How to Overcome Language Barriers in Global Sourcing?

Globally sourcing your company’s products can improve your productivity, efficiency and bottom line, but sometimes language barriers can get in the way. From simple miscommunications to cultural gaffes, language barriers can cause international business relationships to grind to a halt.

It’s important to have a strategy in place to mitigate language issues before they cause serious problems. So, here’s a closer look at strategies that can help overcome language barriers with your global sourcing partners:

1. Translate all critical documents into the local language. 
Before embarking on a business partnership, it’s important to consider the basic documents that will outline and guide the relationship. Examples of critical documents include legal contracts, sourcing guidelines, company and background information, and operating agreements. Translate these documents into the local language to ensure that both members of a partnership get off to a good start. It gives everyone involved a clear frame of reference. Any point of confusion or disagreement can refer back to these original core documents.

2. Utilize multiple channels for communication.
One of the most effective strategies for overcoming language barriers is creating redundant systems. Don’t rely on a single source of communication to handle important conversations. Follow up conference calls or Skype discussions with summary emails that outline the major takeaways. Email exchanges are easier to track than phone and in-person meetings, but written communications also should be supplemented with other points of contact. Even simply hearing a colleague’s voice helps to build strong relationships. 

3. Partner with sourcing firms that have language capabilities. 
When you’re selecting your global sourcing partner, choose a firm that has language and translation capabilities. The right partner will be able to navigate your sourcing market with conversational fluency, but also be able to translate written documents as part of the process. The best firms offer this support to clients as part of the ongoing relationship, and can provide premium support at a reasonable price when special translation needs arise.

If you’re contemplating launching a global sourcing initiative, we can help. Contact us to discuss your business, your sourcing goals and how our services can make it easier to navigate the process today.