As a business professional, it is always important to keep In mind how you and your business is seen from the perspective of your clients and/or partners. Making a good impression and maintaining professionalism is key to success in any industry. We all have experiences and examples of events in the past in which someone failed to keep a certain level of professionalism. The specific area which I would like to focus on; how can you improve your image in conjunction with language skills?
I once had a client who was studying to improve his English and was taking a “crash course” in order to quickly advance his level of speaking. He had a business convention that he was planning on attending two months later in Birmingham England. I explained to him that, we could improve his English speaking skills through lessons, but in that short of a time period, there would be no way to get around his strong accent and below average grammar. It was a great idea and motivation for him to improve his skills, but regardless of this, he would no doubt have a difficult time doing business with native speakers and would be at a disadvantage. This was a perfect situation for him to hire a native speaker to join him at the conference and present his company in a professional manner without the misunderstandings and miscommunications that can happen when language skills are not at a native or near native level.
After offering my services and coming to an agreement on the idea, we began preparing. I spent time working with him to learn his business as much as possible before the conference. The preparation was a collaborative approach and we quickly filled knowledge gaps that we both had. When we went to the conference together it became clear very quickly that my input and ability to communicate effectively with the other attendees was a huge advantage. We eliminated most of the stress he had leading up to the event and most importantly established connections that otherwise would not have been made.
As the business cliché goes; you only have one chance to make a first impression. If you have inadequate language skills, this can instantly disqualify you of the opportunity to gain business opportunities. Having a native speaker can make or break your interactions.