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 (http://www.embassy.org/embassies/).
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. (http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/115480.pdf).
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.