One of the major work pillars of My Language Hub is Language and Cultural Consultancy. I recently returned from a short-term contract in the west of Argentina working for a Risk Management Consultancy.
Our task was to investigate the root cause for a significant problem that the client Company was finding in achieving its License to Operate (LTO).
Initially, my job was made more difficult due to not understanding what LTO really meant. For the uninitiated, as I certainly was, it is the ‘Social’ License that a company seeks to be able to operate in a ‘foreign’ environment.
There was significant scope during this investigative stage for support from a Spanish speaker. It was also essential to have an in-depth knowledge of both South American Spanish and the client Company.
From the outset, my principal focus was to add value when and wherever possible. This involved a proactive stance to seek opportunities where an advanced linguistic and cultural capability would prevail. My responsibility was to open doors wider by smoothing the way for introductions. I also fostered more realistic expectations for outcomes from meetings.
Half my battle was to demonstrate that there remains a distinct gap between business in first-world countries and the far more traditional and conservative backdrop encountered in Central and South America. First World speed and efficiency have eclipsed more tested methods of trading where trust and relationship building are still paramount.
For the most part, at senior executive level, many have a more than adequate command of English. Where I brought value was in the frequent instances where the speaker suddenly reverted back to native Spanish. This was generally when the discussion became more complex or passionate. Having a trusted interpreter proved very useful to my client. My integral knowledge of the Risk Consultancy ensured that they knew that I was conveying exactly the message they wanted.
Mid-level managers also demonstrated a proficient level of English. Here, my value came to the fore when a member of the host team was clearly uncomfortable that certain detail had been insufficiently covered. Personal experience helped me to recognise an individual on the point of offering more information. They either lacked confidence in their level of English or deferred to their higher-level manager. In either case, I could open discussion further by reminding the meeting that I was happy and comfortable for them to switch from English to Spanish. This simple statement changed the atmosphere and productivity of meetings immeasurably.
The British company scored points on two levels and made an excellent first impression. Firstly, they had brought with them a native English speaker, fluent in South American Spanish, at their own expense. Secondly, this interpreter could facilitate to ensure that everything that needed to be communicated was put on the table.
At My Language Hub, we are committed to our plan of providing this unique service to our clients. As we project to an opaque post-Brexit vision, we see our role as being able to provide a hitherto untapped resource. We form an integral part of the client Company. We understand its objectives and goals plus the resources available to accomplish them. By gaining the trust of our clients, we hope that they will recognise that all our best efforts will be targeted at promoting their successful expansion into new horizons.
In-country our aims are:
1. to provide a facilitating and intermediary role
2. to be on hand to ‘firefight’ and resolve problems efficiently, enabling the other members of the team to focus on their primary roles
3. to run the client office to enable a maximisation of client time spent on task