How To Negotiate With People Around The World

22 04 2014

… a very interesting article on:

How To Negotiate With People Around The World.

Many of you may have encountered this in praxis –  business people from different countries tend to do business in a different way.

This Article by Gus Lubin is a very nice description and overview and a lot of truth in it, I find!

You can’t expect negotiations with French to be like negotations with Americans, and the same holds true for cultures around the world.

British linguist Richard D. Lewis charted communication patterns as well as leadership styles and cultural identities in his book, “When Cultures Collide,” now in a 2005 third edition. His organization offers classes in cross-cultural communication for big clients ranging from Unilever to BMW.

In support of cultural studies, he writes: “By focusing on the cultural roots of national behavior, both in society and business, we can foresee and calculate with a surprising degree of accuracy how others will react to our plans for them, and we can make certain assumptions as to how they will approach us. A working knowledge of the basic traits of other cultures (as well as our own) will minimize unpleasant surprises (culture shock), give us insights in advance, and enable us to interact successfully with nationalities with whom we previously had difficulty.”

Although cultural generalizations can be overly reductive, Lewis, who speaks ten languages, insists it can be done fairly, writing: “Determining national characteristics is treading a minefield of inaccurate assessment and surprising exception. There is, however, such a thing as a national norm.”

When meeting with French, be prepared for a vigorous logical debate.

When meeting with Americans, expect them to lay all their cards on the table, get upset when there’s a disagreement, and resolve as fast as possible with one or both sides making concessions.

We’ll go over the rest in brief after a selection of communication charts taken with permission from “When Cultures Collide.” Below, conversational range is shown with increasing width, obstacles are marked in gray, and cultural traits are noted as well.



As you may surmise, “When Cultures Collide” spends relatively little time on today’s emerging markets, which is unfortunate but not surprising since it was originally published in 1996. The book does offer some commentary on Africa, South America, and other places not mentioned here, however, as well as much further commentary on these 25 countries — and we advise anyone interested in international communication to check it out.

Let’s go over the other diagrams in brief,  paraphrasing and quoting from Lewis:

Canadians, compared to Americans, tend to be more low-key and inclined to seek harmony, though they are similarly direct.

English tend to avoid confrontation in an understated, mannered, and humorous style that can be powerful or inefficient.

Germans rely on logic but “tend to amass more evidence and labor their points more than either the British or the French.”

Spanish and Italians “regard their languages as instruments of eloquence and they will go up and down the scale at will, pulling out every stop if need be to achieve greater expressiveness.”

Scandinavians often have entrenched opinions that they have formulated “in the long dark nights,” though they are reasonable conversationalists. Swedes often have the most wide-ranging discussions, Finns tend to value concision, and most Norwegians fall somewhere in between.

Swiss tend to be straightforward and unaggressive negotiators, who obtain concessions by expressing confidence in the quality and value of their goods and services.

Hungarians value eloquence over logic and are unafraid to talk over each other.

Bulgarians may take a circuitous approach to negotiations before seeking a mutually beneficial resolution, which will often be screwed up by bureaucracy.

Poles often have a communication style that is “enigmatic, ranging from a matter-of-fact pragmatic style to a wordy, sentimental, romantic approach to any given subject.”

The Dutch are focused on facts and figures but “are also great talkers and rarely make final decisions without a long ‘Dutch’ debate, sometimes approaching the danger zone of overanalysis.”

Chinese tend to be more direct than the Japanese and some other East Asians; however, meetings are principally for information gathering, with the real decisions made elsewhere. Hong Kongers negotiate much more briskly to achieve quick results.

Indian English “excels in ambiguity, and such things as truth and appearances are often subject to negotiation.”

Australians tend to have a loose and frank conversational style.

Singaporeans generally take time to build a relationship, after which they can be shrewd negotiators.

Koreans tend to be energetic conversationalists who seek to close deals quickly, occasionally stretching the truth.

Indonesians tend to be very deferential conversationalists, sometimes to the point of ambiguity.

Israelis tend to proceed logically on most issues but emotionally on some.

And that’s how one respected, well-traveled, and highly multilingual linguist sees the world.


You find the original article here:

Or check out Skrivanek’s Cultural Consulting Service



Machine Translation is not Google Translate

5 03 2014

Google Translate is one of the most popular instant translation systems available online, and while it is certainly a type of “machine translation,” it’s quite a different tool than those used in certain situations by professional language service providers (LSPs)such as Skrivanek.

google-translateTo generate translations, Google Translate (GT) searches millions of sentences for comparable patterns in origin- and target-language documents that have already been translated by human translators and entered into its database. Then, basically, it makes an “educated” guess as to what an appropriate translation would be. This process of seeking patterns in large amounts of text is called “statistical machine translation” (SMT).

You’ve probably seen how GT works: type in words and you will receive a quick translation (in any of 80 languages) that will range in quality from excellent to questionable, depending on how much text for your language pairing has been fed into the GT database. Google Translate director, German computer scientist Franz Josef Och, describes the GT process as the computation of “probabilities of translation” through comparison of the submitted text with billions of words of “learned” text in GT. The more text is available in the database, the “smarter” GT becomes. Tellingly, the GT creative team is made up of mathematicians and programmers and does not include any linguists.*

On the other hand, software systems such as PROMT, Asia Online, SYSTRAN and Moses, referred to as Machine Translation (MT), are complex, customizable translation engines that are specifically trained for certain projects or content in order to maximize efficiency and accuracy. Often used for technical and repetitive texts without subtleties, MT can assist large corporations in the translation of materials they simply would not have the capacity or budget for otherwise.

In the past MT systems were often entirely “rules based” (RBMT), meaning that information about language structures – not mathematical formulas – formed the foundation of their programming. Now MT engines like those mentioned above are often hybrid systems that combine RBMT and SMT. Basically, MT engineers “train” the sophisticated MT programs with glossaries from relevant fields, along with text from specific documents and corrections from previous mistakes, resulting in a tool that becomes more refined the more it is used for each client. This kind of multi-faceted MT requires extremely high levels of capital investment for both hardware and software, and for the process of customization.

Instant online translation tools like Google Translate are a gift in an era of communication expansion so extensive that a large American corporation might want immediate access to comments tweeted by an Icelandic teenager about its latest product. There are numerous instances of such social and commercial interaction online when communication speed is more important than language precision.

But for linguistically and culturally accurate translations of text that contains any ambiguities, nuances or critical information, hands-on human intelligence is still essential. Even complex MT systems are most appropriate for only some types of texts and then merely as producers of raw output that is checked, smoothed and corrected by human post-editors.

For further information:

*”Google Translate Has Ambitious Goals for Machine Translation,” by Thomas Schulz, Spiegel Online,, September 2013

J. McShulskis

Do you think Machine Translation will replace human translation in time?

27 11 2013

What is the Darknet? Read on if you feel watched…

14 11 2013

When online communications with your clients might be regularly ‘watched’ by strangers, it’s only reasonable to seek alternative web connections capable of providing greater privacy. Loosely and collectively referred to as the “Deep Web” or “Darknet”, encrypted internet sites are capable – for now – of doing just that. And when you are working with documents you have promised to keep secure, they may be worth looking into.

“Tor” – The Onion Router — is a prominent anonymity network used in a number of countries by journalists, activists, the military, police, businesses, and ordinary individuals uncomfortable with surveillance. Its browser bundle is available for anyone to download in over a dozen languages at, and there is online help offered for installation and use, all features which make it highly desirable for the transmission of sensitive translations.

“Orbot” is a free proxy app for Google Androids that empowers other apps to use the internet more securely (information and download link also available on Tor’s website). Tor and Orbot are both free and open to participation by users for the development of program code and content translations. In fact, the Tor site states, the more Tor participants there are, the higher the level of security for everyone.

Like the internet in general, Tor has attracted some measure of criminal activity, but its origins were legitimate. Tor was first fostered by the U.S. Naval Research Library with the goal of protecting government communications. Ironically, the U.S. government has attempted to break into civilian Tor transmissions it wishes to monitor, but with little success, according to The Guardian.

Winner of the 2012 Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award, Tor cannot guarantee impenetrable security, but as it “bounces your encrypted traffic several times through computers around the world” (Tor website) it is currently quite effective.

J. McShulskis

Web Experience Management

26 09 2013

From Customer to Cloud and Back in an Instant

All day every day people are not only consuming data, they are also creating it. Through social media, product commentary, blogging and of course the act of shopping, human beings all over the world are involved in multi-channel conversations about every imaginable topic. They are not only producing information you can access for marketing, it’s data that more and more you can’t afford to ignore.

The term Web Experience Management (WEM) refers to the process of capturing all of that information to create the two-way conversation—in real time, across all devices –that marketing is becoming. Employing both new tools and new paradigms, WEM is industry jargon for technology that funnels user-generated information into your hands and then back as instant feedback to guide your customer through a personalized journey on your website. Today static, unresponsive blocks of marketing that do not “intuitively” answer a customer’s questions before they’ve even asked them already run the risk of losing their attention.

But the fact that the amount of content in your company’s advertising stream increases by 100% every time you add a language means that translation, too (along with editing and corrections), must benefit from cloud scalability and be a 24/7 activity in which all tasks can be done at once. In fact, that is exactly the direction that the cloud is moving the translation of user generated content. Online communities generating details about everything from their whims to their budgets are creating files of information that in turn can be translated through machine translation in an instant . With so much expansive change, it could be that anything imaginable in global advertising will become possible.

J. McShulskis

It’s Fast and It’s Free: Fansubbing

25 09 2013

In China, prolonged economic growth, the internet, censorship and a generation of educated young adults have bred an entirely new kind of translator: the fansubber. Translating foreign media without any financial reward, the fansubber’s motive seems to be a passion for broadening Chinese horizons, according to writer Xiaochun Zhang (Mulitlingual Magazine).

Fansubbers form networks of participants on the Chinese mainland and overseas, acquiring copies of television shows and movies primarily from Japan, Korea and the U.S.  to create subtitles of varying quality. Translation of a t.v. show people are waiting impatiently to view can be extremely fast and somewhat imprecise, while other products (including educational materials) are processed more carefully. Both fansubbers and their audiences get hearty doses of culture and language beyond their borders, and this is the main goal that these new world translators share.

The YYeTs for example, are a group of fansubbers whose slogan is “Share, learn, progress.” Their website,, looks like an arcade of media graphics with hundreds of available titles represented by pictures and trailers, with portals to discussion groups and postings telling how many hours ago the subtitled version was made available. It’s electric, alive – a global conversation that seems destined to increase the interaction of the Chinese people with the rest of the world.


J. McShulskis