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After a decline in the rate of global trade growth last year, opportunities for global sourcing are finally on the rise. The pending ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership has put the spotlight on the financial benefits of sourcing in low-cost countries in Asia. Before taking the plunge it is important to understand the language challenges of global sourcing.

Often, more than one language is spoken in a country and dialects will differ by region. You’ll need help from people who are fluent in the languages of your supplier. The last thing you want is to find out is that the wrong or incorrectly manufactured product has already been shipped due to a misunderstanding.

Keep in mind that non-native speakers of a second language are often uncomfortable repeatedly asking for clarification. Translate important documents professionally. Present information and communications in the same format each time so the supplier will know what to expect.

Collaboration with a long-distance source is difficult enough without a language barrier. Consider differences in time zones before making calls and speak in clear, slow English. Foreign suppliers will not understand American metaphors and slang terms.

Having a grasp of the language and customs is a sign of respect. Be aware of the local culture. What are the important holidays? Americans normally work long hours and through holidays. This is not the case everywhere. Don’t expect that your supplier is willing to do the same.

With today’s electronic communication technologies, it’s easier than ever to embarrass yourself and insult others all over the world in real-time. Treat conference calls and video chats with the same formality as face to face meetings. Accidental insults are deal breakers. Take into account local etiquette and hierarchy, socially and in business situations.

Sourcing managers and buyers tempted to use Asian sourcing agencies should know that language and cultural differences can result in unanticipated differences in business practices. Having a stateside sourcing agent familiar with the languages and customs of both the low-cost country and your own will prevent costly mistakes and miscommunications. 

Tricord International LLC is a multi-lingual, stateside sourcing broker with extensive experience and established relationships with reputable Asian supplier partners.

Contact us to see how we can partner with your organization for a successful global trade experience.