The Trouble with Language

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The Trouble with Language

Language is a complex thing that helps us communicate. In general, human communication is complicated because you cannot always understand the true meaning of your speaker/writer by looking at the individual words. There are many situations when you might find yourself misunderstood even if the words and expressions of your sentence are just as normal as one could think of. This can happen to any language, of course. For example, you may walk into a meeting and say, “I can see Peter is also here today”. If we look at this sentence analytically, we see there is nothing peculiar with it nor is there anything wrong in terms of grammar.

The situation, however, clarifies the true meaning since people in the meeting may know that Peter is not good with tidy schedules and is always late. As a result, the participants of the meeting such as you, Peter, and other colleagues know that this sentence has a different connotation. Perhaps a sarcastic hint to remind Peter not to be late so much and respect others’ time.

We may get into many similar situations daily. Therefore, knowing the language is good but not enough. To become a sound communicator, it is recommended to go beyond language and touch culture as well. I give you another example. Although Dutch people know the English language very well, they may not grasp the intention of the speaker in the above sentence about Peter. So, if the speaker of the sentence is a Dutch person, s/he may intend to announce a statement about Peter being present. Hence, cultural differences between two nations may be vast but can be learned in a language course as well.

Language in a multicultural company
Language in a multicultural company

Language and Business

Doing business successfully is fairly dependent on the use of your language abilities. Having said that, in many cultures, it is important to be strategic and diplomatic when choosing your words. In conversations with your friends and/or family, you may perhaps be less diplomatic while when you are working with a client, you may need to follow some formalities and regulations. One point to consider when doing business is to try to maintain your clients. You can achieve it by keeping them satisfied. Being direct is good, in general, but it is not always the best option when it comes to business. Look at the following sentences:

  1. We have bad experience with X which compels us not to work with them.
  2. We noticed a gap in the working culture we have with X. Therefore, I suggest sending a local representative to your company next time there is an opportunity.

There are many interesting business opportunities all over the world, so be sensitive or something like this. Simply saying No is almost never a great idea. Considering the cultural differences, you should train yourself to deal with ambiguities, unclearness, unpunctuality, and many other traits that may not always be evident. For example, being a bit late is not as maddening in where I come from as it is in the Netherlands or Germany. Or sometimes it is even recommended to stall, especially for important meetings. Thus, you must upgrade your threshold level because of the working opportunities that are available in many of these countries.

And why?

Why do I tell you these? Well, it all started with saying ‘No’. In many countries, saying ‘No’ means ‘Yes, but…’. I mean it is not as definite as it sounds. Of course, the opposite is also true. Let me give you an example. In Iran, it is common to reject a delicious food, cookie, or something like that for the first time someone offers you. Sometimes it is even politer to reject for the first time. However, this concept has no existential reality in some European countries where “No, thank you.” literally means “No, thank you.”. If you are smart, you can derive ideas for your business such as how to manage salespeople in Asia, for instance.

Here at learndutchnow, we can help you overcome probable communication mistakes and build up a good command of any language for your business or personal reasons. Click here for more information.

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