Essay on Communication Breakdown Overcoming Culture and Language Barriers

Words: 2424
Pages: 10

Communication Breakdown
Matthew Jaster, Associate Editor

If you’ve read any business publications lately, chances are you’ve seen an article or two covering language and cultural barriers in the global marketplace. Buzzwords like “globalization” and “global supply chain” frequently come up in discussions on training, networking and economic growth. At least once a week, a headline triumphantly declares a company “lost in translation” due to language or cultural missteps. According to, the English language remains the most popular when conducting business abroad. It’s the most widely published language, it has the most words and it’s spoken by the
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The right people, the necessary skills. In the case of KISSsoft AG in Switzerland, communication is imperative in servicing its software to a global customer base. As a smaller organization, the company originally hired a single employee to address language issues in-house. “It is important for us to have all the documentation and the software looked after and to have someone organize it all,” says Dr. Stefan Beermann, vice president at KISSsoft. “The problem with translation is that you start from scratch again and again. As soon as you change a small percentage of the source text, someone has to translate it all. It doesn’t matter if only two words or a complete sentence is changed; the translation effort is still the same.” As KISSsoft has expanded its customer base, the company has been

able to hire a network of translators to address other language issues. “We usually communicate with our customers in English, the current lingua franca,” Beermann says. “Our business is very close to a consulting firm, so communication is the core of everything we do. Most of us here are in touch with several different customers each day by e-mail or by phone focusing on their demands and talking about language issues that have come up.” Unfortunately, these language and cultural obstacles can even occur in one’s own backyard. Marswell Engineering Ltd., a small manufacturing company in Hong Kong, provides injection molding and small module plastic