One moment please—— “请稍等片刻” 还是 “请等一段时间”？
这个看似简单的短句在意义上可能因人而异，在跨文化沟通中其差异更为鲜明。比如在美国，”moment” 意为 “片刻时间”，即某件事情很快便会发生。而在法国，“Onemoment please” 意味着 “我不能马上做这件事，或者等我有时间就去做这件事。”
亚洲数字化行业权威专家 BenjaminJoffe 表示，在亚洲 14 年的生活经历使他认识到“即使在英语这样的通用语言中，词汇或短语的意义也会发生因地而异的情况。”他举了“quality”（质量）这个例子：在美国，“quality” 表示某一物品有效、坚固、耐用；在韩国，“quality” 意为 “全新的”；在日本，“quality” 则为 “完美无瑕疵” 的意思。中国人通常都非常看重社会地位。因此，在中国，优质产品（qualityproduct）未必意味着坚固耐用，但一定能够帮助人们提高自己的社会地位，给人一种看似很有品质的感觉。
在不同的文化中，任何一个词都可能拥有截然不同的含义。因此，很多企业在拓展海外市场、跨文化整合人力资源以及商业模式时都会遭遇失败，也就不足为奇了。在本土市场非常有效的理论与实践或许并不适用于其他市场。前文举例也只是冰山一角，正如 Joffe 所说：“你能想象到 ‘music’（音乐）、‘romantic’（浪漫的）、‘friends’（朋友）或 ‘fun’（乐趣）这些词，它们的文化内涵在不同国家有多大差异吗？”
Brands Lost in Translation
“One moment please?”
As simple as it may sound, the phrase you just read could mean very different things to different people, especially when in terms of cross-cultural communication. In the United States, for example, a “moment” means “instant,” something which will happen very quickly. However, in France, this same phrase is often interpreted to mean “I can’t do it immediately, or I’ll do it when I have time.” Despite how it may sound to an English-speaker, “un moment” or “un instant” to a francophone means something that could take a very long time—maybe about half an hour or so.
In China, the phrase can be summed up in one word: mashang（马上）, meaning “immediately.” But those from China or who have been there know that the reality is often far from “immediate.” Sometimes it could mean “eventually,” or “you’ll just have to wait patiently until I finish whatever I am doing.”
In today’s globalized world, interacting with people from different cultures on a daily basis is unavoidable, but it is also something that, just a few decades ago, would have been unthinkable; we are more connected than we have ever been, thanks to the incredible advancements in technology. But when people from two or more cultures collide, each with different upbringings, educations, experiences, associations and preferences, miscommunication is bound to happen. It causes problems in our relationships and indeed in every form of human interaction. In the multi-cultural world we live in, we have no choice but to attempt to be “global citizens”with as much knowledge of other cultures as possible.
One of the things that Benjamin Joffe, a leading expert on Asia’s digital scene, learned from having spent the last 14 years in Asia—a few years each in Korea, China, and Japan—is that “even though English is the common language, the same word or phrase can mean very different things in different places.” He gave an example of the word “quality,” which for Americans, means something which works, is well-built, and durable. But in Korea, “quality” means “brand new,” while in Japan, it means “perfect and flawless.” Traditionally, Chinese people attach great importance to one’s social status; therefore, in China, a high quality product doesn’t have to be especially well-built or durable, as long as it raises your social status—thus increasing your perceived “quality.”
With so many different meanings attached to any given word, it’s no wonder so many businesses have failed in their efforts to expand overseas and integrate both staff and business models across cultures. Theories and practices that work brilliantly in your home country might completely flop in another country. The above example is only the tip of the iceberg; Joffe said, “Imagine the different cultural meanings of words like ‘music,’ ‘romantic,’ ‘friends’ or even ‘fun.’”
If there’s one thing we can learn from Joffe’s example, it would be this: understanding the different mindsets of different cultures is a crucial step in the localization of a product or service; cultural awareness, taking into account the different cultural practices, customs and preferences need to be prioritized to ensure efficient communication. No matter how good a product is or how flawless your marketing strategy is, if the message is not properly communicated to the target market, it may literally become lost in translation.