The Advantages of Intercultural Communication in a Globalized Market
What Is Intercultural Communication?
Take the term “inter-” which means “between” and the term “cultural” which pertains to “specific differences in culture.” Then combine it with “communication” which we all know as “the exchange of information.” So now you have the definition of intercultural communication as “the exchange of information between different cultures.” Easy, right?
Yet, that definition doesn’t take into account intercultural communication as it pertains to business. As a business, intercultural communication is important because, here, you’re not only exchanging information, you’re also gathering managerial, sales, and technical data on your consumers, you’re also creating diversity, you’re also navigating between different languages and cultures.
Intercultural Communication in Business Expansion
Intercultural communication is true to the ethics of diversity, not just inside the workplace but in clientele. Whereas cross-cultural communication can sometimes compare other cultures to one model culture (such as the original culture the business is based in), intercultural communication encompasses all cultures in the equal exchange of ideas, beliefs, and practices, fostering deep business relationships between different cultures.
Facebook, a U.S. company, expanded to be a global media company, as well all know, in part due to intercultural communication’s importance in networking. Facebook found out the different ways in which social media differs in cultures that are individualistic and cultures that are collectivist, or that have a different social history. And they specifically targeted those audiences based on consumer-driven cultural data. They used intercultural communication to their global advantage.
I’ll deal with intercultural communication within your company briefly but will focus more on communication outside of your workforce.
Intercultural Communication Within
In various countries, there are huge cultural differences businesses must be sensitive to when it comes to dealing with internal operations. Aside from different languages, which I’ll go into later, there are nonverbal body-language cues from different cultures that necessitate good business communication. For example, while eye-contact might make or break a deal in western cultures, in some eastern cultures, it may be considered rude or disrespectful.
Educating your workforce in intercultural communication when dealing with clients or highlighting the importance of cultural awareness in communications between your diverse employees might lead to better intercultural communication within.
Taking stock of diverse cultures will also help in expanding your workforce, such as in business process outsourcing. Aside from your workforce, effective intercultural communication can help expand your reach with networking by having employees and contacts in different consumer markets.
Intercultural Communication Beyond
There are certain factors driving intercultural communication for businesses who want to expand opportunities in the global market:
- Environment – If you’re a business specializing in petroleum products, you’ll probably have much intercultural communication with eastern and middle eastern cultures. Such environmental factors as the availability of natural resources, the country’s climate and topography, population size, and density should be accounted for in practicing intercultural communication.
- Technology – Global communication technologies have made it easier for businesses to expand their reach internationally. Yet, there are some countries that prefer one platform to another. For example, Twitter is more popular than Instagram in the UK. Taking note of these preferred platforms would help in communicating between cultures.
- Social History – There are certain aspects of a country’s social history, especially when it comes to economic sanctions, migrations, and political movements. You’ve probably heard about Facebook “unfriending” Australia due to their new media restrictions–intercultural communication has played out in the press releases of both countries. If you’re a U.S. business specializing in Cuban cigars, you might want to know about Cuba’s economic sanctions before meeting with Cuban clients residing in the U.S. Gathering data about different countries’ sociopolitical, economic backgrounds will certainly help.
- Language – The language barrier is a make-it or break-it in terms of intercultural communication. If you cannot communicate outside of your country, then you’ll have low chances of branching out into the global market. You’ll miss words, phrases, ambiguities, subtext, culturally-specific terms, and more. That’s why good translations are so important for a global business.
The Role of a Translation Agency in Intercultural Communication
Since translation is the contact point of culture, when you understand what someone is saying, you meet at a certain access point–that point drives clients and sales to go up. It’s what businesses can leverage when using an in-house translation team or a translation agency like Tomedes. An international firm with locations on multiple continents, Tomedes experts utilize intercultural communication on a daily basis.
According to the CEO of Tomedes, Ofer Tirosh, multicultural communication strategies are a crucial step for business ventures, business procedures, business-to-business dealings, and business-to-consumer promotions. Understanding the cultural backgrounds of clients in various locales is the key to providing a smooth communication process, and could broaden the scope of the business, Ofer added.
Common Intercultural Problems Businesses Face
Language barriers and cultural boundaries may bar your business from ever reaching your global expansion goals. Idioms and multiple meanings show different cultural connotations, and should never be directly translated. Meanwhile, specific words may be inexpressible in other languages due to cultural norms, so a rough translation would be used. You may have encountered these problems before with Google Translate.
Language translation, localization, internalization, and transcreation are essential processes for business in the globalized market. Localization will adapt the cultural parameters for your product to be used in a certain local audience. If you’re not adept at localization, you’ll end up with a brand voice or design that doesn’t fit your intended audience, say, in Reykjavik.
Meanwhile, internalization will do the opposite, which is to adapt your product to a general international audience. Your internalization process could turn problematic if, for example, your product doesn’t have a type of world standard outlet plug, so it can’t be used worldwide.
On the other hand, transcreation creates something new for your intended audience entirely, rather than just translating. Transcreation could go badly wrong if you transcreate a legal document that states the name, address, and terms, for example.
These different processes are normal workings of a translation agency, and knowing these would certainly help in solving many intercultural communication problems. Leveraging these in intercultural communication would then allow you to raise revenue globally.
In-House Team or Translation Agency?
There are pros and cons to both. While an in-house team could boost your internal intercultural communication, a translation agency might not become involved in internal affairs. However, the best translation services would already have a built-in network of contacts globally that could boost your marketing, revenue, and consumers. They would also be familiar with the ins-and-out of intercultural business communication throughout the world.
Effective Intercultural Communication
Businesses should ensure that both inside and outside the organization, they present themselves with the use of effective intercultural communication: attuned to the needs of specific locales as well as general audiences; excellent in verbal as well as nonverbal communication; and up-to-date with various social norms, political movements, and economic fluctuations for their intended audience. Effective intercultural communication will boost diversity and morale hand-in-hand with sales and reach.