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Minding Your Global Communication P’s and Q’s
by Terralíngua      Posted in  July 20, 2017

Minding Your Global Communication P’s and Q’sHave you heard the old English expression to “mind your P’s and Q’s”? This saying means to mind your language and be on your best behavior. Though a simple phrase, it sums up a world full of considerations with international business. Going global may mean evaluating your communication style when it is time to interact with potential partners and customers from a different culture.

Language Learning

Pitching a deal to someone who does not speak your language will have its challenges, but can be just as successful as negotiations in your own tongue as facial expressions, body language and voice tone can communicate just as much as words.

It is not necessary to speak the language of every customer abroad. Using an interpreter is perfectly acceptable to ensure clearly shared information. However something important to note is that interpretation is a separate service from translation. Both services involve language but have different skill sets and needs – so ensure you ask for the right service when setting up the request.

It is polite to at least know how to introduce yourself, welcome your client and say your goodbyes at the end of the meeting in their language. Learning a few words will not take long and it will be appreciated by the people you want to work with.


Any documents, brochures, PowerPoint presentations or videos should be available in the target language. The best option is to translate this material using a professional human translator, even though the use of machine translation combined with a post-edition by a professional human reviser should not be eliminated of the game. It can be insulting and embarrassing to use machine translation only as the quality result could be very poor.

Brochures and other marketing material may also require desktop publishing. This means the documents will require formatting when taken from the source to the target language. This service will ensure the translated version will have the same look and feel as the original. The text will fit perfectly into the space provided even with expansion or contraction.

Also consider the preferred colors and acceptable images for the targeted country as they do matter. The Chinese for example do not care for white as it represents death; so if you are dealing with a Chinese company consider red, purple or gold, all of which have a positive appeal. Images too need to reflect a country’s culture. For example you would want to reconsider any images that do not reflect the norm or could be potentially offensive. Your clients will appreciate your effort to respect their culture.


Be aware of any of your target country’s etiquette rules. Find out if there are any gestures you should not use, whether or not they shake hands at business meetings, or whether it is considered rude to touch the arm of a person while you are having a conversation. Things that are perfectly acceptable in the US or Europe may be considered inappropriate in your target country. Also remember that people from other cultures may conduct business in different ways. For example it is a common impression that the Japanese and Chinese are very formal; Germans are forthright and Saudi Arabians are quietly spoken negotiators.

The Contract

Some countries may have different norms when it comes to closing a deal as well. Some may consider a handshake equal to an agreement. When presenting a contract or agreement, ensure it is translated into your client’s language and explain this is a normal working process in your culture. Explain in a positive way that the contract is a way of cementing the trust both parties have for a successful business future.

The internet opens the world to global business which is the perfect opportunity to gain new customers and expand your business. Minding these considerations with your international communication and customer approach will mean more successful interactions.


Terralingua is an ISO 9001 and ISO 17100 certified translation partner that can help your business communicate on a global platform. We provide professional translation, localization and desktop publishing services to some of the world’s top brands. Please visit our website and contact us to discuss your requirements.

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