If you are presenting to or speaking with people from a different language background – I encourage you to have your presentation “checked” by someone from that language.
Also, get someone to research any possible “danger words” of what words in your language can mean something completely different (and possible negative) in other languages.
For the last ten years I’ve been helping people from different language backgrounds prepare for important presentations or meetings with people from other cultures.
Even if your audience speaks English – when you use words that have rude meanings in their native language, this can cause unwanted distraction and erode your credibility.
I even help people from different English-speaking backgrounds (US/UK/Australia/South Africa) avoid misunderstanding and embarrassment.
Australians use so many “rude” words with a meanings that are not intended to offend (lucky bugger, silly bugger) – but they can offend especially Americans and some Brits.
I recall helping a UK female exec find replacement words for “route” to avoid the chance of her Australian audience snickering like naughty school boys.
A South African exec shared with me the danger of using the word “hooters” in a presentation. He meant “car horns” – but to Americans and people familiar with the American Hooters – the word has another connotation. Not rude as such – just distracting in a presentation.
I will often sit in and listen to presentations and point out danger words and help find replacements.
A danger area can be answering questions where people often stray from the script of their presentation and get “more casual” and less guarded.
When I help execs and specialist presenters – we even practice a Q and A as well to check for danger words.
And when you are speaking or presenting – often what matters is what words sound like rather than look like.
I am constantly learning new problem words – from the people I help and from research.
For example: innocent “English/US” words Gift and Cookie
Gift means poison in German
And Cookie sounds like a rude work KOKI in Hungarian
Although, the examples can be funny – in business they are serious and can derail a presentation or a relationship.
At the end of this post are links with lots of example of words that mean something innocent in one language and yet something rude in a different language. Please be warned some of these examples are RUDE (relating to bodily functions and body parts) They examples are meant to demonstrate the dangers.
Plus – the problem goes both ways. For example, there are many unfortunate product names that mean a good thing in one language and a bad thing in another – for example Pee Cola included in the link below.
My main point to you – get someone from the language background of target audience to hear your presentation and look at any slides/materials you use in the presentation. Preferably someone with not just an academic understanding of the language, but someone familiar with”slang”.
HERE are links to examples:
If you enjoyed this post – Let’s connect:
If you found this post interesting you can follow me and connect with me.
I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious business communication tips.
Linked In – under Tony Biancotti
Or you can follow this blog.
These days, lots of people and organisations need help with how to COPE with too much work, too much information, too many meetings, delivering difficult news, business writing, effective e-mail, e-mail overload, cross-cultural communication, better social media engagement etc. I like to help people COPE.