Optimizing Cross-Cultural Communication Talia Baruch. Founder, Localization & Culturalization Consultant Copyous: Your world wide word. firstname.lastname@example.org www.copyous.com 415.722.6744Background intro: My name is Talia Baruch. I’m an independent localization and culturalization consultant, with 23 yrs. experience in the industry. I’m the founder of Copyous, focused on providing sustainable localization program development and management, as well as global strategy for new market entry.
What color is this? This is a roller coaster ride through pains & gains in pre-natal product dev. for new market entry: • Climb up contextual, functional & visual hurdles. • Dive into locale-tailored branding. • Resurface for a quick peek into glocal strategy.What color is this?In English we would say: “green.” In Zulu there are 39 different words to describe “green”: shaded green, shining green, green dipped in morning dew, water‐bathed…, sun‐soaked green…Reason could be that in the pre‐auto era in S. Africa, ppl had a need for more defined identifier in nature landmarks for navigation and meet up points. Zulu is spoken in South Africa (by 24% of population. One of 11 spoken langs. in the country). Applies alphabetic scriptReference: Richard D. Lewis notes in “When Cultures Collide”
GOAL: Sustain diversity. Restore communication Provide building blocks for building trust across different cultures & perspectivesPeople from different geographic regions follow different life styles, life paces. These generate diff. needs and perspectives, that trigger different means of communication. Our goal as localizers isn’t to bridge cultural gaps (implies “conformed universality”), rather to gain knowledge, awareness and sensitivity to accept and respect the other, while enhancing communication across the cultural gaps.
In my presentation today I’ll provide tips & tools on effective communication acrossmulticultural teams and global partners. We’ll explore the What, Why and How of effective cross‐cultural communication.
People are wired differently. More so people from different cultures. We’re triggered by different association paths, collective memories, stories & histories.Folks from diff. cultures follow different thought processing, draw on different collective memories and association paths, stories & histories. In case you were wondering what’s the national origin of these 2 cows, it’s: FR & US ;‐)
Richard Lewis 3 AXIS modelBased on Richard Lewis’ book When Cultures Collide
3 axis: Multi-active Linear-active Reactive Juggle tasks Monochromic: One task at a time React Work all hrs. Work during scheduled hrs. Work all hrs. Non-punctual Punctual Punctual Talkative/inquisitive Quiet Silent/respectful Relationship-oriented Task-oriented Relationship- oriented Confronts emotionally Confront with logic Avoids confrontation Creative, improvise, Follow guidelines Plan slowly innovative Interject conversation Listen through Good listenerObviously, this chart is a generalization. On the individual level, personality and multicultural background blur some of the clear‐cut differences. However, on the collective cultural level, these core identifiers help us avoid misunderstandings in global business interactions. When I built Google’s localization program for maps & earth products into 62 langs., I worked with in‐country teams and had to adjust my communication interaction to fit each local production team. Juggle tasks: multi‐actives & Reactives tend to work all hrs., personal & work are inseparable. When I work on localization production cycles with resources based in Israel, (e.g., currently I’m managing a localization project for a green tech company based in the Bay Area) I know I can always rely on them being online and ready to communicate way into their night (10 hrs. ahead of PST, at 2pm our time, they’re still clicking away into their midnight). The work‐all‐hrs vs. scheduled hrs. mind set also affects punctuality: for linear‐active ppl, a 10‐11am conf. call will end at 11am on the dot. If conversation is still open‐ended a new appt. will be fixed. A multi‐active would not force a hard stop at the heat of a conversationjust b/c the clock said so. The present and the interaction are more important than punctuality. Confront emotionally: In Israel, even in business office work settings, communication is unfiltered, direct, honest, spelled out, all cards on the table. Unlike the subtle, implicative communication model in the US, where even criticism is communicated in a positive pitch. An American colleague of mine attended an on‐site meeting at an Israeli HighTech l d h l d l d l
Multi-active Linear-active ReactiveMap of worlds in 3 axis culture typesMulti‐active: Latin America; south Europe: Spain, Italy; Middle East, India/Pakistan, AfricansLinear‐active: German, Swiss, Americans (most part), Scandinavia (SW listening mode), UK, CanadaReactive (rarely initiate action/discussion, listen & establish the other’s position first then react to it & formulate their own): JP, Ch, TW, Singapore, Korea, Turkey, Finland.
Case studies of conflicting cultures interplaying in global settings Oi! Hi! Rodrigo Santoro, Brazil MEETS Richard Sanders, USA Multi-active Linear-active Time is event, interaction Time is clockRodrigo & Richard meet at an international business conference. They fix a tennis match at 10AM the next morning to play and explore potential opportunities for future business collaborations. According to Richard’s time system, this tennis meet‐up appt. means: get up at 8am, breakfast by 9, 9:15 put on tennis shoes and out the door by 9:30am. 10‐ 11am tennis match, 11‐11:30 beer & shower, lunch at noon and off to the office by 2pm. For Rodrigo, time is flexible, occurrences are spontaneous, unpredictable and don’t always follow a planned order. That morning Rodrigo drinks his 9AM coffee at a corner café and runs into an old friend. By 10AM, they’re still engaged in deep conversation, so Rodrigo takes his friend over to the tennis court. They get there at 10:30. What’s happening here?For a linear‐active American, time is money. Americans talk about “wasting” time, “spending” time, “saving” time. Overall, as a collective culture, Americans are “monochronic”, i.e., prefer to do only one thing at a time, to concentrate on it and do it within a fixed schedule. They believe this is a more efficient method to get things done. They also, collectively, respect each other’s time. For a multi‐active Brazilian, doing one thing at a time is inefficient and frustrating. Multi‐active ppl organize their time very differently. Schedules and punctuality are not well fitted into this model. For Rodrigo, life is sometimes unpredictable and events don’t always follow a planned order. Therefore, flixibility is the name of the game. Rodrigo isn’t disrespectful to Richard, he’s just on a diff. time frame, so to speak ;‐)
Case studies of conflicting cultures interplaying in global settings Ciao! Hello! Marina Bianchi, Italy MEETS Mary Bodden, UK Multi-active Linear-active People-oriented Task-oriented Marina Bianchi works for a British high‐tech company, at their regional site in Rome. She visits HQ in London for a 3‐month exchange training program. Marina meets her US counterpart—Mary—and tries to establish good personal ties with her colleague. She talks about herself and is surprised that Mary not only does she not reciprocate, but also keeps her distance & reservation. Marina feels isolated, misplaced, in the new environment. What’s going on? Italians regard long self statements as a positive outreach to build trust and create ties. As opposed to asking questions about the other person, which is interpreted as an inquisitive and suspicious behavior. For Marina this is a natural & genuine interaction, to establish positive work relations. For Mary, though, this is too quick a leap in the early relationship building phase. Moreover, prying into personal matters is perceived inappropriate in the work place. Mary also interprets Marina’s long self‐statements as her being self‐ centered, rather than show interest in the other. Another example highlighting the diffs.: Israelis, for example, are extremely informal. Personal ties are created instantly and intuitively. Facing courteous, polite, formal address in the US could be perceived offensive, interpreted as distant, as rejection of close personal contact.
Colliding cultures within international teams & B2B partners: real-life samplers from the workplace Business Meeting • Swedish vs. American | attentive listening • Japanese vs. American | eye contactSWE vs. US partners | Swedes (overall Nordic culture) feel comfortable with silence, take 25‐45 seconds to answer a thoughtful question, as opposed to 2‐4 seconds for Americans, who would feel awkward with long intervals of silence during a conf. call and might interpret it as lack of interest or disagreement on the other party’s end. Conference calls between US and Nordic players typically result in the Americans’ dominance of the discussion, mainly due to language barriers and etiquettes related to discussion pace & dynamics.A similar cultural barrier interaction occurs btw Americans & Japanese partners. Conf. calls are tough, b/c JP are good listeners and take the time to digest the information conveyed; don’t respond instantly. These long pauses of silence are sometimes misinterpreted by their US counterparts on the other end of the line as disinterest, or disagreement.JP vs. US | We teach our kids in the US to look ppl in the eye when we talk to them, as a sign of respect and genuity. …Well, for Japanese this is the opposite. You show respect by lowering your eyes.
Colliding cultures within international teams & B2B partners:real-life samplers from the workplace Happy Hour • Italian vs. American | body language • Slovakian vs. American | interjected discourse IT & US | body language Another mis‐interpreted cultural element btw the 2 cultures is body langs. Italians (like Mediterranean, Spanish, Latin American), wear their emotions on their sleeves; they talk with their hands, make large body gestures and loud voice. These expressions are often misinterpreted as aggression or expressed anger. My Italian friend has lost quite a few American friends just b/c they thought she was angry at them every time she’d raise her voice or use excessive body lang. SK & US | interjected discourse: Multi‐active Slovakian (unlike neighboring Slovenian who are linear‐active/influenced by the Austro‐german rule after WWI), interjection is a sign of engagement vs. Linear‐active or Reactive cultures (Nordic/JP) who would interpret interjection as offensive. Mediterranean/Eastern European/Latin American members commonly interrupt a conversation as a sign of vital engagement in the discussion. It is expected to cut through someone else’s words. By interjecting comments, you fuel the conversation, navigating it to new places, whereas this would seem rude & distracting for American/Asian/Western European counterparts.
Colliding cultures within international teams & B2B partners:real-life samplers from the workplace Management styles & leadership differences French, Latin American, Middle Eastern Autocratic Authority o Centered around Chief Executive o Task orientation dictated from above o Knowing the right people oils the wheels of commerce o Nurture human relationships over technical profit
Colliding cultures within international teams & B2B partners:real-life samplers from the workplace Management styles & leadership differences Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore Confucian hierarchy o Top executives make final decisions o Cultural values dominate leadership & organization code of conduct o Top down obligations, bottom up loyalty, obedience & trust Cultural values dominate the structure, organization and behavior of Eastern companies more than in the West. The Confucian model resembles family structure: we are members of a group, not individuals. Stability of society is based on unequal relationships btw ppl: ruler‐subordinate, older‐younger, senior friend‐junior friend. Confucianism took final shape in China in 12 century. It entered Japan with first great wave of Chinese influence 6‐9th centuries AD. Both Japan & Korea became fundamentally Confucian by early 19th century. Decisions are made/agreed on prior to meeting. Japanese respect hierarchy and would not speak during a meeting if the manager is present. The manager’s message prevails. Typically, agreements between the parties are ironed out ahead of a face‐to‐face meeting. The objective of a frontal meeting is only to measure personal/company culture acceptance and respect prior to final signage of paperwork. In JP hierarchical structure, chain of command in tangled. Production teams await approval from upper management. US: more egalitarian management system for approved tasks.
Colliding cultures within international teams & B2B partners:real-life samplers from the workplaceManagement styles & leadership differencesFinland, Sweden, Holland Flat organization -Middle managers make day-to-day decisions -Executives stand shoulder-to-shoulder with staff & help in crisis -Flexible work roles, less rules & protocols -OK to challenge the opinions of upper management This management & company structure stands in complete contrast with the Eastern structure, where a subordinate would never challenge his manager’s opinion, let alone in a meeting.
Challenges working in global teams • Language/cultural barrier: Use of idioms/jargon/slang drawn from local cultural references “off-base” “ballpark estimate” “struck out” • Work style: Task ownership, detailed top-down instructions vs. hands-off end-result approach, Outcome/Details vs. Details/Outcome orientation • Time system: “TO BE, OR NOT TO BE”….on time Language barrier |there’s a great exercise I run when I do onsite intercultural team training: Sit in a circle. Each person, in his/her turn, tells what he/she did yesterday in a couple of sentences. For every verb used, add a synonymous verb. For example: yesterday I went/drove to the store. I bought/purchased milk. Foreigners are used to that thought process, switching btw their native lang. & EN on a daily basis. However, I’ve seen Americans sweat on this exercise. • Americans love to use idioms | These are often drawn from baseball references and collective historic stories that are not familiar to non‐US based counterparts. Work style | US: emphasis is on bottom line outcome. Details are ironed out later. Vs. JP: setup the building blocks: clear specs upfront, role ownerships (JP work in a team) slowly work out the details one by one, toward end result; apply changes as needed, relating to unpredicted course of execution. JP more thorough, detail‐oriented. This explains why JP ICR is the harshest! ;‐) For example: graphic localization work. End result: mirror EN images. US: there’d be diff. ways to get to end result. JP team would identify all specs upfront in a more granular planning at the outset (substitute font types to apply, non‐ copyrighted, agree on role ownerships btw client DTP specialist & vendor’s specialist, determine exact workflow process, etc.). JP: require more PM communication, step‐by‐step implementation guidelines; work together in team to resolve and clarify issues along the way.
Communication style differences in global teams Adjust management model to team communication styleCommunication styles: direct/indirect; formal/informal; use of humor; use of silence, interrupted speech When I worked at Lionbridge some 13 yrs ago; production was in‐house in those days and, as an Account Manager, I had to adjust my work style to the diff. cultural teams. While providing clear detailed instructions consistently to all global teams, I did need to adjust on‐going status monitoring to the respective teams. E.g., for UK/JP teams, I would send granular‐detailed planning and execution guidelines and requirements; whereas for the Estonian team, for example, I applied a more hands‐off approach, oriented to end‐result, allowing them more freedom to internally execute the steps as best fits their work style. Work style adjustments yield a more effective management model and enhances communication.
How language morphology & cultural customs impact each other •Japanese 日本 okyaku-sama Script: Kanji, Katakana, Hiragana okyaku-san Honorific: multiple levels of respect: okyaku “Customer” = kyakulang. morphology impacts cultural customsJP | 1. Complex lang. structure drawing from 3 diff. scripts: Kanji, Katakana, Hiragana. Linguists & ICR need to identify and review which content should be in which script (depends to diff approaches to text). Kanji is the standard JP script.Hiragana (“kana” based) is used to write native words for which there is no kanjikatakana (“kana” meaning “fragmented”) is primarily used for transcription of foreign language words into Japanese and the writing of loan words, as well as to represent onomatopoeia, technical and scientific terms, and the names of plants, animals, and minerals. Names of Japanese companies as well as certain Japanese language words are also written in katakana rather than the other systems.2. Honorific level: multiple levels of distance to acknowledge respect in addressing ppl from diff. statuses. Choice depends on client preference.
How language morphology & cultural customs impact each other •Chinese 中国 Language peppered in proverbs, instantly triggering layers of meaning, foreign to foreigners. “One arrow double vultures” 箭雙雕 “When the tree falls, the monkeys scatter” 树倒猢狲散 •German Strict syntax, verb at end of sentence in split verb Deutsch structures. => listener must first hear through end of speaker’s sentence before commenting.lang. morphology impacts cultural customsZH proliferated use of proverbs, tapping onto instant collective memory stories and histories, etc.DE strict syntax; verbs appearing at end of sentence in split verb structures, thereby listener must hear out end of speaker’s phrase before commenting. Germans are mostly linear‐active. But even if you were a multi‐active German with an urge to interject, you wouldn’t be able to! ;‐)Languages are spoken at different speeds. Richard Lewis, in "When Cultures Collide" notes that "Hawaiian and some Polynesian languages barely get through 100 syllables per minute, while English has been measured at 200, German at 250, Japanese at 310 and French at 350 syllables per minute."
Phone manners around the globe American: “John speaking” (first name) German: Schmidt (last name) Dane: Karen Andersen (first & last) Italian: pronto (“ready”) Spanish: diga (“speak”) Egyptian: -“May your morning be good” -“May your morning be full of light” -“Praise God, your voice is welcome”You can also learn a lot about a culture by how they answer the phone. In the Arab world, religion practice & cultural values are embedded in daily life & in the way ppl interact with one another. Compared to the Arab world, responses elsewhere are the snapshorts: Britons and Americans generally say "Hello," although the latter sometimes simply say "Yes," and if theyre in business or the military they may just answer with their surnames: "Smith." The French answer their phones with the familiar "Allo," and they often add their name and the phrase "Qui est a l’appareil?" that is, "Who is on the phone?" In a number of countries, calls are answered with a touch of suspicion or curiosity, a reluctance to talk until its clear who the caller is. Italians answer "Pronto," or "Ready," and then its the caller who demands "Chi parla?"‐‐ "Whos speaking?" ‐‐ assuming the right to know the identity of the person at the other end. Germans tend to answer the phone by barking their last names: "Schmidt" or "Mueller.“Danes will answer with both first and last names, even women: "Karen Andersen."
Communication builds Community A malfunctioning joint venture with a foreign partner can result in a catastrophic financial loss.A malfunctioning joint venture with a foreign partner can result in a catastrophic financial loss. 1. HQ & regional sites2. It’s almost impossible to enter China without a local partner. Shannon, my presentation partner, will talk about background checks on potential local partners and B2B matchmaking. 3. Culturalization is a key component of creating effective usability
What’s your objective? • Expand your brand’s footprint worldwide. • Increase global usability & visibility. • Reap ROI.I’ll answer this question with another question: What is your objective? 1.Expand your product/service visibility and usability in new markets.2.Generate revenue from international markets. ROI: When we strategize globally we look at revenue threshold from international markets and measure what percentage of total sale derives from our target international markets. For big player companies, like Merck, HP, IBM, J & J, Motorola, P & G, etc., foreign sales yield way over 50% of annual revenue (which makes us question if there really is such a thing as a purely “American” company nowadays).Ask audience: How many of you represent a company selling products/services oversees? Raise your hands. How many of you are localization service providers? In 2010 US president announced the National Export Initiative, who’s goal is to double U.S. exports by 2015. $Billions were pumped into support staff trained to help businesses (namely small businesses) start or expand their export efforts. This is already boosting localization enterprises of EN source into multiple targets. I’ll be co‐presenting at Loc. World Santa Clara with Shannon Fraser, my counter‐part at the US Dept. of Commerce, who’s involved in this initiative. She will expand on this program and I will talk about Cross Cultural Communication.
No, really, what’s your objective? CONNECTION. CROSS-CULTURAL. Make a meaningful & memorable connection within your international team players and partners.Creating cross‐cultural ties. Localization, on the deepest level, is about connection. Bonding. Across cultures. Reestablishing our sense of interdependency between product and user.
Create solid ties btw HQ & regional teams/partnersA malfunctioning joint venture with a foreign partner can result in a catastrophic financial loss. Exchange program: initiate staff exchanges, rotating btw corporation’s diff. regional sites. This will help much both on the business level: learn how other intnl teams operate; and on the personal level: create meaningful ties and get a hands‐on exposure to counter parts’ perspectives. Annual conferences: to revisit business strategies/vision, celebrate success and create personal ties btw the intnl team members.Routine correspondence flows and periodic virtual meetings/status calls (videocam). In Agile/scrum cycle models, obviously, daily meetings for on‐going touch‐base.Cross cultural training: facilitation of multicultural teams from diff. regional sites/collaborators. I was involved in a training program at a bio‐tech company where the SF‐based team collaborated with a group of scientists from Sweden. They encountered hurdles during the long‐distance communication efforts. Mainly some of the issues I relayed above (silence during conf. calls, differences in work styles and set expectations). Watch films from that country, read books written by local authors, about region’s history, life style, etc.
WHICH WATCH? Optimizing project timeline & team performance Around the globe clockMake the most of production timeline by leveraging diff. time zones. E.g., when I managed the localization of google’s earth & maps products into 62 langs., I was faced with the challenge to produce top‐notch quality translations of instant turn‐around‐time strings into multiple locales in sim‐ship release‐to‐market mode. I optimized resources & timeline by playing with the diff. time zones to gain maximum time‐saving in around‐the‐globe production line. By building multicultural teams, we can leverage the best traits of each collective culture to enhance the overall performance of the team. In Israel ppl work on Sundays, therefore when we kick off a project on Fri. PST (10 hrs. behind), we’ll get files back on Sun.By building multicultural teams, we can leverage the best traits of each collective culture to enhance the overall performance of the team. CULTURE STRENGTHAmerican | linear‐active | Action, simplicity, ROI focus, markup, risk taking, drive, goal orientationIndian | multi‐active | Communication, negotiation, diligenceChinese | Planning, diligence, detail, courtesy, respect, patience, loyalty, trust, team work Addnl:French Logic, vision, humor, flexibility, eleganceGerman Order, process, detail, long‐term planningIsraeli Outside‐of‐the‐box creative, innovation, warm, risk taking, versatility, trouble shooting
WHAT’S YOUR COMPETENCE? Making the most of cultural differences to optimize team performance CULTURE STRENGTH American Action, simplicity, ROI focus, markup, risk taking, drive, goal orientation French Logic, vision, humor, flexibility, elegance German Order, process, detail, long-term planning Indian Communication, negotiation, diligence Israeli Outside-of-the-box creative, innovation, warm, risk taking, versatility, trouble shooting Japanese Planning, diligence, detail, courtesy, respect, patience, loyalty, trust, team workBy building multicultural teams, we can leverage the best traits of each collective culture to enhance the overall performance of the team.
The Power Tower of Babel Our mission as localizers is to restore the communication across the scattered cultures & dispersed languagesThe fable & warning about the power of lang. Early humans developed the concept that by using universal language to work together they can build a tower to heaven. To ensure that such a tower will never be built again, God confused & scattered ppl across the planet by giving them diff. langs. Irony: diff. languages exist to prevent us from communicating.Currently there are 7‐8K diff. spoken langs. worldwide. In Papua‐New‐Guinea one can encounter a new lang. almost every mile. In the European‐Union 23 diff. langs. are represented around the table. The Union currently spends ~$1.5B on translation cost. European Union hires 2,500 permanent translators. Our mission as localizers is to restore the communication across the scattered cultures & languages.
Q&A Talia Baruch/CopyousLocalization program dev & management Globe-Go Connect-Content email@example.com @TaliaBaruch