Navigating Language Differences

These days it’s easy for even small companies to have a global presence and that means business travelers may find themselves taking a work-related trip to a country where they don’t speak the native tongue.

While business is frequently conducted in English, it never hurts to know a few words and phrases – or more – of the local language. It makes getting around and absorbing the culture easier, and it makes a good first impression. Plus, research has shown that the skills involved in learning a second language help keep your brain active and healthy.

Of course everyone learns in a different way, and there are many options.

Some learners benefit more from a structured classroom setting and the give and take between students and teacher. A class also puts you in the same room with other learners, giving you a chance to practice your conversation skills, which can be an invaluable experience. Check out a local college – or even your public library – to see if they have a class that meets your needs.

For people who can’t commit to a class, software programs offer the advantage of allowing learners to go at their own pace and sit down for a lesson whenever they have the time. They’re portable and versatile, available on a variety of devices, from a desktop or laptop to an iPad or smartphone, whether you’re using iOS or Android. Audio CDs that are geared toward conversation are another option, letting listeners learn a language while they’re on the go, whether it’s commuting, working out or working around the house. Rosetta Stone and Simon & Schuster’s Pimsleur are among the best-known brands.

Free smartphone apps like Duolingo and Google Translate are another good way to learn the basics of a foreign language. Duolingo’s brief lessons start with vocabulary before moving on to constructing short sentences. Google Translate lets users type in words or phrases in English and find the equivalent in dozens of languages.

Once you’ve decided to study a foreign language, what are the most important words and phrases to learn first?

It may sound obvious, but “Do you speak English?” is a good place to start. Many people in foreign countries learn English in school, so you’re likely to run into someone with whom you can talk.

Then there are the essentials. “Where is the restroom?” always comes in handy. Words like “help” and “emergency” are good to know. Numbers, especially 1 to 10, are helpful if you’re trying to buy something or giving an address to a taxi driver. Also, learn a few directional terms like right, left and straight ahead.

Of course, it’s highly important to be polite in any language. Learn how to say: “My name is” and where you’re from. Please, thank-you, excuse me, I’m sorry, pleasure to meet you, good morning, good evening, hello and goodbye – and even how to make a formal toast – will go a long way wherever you are in the world.

Learn more about making your next business trip more productive.

Ready to speak with a corporate travel expert about how you can better manage your business travel? Get in touch with us to schedule a free consultation that can help lower costs and improve employee productivity.