Carrying out negotiations in one’s mother tongue involves substantial communicative and diplomatic effort. And when the negotiation is due to take place in a foreign language with the help of an interpreter, things get even more complicated. So, what are the key things to bear in mind to help an interpreter to do his or her job? How should you conduct negotiations in a foreign language in order to overcome cultural barriers? Here are a few tips on how to make your interpreter’s job easier and more effective.
What is negotiation interpreting?
There are various interpreting techniques out there, each of which suits a different type of situation.
For example, consecutive interpreting is great for conferences or long speeches, while chuchotage is a form of simultaneous interpreting that we’re used to seeing on television performed by an interpreter whispering into the ear of the person he or she is assisting.
Negotiation interpreting is similar to chuchotage in that the interpreter switches between one language and another, translating the comments of both parties while making sure that the discussion is clear and understandable for all those taking part. However, unlike with chuchotage, the interpreter does not whisper, but speaks aloud or into a microphone, as in the case with consecutive interpreting.
How to conduct negotiations in a foreign language
Those who are familiar with the practice will know that business negotiations are unlike any other form of negotiation. On the contrary, they are essentially verbal confrontations during which the parties involved need to be as persuasive as possible in order to get the maximum out of the scheduled meeting.
This puts the interpreter in a fairly stressful position: as a mediator, he or she is tasked with relaying the message as accurately as possible and, whenever feasible, favouring peaceful communication, even when the parties start to up the ante.
To make the interpreter’s task as easy as possible, it’s important to keep comments very brief, to express concepts clearly and to use simple expressions.
The importance of body language
In a business negotiation, body language can be just as important as verbal language, if not more so. That’s why it can be crucial to meet with your interpreter before the negotiation, so as to obtain information on what your colleagues’ cultural habits may be.
An expert interpreter will be able to provide a few negotiation tips and to clearly outline the Business Etiquette rules you need to follow in order to put the other party at ease. Tips may include carefully consulting the business cards of your Japanese colleagues, or not paying too much attention when Turkish business partners turn up late. In the same way, an interpreter will be able to explain to a British businessperson that it is quite common for Italians to conclude a meeting without having actually arrived at any concrete result, often postponing decisions to a later date.