Doing Business Internationally is not just about “doing business.”



Doing business in a foreign country or doing business with foreign clients in your own office is not just about doing business anymore.  Being successful globally is not only about business.  In many countries and cultures you need to develop a rapport with your client before you start to do business.

You need to be linguistically prepared and culturally prepared.  Knowledge of at least the basics of the language of the country of your clients and some of the cultural traditions and etiquette goes a long way.  You do not want to do something or say something that would  inadvertently offend your client by doing something that would be perfectly acceptable at home.  You can unknowingly ask the wrong personal questions, make inappropriate gestures, misinterpret body language, etc.

FLSAS Executive Language Courses are Active Language Learning Programs. That means that, unless otherwise requested, one part of your language instruction will be spent in lessons with texts and materials, and the other part will be spent out “in the street” using what you know (even if only the basics). It is an exciting way to learn with dynamic results. You learn the foreign language the way you learned your own language; you are living it.  The final distribution of actual formal lessons, and activity lessons will be up to you.  You can request special vocabularies and to meet people in your field.

Unless you choose otherwise, and there are different options, lodging will be in a homestay.  You need to live in a situation where you continuously hear only the target language. The hardest part of foreign language learning is mastering everyday conversations. You can best get that type of conversational exchange in a homestay. HomeStays are with executive appropriate hosts.   You are matched with hosts who share some of your interests. Sharing mutual interests facilitates conversation… and language learning.

For those who are skeptical and have not had a total foreign language immersion experience before… If you only have one or two weeks, how much can you learn living the language in one week? Definitely much more than if you do not go at all. You have to take advantage of every opportunity, even if it is only one week. If you wait till you have something more ideal – 4 weeks or 6 weeks or longer – you will probably never do it… and you will miss out on business opportunities.

Some Additional Comments:

Developing a rapport with your client is the proper way to begin the business or professional relationship.  Knowledge of their language will be an asset. It will show your clients that you take an interest in them personally, and are not just interested in their money.

You do not have to be fluent or speak in perfect sentences. A little bit of effort goes a long way. It may be as simple as being able to ask your clients in their own language about their family members or about their favorite sports team or about their vacation. Or it can be a bit more complicated such as preparing yourself for a trade show where not everyone will speak English, giving a presentation in another country, attending a meeting or a seminar in another language.  Even if you speak primarily in English (or other native language), having the basics of the language of the country makes a good first impression.

If you study a foreign language for two weeks, you will not become fluent, no matter what some programs promise. Fluency is not the goal; that is a long term project. The real, most important short term reason to learn a foreign language, when you only have a limited amount of time, is to show your clients that you are interested in knowing more about them, learn about their culture, their holidays, their sports, their values, learn something about “where they are coming from” or “what makes them tick.” If you make the effort to converse with them, just a little bit, even at the basic level, it will make doing business that much easier.  Try it.

Very simply, spending even a limited amount of time in a country where the language is spoken will improve your foreign language proficiency skills much more quickly.

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E-mail: LRH@flsas.com