By Léa Petit-Tung, Paris (currently in Hamburg)
Finding other way of communicating when English is everywhere
As the world is becoming increasingly globalized, it is impossible for companies not to open up to international exchanges. The German PR agency Industrie-Contact (IC), where I am currently interning, belongs to the PRGN (Public Relations Global Network) since 2002. IC works with customers both from Germany and from the whole world. For instance, Trex and Solvay Dental 360 are customers from the USA; for the German sexual wellness brands Satisfyer and partner, the agency works with partnering agencies from the UK and France. Or there’s also Green Cola, a Greek-founded German start-up, for which the agency does PR work in Germany.
With so many international customers and relations, the language diversity at Industrie-Contact is a great asset. Like it or not, English is considered as the language of worldwide business –today’s lingua franca, if you will. This is why everyone at IC speaks English. However, many colleagues speak other foreign languages such as French and Spanish, and even a little Russian.
Now, it’s not about being perfectly fluent in several languages, or completely bilingual: very often, one will find that just a few words in the foreign business partner’s native language are enough to raise a smile and help earn trust.
Language is a sign of respect
Even though we mostly work in English with our international customers, punctuating our talks with a few words of French, Spanish, Russian – or any other language that happens to be the customer’s mother tongue – always makes a difference. Acknowledging someone’s language and culture in such a manner is a simple sign of respect and interest that can go a long way.
This is exactly what I am experiencing during this internship. Everyone helps me integrate well and often someone even speaks a few words in French with me. Even though I am also here to improve my German, I find this lovely as an expression of mutual respect.