Not Lost in Translation
October 29, 2021

After a day of meetings and recovering from the still-lingering jet lag, our tax practice leader Joe O’Neill and I had the privilege of attending a private dinner at an exquisite Chinese restaurant. The event was hosted by a senior executive of a financial services firm who happens to be a close personal friend of Mr. Chen Yonghong, the managing partner of Baker Tilly China. Beyond being good company, Mr. Chen was able to help us key in on details that can often get lost in translation through the cultural and language barriers of international business.

No matter how many times I’ve done it, communicating through a translator is a challenging task. But I’ve found it forces you to be even more focused on the conversation. You notice things like body language, tone of voice and facial expressions. You might take these for granted if you’re both speaking the same language. If you think about it, sometimes the non-verbal cues can tell you a lot more about how a person is feeling than the words that they’re saying anyway.

At the event we had two translators who facilitated our conversations. Over a traditional 10-course Chinese meal we discussed our families, Chinese and U.S. politics, the upcoming U.S. Presidential election and the changing landscape of Chinese leadership, among other topics. Talking business, though, was almost nonexistent during dinner.

By the end of the evening after many toasts to friendship, family and good health, we realized how we can all benefit from doing business together. I can safely say that even though we didn’t speak the same language, nothing was lost in translation.

Thanks for stopping by.


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