Reading the English newspaper

  1. Read the newspaper article and decide what the do’s and the don’ts for business communication of foreign partners are.

You Are Talking to Me

“New Straits Times” (Malaysia)

I speak French, you speak Swahili, they speak Mongolian.

We do business together in Bolivia. A simple enough proposition, but in practice an endeavour as fraught with traps for the unwary as negotiating the sale of camels to camel-producing countries.

One might understand a language well enough for the purpose of trade: for example, signing a partnership with a local distributor to market one’s brand in a foreign market. Language is a simple matter; it obeys fixed rules of grammar and syntax not unlike one’s own. When one stumbles, translators come to help.

All might appear to proceed smoothly, hut when that distributor farts sonorously, repeatedly, during dinner with one’s titled bosses — while the grin of pleasure spreads slowly across his innocent face — does one mutter automatically. The technical revolution in communications promised a great deal, but delivered precious little. The free exchange of ideas, unencumbered by ideological restrictions (like Soviet Communism) should have brought the world closer; instead it has driven communities so far apart that today clashes of civilizations appear inevitable.

The problem: however advanced our technology might become, no logical machine will ever displace the quintessential^ irrational, emotional Human Factor. One day we might ourselves come to resemble machines, but until then the diversity of human culture will always have the upper hand. Multinationals ignore this fact at their peril.

“People of every culture think their way of doing things makes the most sense; it’s the only way they know how to act,” says Sheida Hodge, a director of Berlitz International, an organisation specialising in communicating between cultures.

Mrs Hodge, 58, is a fine example of a successful international businesswoman: born in Iran, she immigrated at 18 to the US and joined the General Electric Company, where she was responsible for developing overseas business. She later built her own import company and sold it to a Brazilian manufacturer.

“Business misunderstandings aren’t usually the result of a conscious feeling of cultural superiority,” she says. “Very often we might observe scrupulously such surface differences as etiquette, but fail altogether to comprehend why another person’s way of doing things is so foreign to our own.” Foremost among the differences that affect international business negotiations are the two contrary approaches to making decisions. “Western business standards are specifically task-oriented and thus rely greatly on the individual’s apprehension of facts and figures,” says Hodge.

“Asian business cultures on the other hand emphasise the importance of maintaining long-term relationships. Facts and figures, they think, might change tomorrow, but it is the strength of the relationship that enables business partners to weather such changes.” Westerners (Americans in particular, who are accustomed to forthright and competitive negotiation) might find the Asian approach slow, prevaricating, even dishonest. Asians often find their Western counterparts rude, perhaps ignorant, certainly difficult to comprehend.

“In the case of multinational corporations, cultural differences might exist even within one’s own ranks. American head office executives should, for example, avoid evaluating employees in a foreign division by the same standards they apply at home, especially when American cultural values are alien there.” This might appear obvious to the armchair management consultant, but judging by the number of spectacular failures in international commerce recently, the obvious will keep escaping our notice if we persist in believing that our own standards are the only true guides to action.

It is to help breach the cultural divide that Hodge has written Global Smarts — a concise, regularly amusing collection of pithy observations gleaned from decades of frontline negotiating in countries as diverse as China and Brazil, as well as from corporate training programmes she designed for outbound expatriate workers.

Directed primarily at an American audience, the book nonetheless includes a large and varied selection of revealing opinions from 11011- American business people. Her analyses are general enough also to be applicable in a wide range of situations with which the modern multinational (including the Malaysian 011c) might find itself grappling with.

“Besides, the book gives foreign audiences an idea of how American negotiators think and act,” she adds.

Topics include culture shock (and its cost to companies in terms of lost talent and failed projects), how women executives should approach the challenge of an overseas posting, as well as anecdotal advice on how to deal with individual cultures (the Chinese idea of “lucky numbers,” for example).

Central to her arguments, however, and running constantly throughout the book is a deep yet thoroughly accessible comparative analysis of modern culture — especially where it intersects with business practices — and the psychological motivations underlying differences across the negotiating table and expatriate communities.

Hodge says: “I get this often: All people are the same. I’ll be nice to them, but I’ll tell them what I think. They can take it or leave it.” That is probably the worst attitude one can have when going abroad.

“If we don’t try to penetrate the bare surface of cultural difference then we will never understand what motivates our foreign business partners. Also this negative cast of mind makes us more receptive to the cumulative effects of culture shock.” Likewise the common practice of setting up expatriate enclaves: while providing a small degree of comfort against the unfamiliar, enclaves increase the rate of little differences building up gradually — unnoticed until they reach an irrevocable point of crisis.

“If only people try to see each other in complementary terms and understand one another’s position — imagine the creativity and synergy that might result,” Hodge adds.

An admirable sentiment in these dark times.
  1. Memory Test.

After reading the article about cultural differences of business partners, test your memory.

  1. Why should everyone understand a foreign language?
  2. What did the technical revolution in communications promise? And why?
  3. Do you agree with Hodge’s opinion “Business misunderstandings aren’t usually the result of a conscious feeling of cultural superiority”?
  4. How do the Asian and Western businessmen cooperate?
  1. Vocabulary.

Give the definitions of the following words and phrases as they are used in the text:

  • endeavour;
  • unwary;
  • unencumbered;
  • clashes of civilizations;
  • resemble;
  • at one’s peril;
  • glean;
  • grapple;
  • intersect;
  • cumulative;
  • synergy.

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Источник: Е. Н. Малюга. Английский язык для экономистов: Учебник для вузов / Е. Н. Малюга, Н.              В. Ваванова, Г. Н. Куприянова, И. В. Пушнова. — СПб.: Питер,2005. — 304 с.: ил.. 2005

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