29 May 2007

Translation is a Matter of Interpretation.

When Antonov wanted to move into the Chinese market, their interpretation needs went far beyond simple translation, as Chief Executive John Moore explains.

Antonov is a technology company with offices in Cambridge (UK), Paris and Amsterdam. They supply technology licences and design, analysis and development support in the field of automatic transmissions.

As such, the company is greatly in demand in China. “What we can offer is attractive because it allows Chinese firms to leapfrog western suppliers and use the licences to go straight to the manufacturing stage”, says Mr Moore,  When I joined Antonov, one of my first aims was to make contacts with businesses in the Far East.

Making contact is one thing; doing so effectively is another matter altogether.

One of the main issues we had and still have – was how to communicate. By that I don’t just mean a straightforward translation of whats being said, but a complete understanding of the nuances and subtleties required to make any business and social interaction with the Chinese successful.

Mr Moore contacted Cambridge based China Business Solutions (CBS) and was immediately impressed. CBS were extremely responsive. They got to Paris within twenty-four hours of my call and were of immense help to us during a critical meeting.

CBS grasped what was required immediately. As well as providing a high quality translation service during the meeting, they were able to ensure that the potential clients really understood what we were saying. CBS had enough business intelligence to be able to guide the Chinese back on to the right path if they were in danger of going off at a tangent.

That sort of help is invaluable. It means you can be confident not just that what you’re saying is being translated accurately, but more importantly that it’s being accurately understood. It’s good to have someone like that in your corner.

But the translation services offered by China Business Solutions extend far beyond letters and characters.

To describe the services CBS supplied us with as simply ‘translation’ is to do them a huge disservice. The company offer what I’d describe as a ‘cultural interpretation’ service. This means they get involved in helping us to understand the intricacies of Chinese business and social life which is invaluable when you’re trying to break into the country.

For example, if you do business in the US, the relationships are very much at company level. Obviously it helps if you like the person you’re dealing with, but personalities aren’t so critical.

Dealing with Chinese businessmen and women requires a completely different approach. They like to know a lot more about you, where you live, where your children go to school and so on. Initially this can be quite disconcerting for western business people but to the Chinese it’s important. This information exchange is far more than polite chit chat  it’s a critical part of oiling the wheels and smoothing the way to a deal.

These scenarios are played out just as much in the restaurant as they are in the boardroom. On some social events when I’ve not taken a translator the conversation has been awkward and stilted and no one has enjoyed themselves. Equally on occasion I’ve taken a translator out to dinner with my clients and they’ve all had a high old time whilst I’ve felt left out not good for business. CBS understand extremely well how to handle these situations. They ensure that everyone has a good time and that all the correct protocols are followed. China Business Solutions’ expertise has helped Antonov to secure an important deal with Great Wall Motor Company.

All documentation tends to be in English these days, says Mr Moore, Working in two languages isn’t good for business. Besides, one of the things I’ve learnt is that if you’re writing letters to the Chinese, you’re going about things the wrong way. Personal contact is everything.

China Business Solutions have also helped enormously in getting Antonov’s first employee up and running in China. Their knowledge of the recruiting process and employment contract issues in China has been invaluable as the company begins to build a presence in the country.  With China Business solutions’ impressive reach to the Chinese talent pool in the UK and China, Antonov managed to fill this position that requires not only highly technical skills but also bi-cultural experience.