Practical Language Learning Hacks for Business Travellers

Estimated reading time: 7 mins

A Guest Post by Joan Selby

English is the official language of the business world. Says who?

If you’re making deals with business people from a country whose language you don’t understand, things are a bit complicated.

Business relations are not limited to meetings. Yes, you can get translators for the meetings. What happens with the lunches and emails? Are you going to pay translators to help you in those cases, too?

Learning the language would make things much simpler for you.

Even basic knowledge of the language is enough. It shows you respect the culture and identity of the people you’re doing business with. The communication may still be in English, but you will make a great impression if you show your efforts to learn their language.

Plus, you’ll understand the culture of the locals when you start learning the language. If you’re expanding your business in that country, your sensibility for their culture helps quite a lot.

Mark Thorn, a professional translator, explains: “Knowing a foreign language makes you a more versatile business person. With your busy schedule, learning a language may seem like an overwhelming goal, but it doesn’t have to be. There are simple ways to master the basics in a very short period of time.”

How do you do it? How do you get good in basic communication in a foreign language under a limited period of time? We’ll give you 12 tips to follow.

  1. Set Your Goals

You should treat language learning in the same way you would treat any business goal. You set a precise goal, and then you plan the steps that help you achieve it.

Learn French doesn’t seem like a very specific goal, does it? It’s same as start a successful company. Such goal is too vague, and that’s exactly why it’s unrealistic.

Set very precise goals, such as learn how to make a conversation in French in less than three months. Then, break up that goal in smaller achievements, such as these:

  • Learn how to order food in a restaurant in three days
  • Learn the basic business concepts in French in a month
  • Learn basic grammar in less than three months
  • Expand the vocabulary

Now we’re going somewhere. When you have specific goals, you’ll just work your way through them.

  1. Learn Complete Phrases

Instead of trying to build your vocabulary word by word, try learning entire phrases at once. If you focus on individual words and try organizing them into sentences by following grammar rules, the language learning process will take a long time.

If you learn how to use and pronounce entire phrases properly, you’ll make progress at a much faster pace. You’ll be learning many words along the way.

How do you learn phrases? Try using Google Translate. Search for YouTube videos focused on the language you’re trying to learn. Just type French phrases, Italian phrases, or whatever else you’re looking for. YouTube will give you plenty of videos for your practice.

  1. Focus on Phrases and Words You Need

When you’re learning a language for business purposes, you already know what phrases and words you need to learn.

You’ll probably have a translator or you’ll be speaking in English during the meetings. However, if you know how to translate some of the most important phrases to the native language of your potential business partner, you’ll make sure no misunderstandings occur.

The majority of language learning books and courses cater to the general needs of most language learners. Find a business language course and follow that one instead!

  1. Group Similar Words Together

Every language has similar words with the English language. You’ll recognize many of the root words, and that will make the language easier to learn.

Create a list of words that are similar to the ones in your native language. You can also make groups of similar words in the language you’re learning. That will help you remember them easily.

  1. Communicate with a Native Speaker

Immersion is one of the most effective techniques for language learning. Fortunately, you have social media platforms on your side. You can connect with native speakers via Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn. Start communicating with them, so you’ll practice your language skills.

If you’re too shy to approach people on social media with a request to practice a language, try another method: use HelloTalk – an app that lets you chat with native speakers of many languages..

  1. Observe!

You don’t have to speak all the time. While you’re in the foreign country, observe around. Listen to the way people talk and get used to the language.

As you spend more time in that country, you’ll start understanding what the conversations are about. You’ll pick up few local phrases. You’ll become more confident to engage in conversations, too.

  1. Use a Translator App

There’s nothing wrong in using a translator app to make things clearer. If you’re trying to say something and you can’t remember a word to complete the sentence, just use an app. There are tons of translator apps to choose from, so pick one and get used to it.

  1. Learn How to Introduce Yourself

The first impression you make during a business meeting is crucial. If you introduce yourself in the native language these people speak, you’ll be on a good track. They will see your effort. They will know you appreciate them.

Imagine how the first meeting would start. All participants would introduce themselves. What would you say in your own language? Write that down. Then, translate it to the language you’re learning. Learn how to pronounce that brief text and practice.

  1. Write Important Info in the Foreign Language

If you decide to go out alone, you have to know how to handle unexpected situations. What if you get lost? What if the cab driver doesn’t understand English?

Write important information in the local language. This should include the name and address of your hotel, the address you want to get to, and information for a person you can call in case you need help.

Will you need these details? You never know. Hopefully, you won’t need them, but it’s important to be prepared.

  1. Learn from the Native Teacher

The traditional way of learning a language with the help of a teacher still works. This method is successful because it’s based on a curriculum. It encourages a systematic practice and spaced repetition.

What if you can’t fit actual classes in your schedule? That’s okay; you can always take things online. Online learning is much more flexible; you can do it in your own time.

Try Verbling – a platform that connects you with native teachers of various languages.

  1. Use Body Language

What if you can’t remember a word? It happens. If the translator app doesn’t help or the situation is too spontaneous and you don’t want to use the app, just use your hands.

Business relations don’t have to be cold and unfriendly. It’s okay to make gestures and sounds to explain the concept. However, you have to make sure your gestures are not offensive. If you think this is too bold, just continue using English and relying on the interpreters.

  1. Hire a Good Interpreter

Speaking of interpreters, you need a good one. This will not only help you come to an understanding with your potential business partners, but will also help you learn the language.

The interpreter will accompany you during the meetings. However, they can also show you around town and encourage you to practice the language. A great interpreter is always a smart investment.

Knowing just a few phrases in the foreign language can make you look like a more professional and approachable business person. These efforts will also make your travelling experience better. This goal doesn’t have to take too much of your time. Just make a plan and start working towards the goals. Step by step, you’ll get there.

Joan Selby is a content marketer at SuperiorPapers and former ESL teacher. She is a Creative Writing graduate and fancy shoelover. A writer by day and reader by night. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.

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