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Business Languages July 1, 2007

Posted by Edwin in English, German, Listening, Speaking.

Business people can often communicate without knowing each other’s languages well.

A few months ago, I had a chance to talk to a retired business man, who was a friend of my father-in-law. He grew up in Shanghai, China, and started a successful printing business in Hong Kong many years ago. He recently sold his business and was retired.

He told me when he first started his business, he went all the way to Bristol, UK to look for a printing machine. He had never been to the UK before and he spoke very poor English. Somehow he managed to get around fine just by himself. He could communicate with the manufacturer there and even got trained on how to use the machine. He told me all he needed to know was some technical terms in English, and he used a lot of gestures.

I was more surprised when he told me that he even made a trip to Düsseldorf, Germany. Again, he went alone, got around, and communicated with the manufacturer. Only this time he knew nothing about the German language at all!

My retired friend could not quite explain to me how he did that. Perhaps this is how business is conducted. They seem to have a communication ‘channel’ which can penetrate through all barriers of languages.



1. Steve - July 4, 2007

You can do business without knowing the language. If you are sincere hard-working and follow up on your commitments you can be a businessman. I know many people who speak lots of languages and are poor businessmen.

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