Overcoming the Language Barrier: Doing Business in China

If you are looking to take your business to new levels of success, China might be your best option. Doing business in China gives you the ability to tap unlimited potential, but you have to be a bit cautious. Not only do you have to understand how to market your business in China, but even just talking business can be tricky.

The fact is that the language barrier may be the biggest obstacle that you face when trying to do business in China. If you do not speak fluent Chinese, you will be operating from a place of weakness. Trying to learn all the intricate details of the Chinese language is not something that will come easy to you. Even if you rely on a native speaker, the person you’re dealing with will know that he’s dealing with a foreigner and try to take advantage of that fact.  Being aware of the business language barrier in China is the first step to conquering it.


Know the Challenge

If you are looking to overcome the obstacle known as the business language barrier in China, you have to know what you are up against. No matter how difficult it was for you to create your business plan or dream up your business idea, the most difficult part of doing business in China involves breaking down the business language barrier. You might assume that you will be able to pick up on the Chinese language pretty quickly, but the chances are that this will not happen very fast.

If you do not have any practice with learning the Chinese language, you will not be able to adapt very easily. This language is incredibly difficult to learn and common business practices in China are even more difficult to understand. Trying to learn the Chinese language is so very different from English. These two completely different worlds are very hard to blend in the world of business. The lack of commonalities is why doing business in China is so difficult. Knowing the challenge will help you to be more prepared and have a plan in place to deal with all the unknowns and difficulties that will likely come your way.

Lack of Similarities

Trying to master the Chinese language is completely opposite from English right from the start. Not only are Chinese words not compromised of letters, but the symbols that are used can be incredibly confusing. Constructing sentences using the Chinese language requires knowledge of a completely different set of rules. Simply trying to translate every word out will leave you speaking Chinese that is not up-to-par and has you looking uneducated. If you are going to learn Chinese words or phrases, you must learn them in correct grammatical form. This will have you making a more professional impression on Chinese business influencers.  Learning to write or read the Chinese characters, however, isn’t entirely necessary if you simply want to converse with a native.  It is useful when you know how to read so as to understand key points in documents or knowing what signs say.

Get an Interpreter

If you are serious about having successful business interactions in China, you will need to invest in a good interpreter. A Chinese interpreter will enable you to effectively communicate with Chinese businessmen and break down the business language barrier in China that exists. While having a qualified interpreter by your side makes things easier, you should be warned that finding a qualified interpreter in China is not easy. This is due to the fact that many Chinese locals are not fluent in English. You need to do a bit of legwork to find a knowledgeable interpreter that is fluent in both Chinese and English to help you breakthrough. You can’t put a price on how meaningful having an interpreter by your side can be for your business efforts.

Thousands of Different Dialects

One of the main obstacles that you will find in China when doing business is due in large part to the hundreds of different dialects that exist. There is one main “office language” in addition to more than a hundred different dialects. This means that even if you make an effort to learn some key phrases, chances are that you will not be using the same dialect as those Chinese individuals that you are trying to communicate with about business.

Cultural Differences Exist

Not only are there many differences related to the Chinese language, but cultural barriers are also present. Trying to have a sense of humor is something that can quickly get lost in translation. It is best to try to keep humor to a minimum when you are not sure if what you are communicating is being translated accurately. What may be funny in Western culture may be seen as offensive to Chinese. If you want to avoid making a bad impression or overstepping your bounds, it is always a good idea to not try to use humor as a tool to close your business deal. This will keep any misunderstandings from taking place and save you from souring a business deal before it comes to fruition.

Knowing that the language barrier is in your way is vital when trying to develop a plan to make it irrelevant.