can be scheduled in advance or on-demand. Through a simple application, which can be used on a “Terpii-cart” which we provide or using your own smart phone, tablet or computer, all parties can be connected with a live interpreter in seconds. VRI is available in the most commonly requested languages, including American Sign Language, and can also be used so that iTi’s interpreters attend your meetings and conferences via streaming platforms such as Zoom, WebEx, Teams, etc.
Over-the-Phone Interpreting (OPI)
OPI, or telephonic interpreting, is a simple, convenient and cost-effective solution. At iTi, we know that business, especially international business, does not end with office hours. While OPI interpreting can be scheduled in advance, it is available on-demand 25 hours a day, 365 days of the year in over 250 languages.
Clients need only to set up their telephonic account one time and then use a toll-free number and a unique access code, which will allow them to be on the line with a live interpreter within a few seconds.
I have employees who are bilingual. Why can’t I use them? Do I need a professional interpreter?
When you use anyone besides a professional interpreter, you are running serious risks. When using interpreters to communicate with partners, distributors, suppliers, and clients, you do not want to risk your message being distorted or altogether inaccurate. Mistakes can damage your reputation, brand identity, and worst of all, lose clients and business. Think about it this way – just as someone who owns a DSLR camera does not make him/her a professional photographer, not everyone who speaks multiple languages has the training required to be a professional interpreter.
They may not have the same technical vocabulary in other languages that they possess in English. Professional interpreters are consistently expanding their vocabulary and are trained in the art of facilitating communication between two parties. They also specialize in specific industries such as manufacturing or aerospace. Language service providers typically match interpreters with clients with the same industry specialization. Professional interpreters remain unbiased and can seamlessly translate what is being said between two parties. It’s a learned and practiced skill that takes time to acquire.
Tips For Working With Interpreters
Once you have decided to work with a professional interpreter, here are a few tips to prepare for the meeting and things to keep in mind while working with interpreters. Proper preparation ensures that everyone is on the same page for a smooth and successful meeting/event/etc.
- Whenever possible, book your interpreter ahead of time. Give your language services provider background information and any available details of the meeting . This will help them book the best suited interpreter for your meeting. If you have a particular interpreter you enjoy working with, booking ahead of time will give you a greater probability that he/she is available.
- Provide reference materials and any background information
- While interpreters will do their own research online to be educated on each company they work with, any information pertaining to the event or meeting will be very beneficial. This includes brochures, sales sheets, product manuals, agendas, presentations, etc. They will be able to learn about certain parts/processes and be sure they are using the proper vocabulary and terminology. This will also give them a chance to ask clarifying questions which will help them to accurately convey messages.
- Be prepared for the meeting to last about twice as long as usual
- Let all parties know that everything said at the meeting will be interpreted and kept confidential.
- Speak in first person (the interpreter will do the same). For example, instead of “Please ask him what his time frame for completion is,” ask “What is the time frame of completion?”
- Be clear, speak in simple language, and pause so the interpreter can hear you. Be sure to pause often to give the interpreter time to translate.
We hope you find these tips useful for your next meeting or event that requires the use of interpreters. The benefits of expanding your manufacturing business internationally are countless. There is a lot to take into consideration when expanding across borders. While it may be stressful at times, one thing you shouldn’t have to stress about is language and communication. Leave that to professionals so you can focus on growing your business!
Interested in further learning about how interpreting services benefits manufacturing firms? Click here to download a case study on how Otis Elevators used interpreter services for a workshop in China.
Originally posted April 11, 2017. Updated for readability and freshness October 25, 2022.