Jeff LoCastro, March 21. 2012
Founder & President, NCCREA
The NCCREA was founded on the principles of real information, in real
time, for real people. No hyperbole or fluff; just information and metrics
that professionals in China can use "in the field." If we present the
information in an irreverent manner at times and discuss ideas that are
somewhat disruptive, all the better. In a break-out session at the
"Welcome 2012 Conference" at Dongbei University of Finance &
Economics, School of International Business, I gave a talk in keeping with
that principle. Here's the synopsis.
Belief: In order to do business in China, you need to learn Chinese.
Fact: To do business in China you do not need to learn Mandarin,
Cantonese, Shanghianese or any of the other dialects. It's a waste of
time. That certainly fly's in the face of what all CNC's will tell you. But
they are wrong . . .which is why they are CNC's. The fact is, most people
at the top can already speak American-English. Certainly it would not
hurt if you could speak Chinese, but your
time is better spent not taking years to
learn the language, but rather spending
that time immersing yourself in the
market; bathing in the excessive
opportunity that this China has to offer;
Making deals. If you have something of
value, no one here cares if you are speaking Swahili, you will be able to
find someone to listen. To be sure, American English is the
international language of commerce, science and popular culture. But
in China, it is also the language of luxury, sophistication, education and
refinement. And as a westerner, they don't expect you to speak
Chinese. But they do expect you to have something to say. For that
you'll need an interpreter. But virtually no one in the west understands
how to use an interpreter. Most think they do. But they really don't.
It's an art and takes practice and diligence to perfect if you are to
communicate effectively. It is a process just like any other. Here are
three tips that (although they won't make you an expert) will get you
1. Make sure you set the ground rules and establish a framework with
your interpreter before you enter the room.
A. They are a tool, not a part of the conversation. See #2 below.
B. Speak at length to your interpreter. As you speak , gauge the speed
with which you are able to speak. Test for understanding. It's your deal,
your business, your life. You will not be insulting them by doing so. Even
if you where, C'est la vie. If you hired a professional from a reliable
company, test anyway. Individual skill levels vary and there is a shortage
of interpreters that can jump between the two worlds at a business
C. What style of translation communication shall we use? Ask them if
they are able to interpret in "real-time" or if you must do a "*slipping-
clutch." That is, will they interpret while you are talking (sort of a
living ear-piece), or will you talk in
bursts and wait for translation?
If the slipping clutch is the
option, ask them how much
information can they accept and
then suggest in the meeting
that they stop you when they
have reached their interpretation capacity. After a couple rounds, you'll
figure out the timing.
Regardless of what style you will together employ, you will need to
concentrate, stay-focused and strcitly follow the tip in 2A below.
However, 2A is of particular importance if you will be using a real-time
D. If it's important, speak in small bursts. Because you are speaking
through an interpreter, your ability to use tone, inflection and cadence
will be limited. A highly qualified interpreter can interpret your
intonation into a way best suited for the listeners native tongue.
But most of them are all working at the United Nations. So you will have
to use small bits of information to provided clarity and emphasis. That is,
if you want to communicate something of power and importance,
instead of including it in wide slipping-clutch and waiting until they
interpreter has reached their capacity, give it to them in a much shorter
burst then signal for the translation.
E. No ad-libs. Make clear that they are only to communicate what you
are speaking. Do not ad-lib or try to help. Remember: You are the expert
in your business. You know what you want to say and how to say it.
Never let the interpreter insert themselves into that role. They will try
but keep in mind there is nothing malicious in it. But it is unacceptable.
Meet the propensity for them to "help" head-on. Tell them:
Ad-libs are not helpful. You are the expert. They are the conduit.
2. The interpreter is not a part of the conversation, they are a conduit. They are your tool, not your partner (unless they actually are your partner).
A. Don't talk to your interpreter. Talk to the person with whom you are
having the conversation. Converse just as you would with anyone else.
Look them in the eyes. It can be hard to do. But do it anyway. After a
while you will forget there is a language barrier. Control the
conversation. Never let the conversation devolve into a discussion
between the other party and the interpreter. It can happen quite easily.
Keep in mind: entering the room you are the odd-man out (linguistically
speaking). It will be reflex for them to begin to converse together. And
don't assume that the party with whom you are meeting knows how to
use an interpreter. If a conversation ensues, stop the conversation
immediately and ask "what are you saying to them?" Even if what was
said was OK, end it. Remind them of their purpose and continue. If
you don't you will quickly lose control of YOUR conversation.
B. Control the conversation. If the interpretation seems to be taking a
long time, i.e., they are using 25 words to communicate "yes," Again,
stop them and ask them what they are saying. They may be ad-libbing or
trying to round-out what you are communicating. Make certain they
understand the ground rules. Communicate only and exactly what you
are saying. Period. If you intended to say more than "yes," you would
have said more than 'yes.'
C. Keep at it. If you have to stop the conversation 20 times during your
meeting in order to maintain control, do it.
3. Always bring your own interpreter. To effectively follow these tips,
the interpreter must be beholden only to you; they must be your guy (or
gal). It could get expense, but not more expensive than losing control of
your meeting, getting bad interpretations and killing your deal.
There is too much opportunity in China to spend valuable time leaning
Chinese. Most people that at the top already speak American-
English. And if they don't, hire the skill. While many are sitting in
Chinese class 8 hours a day for months on end, you're making deals. But
it is easy to have the interpretation process malfunction and destroy the
very opportunity that got you into the room. So you better understand
how to navigate the process. If you work with your interpreter enough
and they are reasonably sensitive to human dynamics and qualified in
both languages, you will learn to communicate with
simple gestures and movements. Simple pauses will become "clutch"
breaks and your personality will begin to shine through. But that takes
time and a lot of work. Here is your start.
COPYRIGHT 2012 JEFF LOCASTRO
DISTRIBUTED BY NCCREA
CHANGZHI, SHANXI, PRC
Contact the author at: Jeff@NCCREA.com or Jeff@CaliforniaSecured.com
* Slipping-clutch is a term I have coined to describe the stopping and starting translation style. Sometimes the style can be reminiscent of the stopping and statrting that a car does (or used to do in the old days) with a bad clutch . . . engine revs, then pops then goes a bit. . . engines revs, then pops, then goes a bit.
Copyright 2011 North Central China Real Estate Association. All rights reserved. All content, web site design, text, graphics, the selection and arrangement thereof are Copyright 2010-2011 by North Central China Real Estate Association. Any use of this website, including reproduction, modification, distribution or republication in any form, without the prior written consent of North Central China Real Estate Association is strictly prohibited.