by Mike Bellamy in the book "The Essential Reference Guide to China Sourcing"
Translation during negotiations
As many factory owners may not be fluent in your language, using interpreters efficiently will be essential. Here are some best practices to employ:
Bring your own interpreter (or hire one). Interpreters representing the factory will give you the information that they want you to hear rather than conveying all that is being said at a given time. For example, in a meeting with engineering, sales and management teams present, different teams may have different opinions. If you have your own interpreter, representing your best interest, that person should be explaining the internal dialogue taking place. Factory interpreters, especially if they are on the sales team, have their own agenda.
Typical example If you have been to China you may have experienced something like this: You the foreign buyer asks a simple question like “how long is the lead time”. The Chinese side talks amongst themselves for 10 minutes then the interpreter (who happens to work for the sales department) says in English “no problem, just 15 days lead time”. If the interpreter was working for you, they would let you know what happened during the 10 minutes the factory staff was talking amongst themselves. It may have been something like this:
As you can see, there may be a lot happening which is not being conveyed to the buyer, unless the translator has your best interest in mind.
3 practical tips
It is much more effective to agree on a general strategy in advance, but force yourself to slow down the pace and speak in short, simple, direct sentences which are translated in full back and forth. You may spend a longer time in the meeting room that day, but this sacrifice will pay dividends in structuring a better long term position.2. If your translator is new to your organization, and especially if your negotiation will have a lot of technical or industry specific jargon, it is wise to create a vocabulary list and go over it with your translator in advance of the factory visit.
Mike Bellamy is an Advisory Board Member & Featured Blogger at the not-for-profit China Sourcing Information Center. He is also the author of "The Essential Reference Guide to China Sourcing" and founder of PassageMaker Sourcing Solutions.