From expressions to impressions

Sunnuntai 17.3.2013 klo 13:34 - Kristiina Sunell


Don't get me wrong

The most common means of communication in international business is supposed to be bad English. It can not be all that bad, though. Business agreements are reached. People find their way to hotels and airports. Good enough, bad English works.

What could work better is Boolean. It's not a language like Swedish or the like. It's algebra, holding the notions of AND, OR and NOT. Life would be so much easier if every attempt to communicate was based on Boolean logic. Yet, certainly less interesting.

What about real life?

Finns are not know as the most talkative people on Earth. We tend to speak only when we have something to say. Extended periods of silence do not mean that we'd be upset or angry. Thus, several years of language studies may not turn us into masters of global communications. We are splendid rally drivers. Less talk, more action - that's us.

Learning to communicate in bad English is an eye-opener. One may assume to be all done once the output- part, expression, has been properly rehearsed. But no, that merely means one is half way. At the end, only impressions really count: how the listener perceives your point.

No means simply no

No, it does not. It depends.

In Japan, you may seldom hear the word no as a reply to your straight forward question. No is pronounced maybe later. This means that you are definetely not expected to return to the topic.

In Chinese, yes may not always stand for an affirmative answer.  It may also mean I do not know. It could actually just be taken for okay - I hear you, but I am neither for, nor against your proposal.

When you hear absolument pas, jamais de ma vie, that's when you may conclude that you'd better change the topic. In French, a simple no tends to imply that you're invited to tell more about your idea and justify your point. The listener deems it worth a word or two. But if the objection goes on, and continues in French, you better draw your own conlusions: roger, over.

Interesting in American English, in turn, usually means something else. Such as no, for instance. To my experience, different is rather close to interesting. So, you think you heared: That's a very interesting idea, it's really different. I'll call you!  You may be waiting for this phone call up to a Japanese maybe later.

According to 'Wiio's Law' Communication usually fails, except by accident. This conclusion must be based on plenty of experience, since Osmo Wiio is Finnish.


         Sorry about generalizing. Objections are welcome.





Avainsanat: Communications, international business, culture, negotiations


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