All right: if you think that great language skills will help you succeed in international business, you’re right. My language skills are so bad that I’ve had to improvise over the years when it came to getting by in the field of international business. Google Translate has been my friend, and I really don’t know what I would have done if it hadn’t been for that handy little device to help me get through all of the tough little hurdles that you can find when you’re just trying to get through some sort of international business document.
One of the great things that I’ve learned over the years as an international business guy who can really only speak one language is that people in the business world are used to that. They know that Americans can usually only speak English. They tend to be impressed if Americans can speak any additional languages at all. I’ve just butchered Japanese before, and I still had Japanese business people saying that I spoke very well. Lots of people in this culture and many others are just flattered if people try to communicate with them on their terms, literally, and that can be more than enough to break the ice around them.
Most of them also speak English, and that can be more than enough to get across a tough communication barrier. People in this situation are usually going to be able to give themselves enough leeway if they can at least understand people with thick accents. If you can’t get good at speaking other languages, at least get good at understanding all different kinds of accented English. Some Americans say that they can have a hard time understanding anyone who speaks English with an accent that is not American. All I can say is that trying to understand people who speak English with a heavy accent is still a lot easier than trying to understand their native language if your language skills are as painfully bad as mine.
Can you do international business if you do not have an international vocabulary? Yes. I’ve done it. Lots of other Americans have done it. You just have to be patient with other people, you have to be friendly and polite to other people, and from there, it should be easy enough for you to get through the day in any country.