Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How is that Pronounced?

People’s names matter.   Getting them right, remembering them, pronouncing them  correctly is essential  to create the impression that one is polite, thoughtful and interested in each individual.    However, today, when our business networks stretch around the globe, getting it right isn’t always easy.

Deciding if someone you’re writing to is Mr. or Ms. isn’t the only puzzle. How to know what is the surname/family name and what is the given name?  Is Yao Ming   Mr. or Ms.?  Mrs. Ming or Mr. Yao?   Is the family name  (surname) written first or is it last?    (By the way Yao Ming is Mr. Yao)   In addition there’s the question:  how is the name pronounced?

Don’t despair. You can find the answer even when the usual Google search doesn’t yield a useful response. Help is often as simple phone call away.   If your city has an embassy or a consulate for the country that is home to the person with the name that puzzles you – give them a call.  Someone there will be able to help.  No embassy or consulate in your city?  Find an Embassy in Washington, DC ( 

Another option is to reach the officer at the Country Desk at the US Department of State that covers the country that interests you. These people are experts about the country they cover.   ( 

Check to see if there is business development organization such as the Hong Trade Development Council, a Korean or French American Chamber of Commerce, for example.  If none of those exist, try a nearby university.  Their language department may be able to advise you.

Whether you are going to visit or planning to welcome Mr. Sekou Nkrumah from Ghana, Ms. Zeynep Yildirim from Turkey, or Mr. Choi Jihoon from South Korea you can find the answers. Be prepared and make the impression that you are thoughtful , knowledgeable and polite.  People to do business with those who know their name.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Worlds of the World

We think the UN operating in six official languages is impressive but those are a tiny fraction of the 7,102 languages in the world.  Of those thousands researchers tell us 23 are mother tongues spoken by almost 50 BILLION people.  But all those people don’t live in one spot.   People move, learn new languages, and yet still speak their mother tongue – sharing it with the people in their new places.

Take a look at the Infographic created by Alberto Lucas Lopez, Graphics Director at the South China Morning Post to see what the languages are and where they’re spoken.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Changing Gobal Cities

A few days ago I heard a presentation by Mary O’hara-Deveraux of Global Foresight (  Mary is a futurist who speaks regularly about the future trends in life and business.  This past week in part of her talk she referenced the findings of McKinsey’s Global Institute’s Urban World Cities project.

Briefly they said that today 600 world cities contribute 60% of the world’s GDP.  But slightly more than a dozen years from now, think 2026, 600 cities will contribute 65%.
A measurable uptick but more importantly the names of the cities on the list of 600 will change.  We’ll see hundreds of cities in China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria, Russia, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain replacing names that are now included.   

What will drive some of these changes?  We’ll see growth, both in population and economic activity.  One driver of both is entrepreneurial activity.  Greg Lindsay wrote an intriguing article in Inc. titled  “Top 5 Start Up Hubs of the Future – and they’re not in the US”.   The list didn’t include Boston, Austin or San Jose.  His top 5?  Istanbul, Dubai, Santiago, Tallinn and Shenzhen. (

Will these five cities be on McKinsey’s list in 2016?  Let’s go see them now and again and again and decide for ourselves. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Words Matter

There are endless articles about the challenge of working globally.  Dozens and dozens of stories about problems created due to cultural misunderstandings.  Websites that lists marketing horror stories based on incorrect use of language.   20 Epic Fails in Global Branding (

One has to ask how these major companies could make such a mistake.  Did they rely on Google translate, a colleague who spoke the languages but had no experience writing?    Moving from one language to another as a traveler has limited risks but in our global business where risks are high, trained professionals can make the difference.

But whom the professionals are that you need depends on what on more than just specific language. To decide which profession is qualified to help move from one language to another depends the answer to the question:  Are we talking about a written document or the spoken word (speech, meeting, conversation)?

For written material (documents, books, marketing slogans) look for a translator.  They have to understand not just the words but also the intent, the style of the writer and the topic of the document.  It’s one thing to translate a simple letter of introduction and another to work on a technical document explaining how to use a piece of equipment or legal agreement between multiple parties.  Looking for some help?    Check the website of the American Translators Association or the International Association of Translators and Interpreters ( 

As complicated as it can be to work with the written word, managing to move from one language to another as it is spoken presents another level of challenge. 
That’s when you need an interpreter. 

The United Nations, with its six official language, uses translators and interpreters.  The work of an interpreter is so challenging that they work in pairs, alternating in 15 – 20 minutes periods.

It isn’t just the just at UN meeting where interpreters are necessary.  Many business conferences have attendees speaking multiple languages.  Whether you are planning a conference or need an interpreter for a presentation you may find help through the AIIC – The International Association of Conference Interpreters (

If it’s a business meeting, a negotiation it is wise for each party to hire their own interpreter and to brief them well before the meeting. 

Words matter.  Spoken and written.  Be sure that the words you speak or write, the messages you want to convey make it through from one language to another.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A new flag for New Zealand?

You may have heard that New Zealand is in the midst of a debate about what their national flag should look like.  It isn’t that they don’t have one.  They do.  It was created over a century ago.  But in 2016 the look of the flag  may change.

I’d never thought of a country with a long history changing their flag and had no idea this was on the “to-do” list in New Zealand.  That is until I came across a recent article in the Economist magazine titled “Hang up the fern! A new flag for New Zealand”.  It seems that New Zealand has decided to redesign its flag that has to create one that people believe represents the country as it is today. 

If you think about a country as a brand and the flag it’s logo, then maybe this move isn’t so startling.  Companies do it.  Think of the global brands whose look (and slogans) have been “updated.”  Among them are Google, HSBC, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Starbucks and T-Mobile. 

But a country?  Whose flag stands for its history, traditions.  For the struggles and successes of its citizens through decades and even centuries?   Its colors, stripes, stars, bars, triangles all have meaning.   It seems change can at least be considered.

To find a new design the government asked the citizens of New Zealand to submit their suggestions.  Of the thousands received the possibilities are now down to five.  To see the designs follow this link. (

In the months ahead, these five will be narrowed down to a single option.  The final decision about changing the national flag will be made by referendum in 2016.  At that time New Zealanders will decide between two choices:  keep the existing flag or go with the new design.  

How would you vote?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The World has Arrived

September is the time when it seems that the entire world arrives in New York City.   It’s the month when the United Nations General Assembly gathers for their annual meeting.  

While this 70th annual meeting opened quietly on September 15 you can expect to see headlines appear regularly soon.  There will be major events, appearances and speeches from now until closing October 6.   With world leaders from many of the UN’s 193 member countries in attendance there will be lots of photos, videos, tweets and talking heads talking.

Take special note of September 25 when His Holiness Pope Francis will speak and the General Assembly sessions the 28th through October 6 where world leaders including US President Barack Obama, Xi Jinping of China,  Hassan Rouhani of Iran and Francois Hollande of France are scheduled to speak.  One major question at the moment is will Russian President Vladmir Putin speak? 

Want some background on the UNGA?  Check this article in The Guardian (  It’s created a concise look at the UN today and it’s history. 

Don’t miss this year’s UNGA. (#unga) earn about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that will “define the global development framework for the next generation.”  What will these countries agree should be the focus for the years to come?  

Sunday, September 6, 2015

From Food There Not from Home

As this weekend in the US with the Labor Day holiday marks the end of summer, our thoughts turn to the question:  What did we love about our vacation and where shall  we go next? When can I discover a new place, a new food, an intriguing taste?

Thanks for an article in Huffington Post (  I discovered there’s a way to bring the world – through food – to your doorstop.  Not through Netflix, YouTube or magazine.  Rather in a pretty box delivered to the door.   Try The World ( is a subscription service that offers boxes of gourmet products, six times a year, delivered to the subscriber.  Each box features 6- 7 items representing the food a specific country.  This month they are featuring Spain.  On their earlier list are Japan, Morocco, Thailand and France.

It isn't simply about discovering a new place.  Been there and want to relive the experience through a special taste?  Visit their shop and order a taste reminder of that visit.  Wondering if you’ll like the food?  Experiment with a product or two. 

As summer ends, and it’s too soon to book the next trip, I am thinking that a box of tasty treats from far away may be just the thing to take me into fall and winter.
Where shall we go and what will we eat?