Avoid Lost in Translation in China

If you are considering promoting a product or a service in China, or are looking to import something from China, it is better that you have everything translated into or from Chinese, whether it is emails, faxes, product descriptions or agreements.

A person I know by the name of Sam lost hundreds of thousands of US dollars because he didn’t accurately understand an agreement. He was looking forward to receiving LCD TV panels that were excess in stock from a major panel supplier in China, but instead, received an excess of faulty technology that could not be returned.

If only he had consulted a translation company first, which would have caught the details in the Chinese contract stating that the technology could not be returned if found faulty. Sad didn’t think twice about either having the contract properly translated, yet alone passed to a lawyer, and paid a heavy price for having foolishly believed word of mouth promises over the telephone. Had he known, Sam probably would have thought otherwise about the necessity of having documents translated.

Now, it’s not that people in China are looking to cheat their way out of something, but that lost in translation can also occur-even between employees within the same organization. As it turns out, the sales person was new and was not the least bit aware of what his employer’s standard contract was for selling the technology, which included contracts stating that goods be returned. However, the two argued over the situation oblivious to the fact that a solution could have been provided. Unfortunately, Sam already resold the technology, took a loss, and later received a shocking phone call from the company stating the technology could be returned…but it was too late. Needless to say, Sam was in shock and the two sides are not cooperating with one another anymore.

Sam could have avoided a major headache had he obtained a proper contract translated to his understanding, which both parties later signed and agreed upon. At the very least, he could have gotten a refund. It seems like this kind of a scenario may be too bizarre, but when faced with business possibilities that ostensibly seem way too good to be true, people get swept up and forget the necessities that come along with such scenarios.

Clear communication is key, and even when you think an agreement could be clearer, have it written down and translated and checked multiple times by professionals.

Everyone wants to succeed; language doesn’t have to get in the way.

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