As the population of the United States continues to grow and diversify, the need to communicate to in multiple languages becomes more and more of a necessity. Marketing to the American population requires materials in multiple languages to be truly effective. Likewise, it is imperative to have multilingual capabilities when beginning to work with foreign countries. Not just any language capabilities, professional ones at that. 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 at first. This makes sense to avoid language barriers altogether but it doesn’t mean that will 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. This partnership can be for distribution or whatever your strategical goals require. However, a local partner is key to success if foreign markets.
While it is easy to slip into the mindset of wanting to only work with a partner who speaks fluent English, that just isn’t realistic. While you will surely be able to find people with some fluency of English, you will 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? 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 which allows them 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 agree nonverbal communication dominates verbal. This is the main reason why having an interpreter on site with you is much more effective.
Another benefit to working with interpreters in person is that it allows you to build a personal rapport with them. It gives you ample time to brief the interpreter on the given situation and having a positive relationship with each other will also increase the effectiveness of the interpretation session. Furthermore, when you find an interpreter that you click with, you have more of an opportunity to continue working with them.
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's, and generally anytime one person will be speaking for more than 30 seconds to 1 minute at a time.
Over the Phone Interpreting
Over the phone interpreting, or telephonic interpreting, is a simple, convenient and cost-effective solution. In person interpreters need to be scheduled ahead of time and although they can typically be scheduled in emergency situations, sometimes there is just no time! Other times you just need to make a simple phone call and have no need to schedule an interpreter to join you in person. For those times, telephonic interpreting will be your saving grace.
Clients need only to set up their telephonic account one time and then they are granted access to interpreters in over 200 languages. You are given a 1-800 number and a unique access code which then connects you with an operator and then the interpreter in less than 15 seconds. The advantage of speaking with an operator is that you don’t have to worry about automated menus malfunctioning and you can also describe the situation at hand so they can connect you with the best suited interpreter. They can also help if you are not sure of the language of who you are speaking with.
The greatest advantage of over the phone interpreting is speed. It’s great when both parties are communication over the telephone. However, it is not ideal for every situation as it does have a few minor downfalls. The interpreter cannot see anything going on in the room and is not always briefed on the circumstance. They have no access to extra-linguistic clues to the speaker’s meaning and context (like body language and facial expressions). For these reasons, we do not suggest using over the phone interpreting for important meetings with multiple people in the room or any type of conference or training. It’s a fantastic solution but it must be used appropriately.
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 some serious risks. When you are 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 worse off all, loss of 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 makes a great interpreter.
Without knowing what their education and professional level of knowledge in other languages, how can you trust them to be able to handle the level of technical knowledge invariably necessary in any type of manufacturing conversation? 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 cultivate and become proficient at. Don’t stress yourself out over language and communication, leave it to the experts and call in a professional so you and your team can focus on what you’re great at.
Tips For Working With Interpreters
Once you have decided to work with professional interpreter services, 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.
- Book ahead of time
- 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
- Everything said at the meeting will be interpreted and kept confidential.
- Speak in first person
- Refrain from speaking to the interpreter directly. Instead of “Please ask him what his time frame for completion is”, ask “What is the time frame of completion?”. Speak directly to the other people in the meeting, not the interpreter, unless of course you have a question for the interpreter!
- Be clear, speak in simple language, and pause
- Speak clearly 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 the picture below to download a case study on how Otis Elevators of United Technologies Corporation utilized interpreter services for a workshop in China.