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"Adjusting" your English when contacting a company (to avoid misunderstandings)?

Oct 31, 2010

    1. Hi there,

      maybe this is an absurd question to ask and maybe it's because English is not my first language, but I gotta ask: When you contact a company, do you adjust your language?

      Some companies don't seem to have a single employee with decent English skills and although my English is far from being perfect, I do think that I'm pretty good at it. However, when I email a company I tend to write like a first-grader. I use the easiest sentence structure possible, I only use words like "nice", "great" etc. and i try to illustrate everything with emoticons - Am I crazy?:sweat

      I just feel like it's necessary in order to make myself understood. Maybe I'm being stupid and they understand a lot more than I give them credit for...And the different grammar is the main problem. But sometimes the language barrier is a little scary for me, especially when there's a larger amount of money involved.

      What do you guys think? Do you also do it? Sometimes I feel a little bit like those people in the movies who are like " HELLO (slowly), my name so-and-so (pointing finger at self); WELCOME TO OUR COUNTRY !!" :lol:xx
    2. Yes, it's absolutely important to write in simple terms to BJD companies. I use words like "beautiful" and emoticons a LOT. Not just the smiley face, but the anime/genki style ones like this --> ^_^ since that's what I see most of them use in their public notice boards.

      In real life when you barter/trade/buy in a foreign environment, body language, hand signals, and facial expressions go a long way to convey you're meaning. Lots of meaning can be lost from one native-English speaker to another over email simply because we rely on common parlance to communicate when really we should be using proper English and letter-writing etiquette.

      I also noticed that they oftentimes use translator software, so I avoid unnecessary extra words, use as perfect punctuation as I can manage, and I don't conjugate.

      "Hello! This doll is beautiful. Is she available in tan color resin? Thank you." is about as complicated as my messages get.
    3. I use really simple language when I contact any foreign company, or even domestic companies for that matter. Not everyone's vocabulary is extensive even in their own language.

      I've also found that on line translators can be next to useless. I've read some posts here on DOA that were translated from Korean to English using a translator and you still can't figure out what the hell they're talking about!

      I do think a lot of the problem is sentence structure when if differs from one language to the next. Once you get the words out of the proper order, it's hard to understand the concepts.

      That's been my own experience anyway!
    4. I definitely adjust my language usage for doll companies. When I'm communicating with doll companies I have two goals in mind, to be polite and to be clear. I tend to aim for the simplest sentence structure that will get the job done, and I avoid using words or phrases that are dialectical. I also tend to use language that is more formal than conversational. I do this, not because I think their translators are of poor quality (though that is sometimes the case), but because I want to be quickly understood and don't want to give the translator unnecessary work to do. I just don't see it as a situation where creativity or elegant prose are helpful or necessary. As a result my emails might read a bit like my third grade English homework, but I'd rather that than sending out something akin to an elegant and subtle college essay that gives the translator a headache.
    5. It depends on the company for me. When I deal with Ringdoll, Emily seems to speak perfect english. I don't purposely change my speech pattern for her. However, when I deal with the company Coolcat, I had some trouble. I found the best way is to ask questions in lists or options such as:

      If I order the following items how is shipping totaled?

      A: Shipping is charged per item. ($3 for each Item I order = (whatever your total is))
      B: Shipping is charged for all the items in a package. ($3 for all items = (whatever the total is))

      It seems like picking A or B is easier for them. Number are really helpful because they look the same in any language. 2+2=4 is the same in the USA, England, France, Japan, China etc.
    6. I'm so used to simplify my English when writing to doll companies I felt dumb when I did the same when contacting Fairyland and got a reply back in perfect English from their English representative. :sweat
    7. Its a hard call - like you said you don't want to offend anyone but you also don't want to be misunderstood.

      I had a lot of troubles trying to order a particular doll off her maker (won't say names as it may embarrass them). The lady who made them did all the ordering etc, and in the end I gave up because even in the simplest terms she didn't understand what I was trying to ask for (pink lips). I just couldn't bear to send all that money via Paypal when I might not be receiving what I asked for. She was so lovely but I didn't want to be disappointed.

      Language barriers are always hard, times like these I wish I spoke Korean.
    8. Absolutely! (I'm russian myself) .
      I always do that at first. Then, if I get a reply in decent English, like with the new DollShe site (they got themselves an interpreter now), I write normally.
      I also write to them when I see one of their pages saying something that can be misunderstood, so they can correct it.
      IMHO, that's just being nice to the people, and, to put myself in their place, I'd much rather get the meaning of what the other person is saying than get the feeling that the person on the other end "assumes" I understand their language and thus is respectful to me. Meh...
    9. I'm not sure this is really a debate topic, unless you are specifically addressing whether adjusting language is inappropriate or not? But in any case, I definitely do use very basic English when writing to most overseas companies. It's not that I'm being patronizing, or responding in frustration to the fact that English is not their native language; it's really just more of a common courtesy, I think.
    10. Well I only have experience with 2 companies, one their English which was far from perfect was passable enough that I could be understood using my normal typing. However, the other company I did use shorter sentences and links. But I do agree some companies there are huge Language barriers, and it makes it difficult to communicate if you don't. It's no problem for me to use grammar that is less complicate.
      But I think I use Emoticons when dealing with anyone, even native English speakers, because there is no body language, and I'd rather my sentence not be taken the wrong way.
    11. I've never done this. : o I didn't know people actually adjusted their language when talking to the companies.

      When I contact Dollmore, Jee is the English rep, and she has pretty good English, even in person, so I don't worry about adjusting my speaking. :3
      And when I contact Dream of Doll, if they don't understand my english, I combine it with what little Korean I actually speak. xD

      I think out of the three companies I have worked with (Dollmore, DoD, and Doll in Mind), Dollmore had the best English and the other two were tied at being passable. ^^
    12. I use both, depending on my own discretion in reaction to the first simply phrased interactions. I use simple English my first time or first couple times contacting a company and depending how they respond, I may up the English to be more descriptive if necessary. I have yet to have an interaction with a company with so poor of English to not even understand my more intricate English, or at least not one which has ever admitted to not being able to understand me/asking for clarification.
    13. As a person who speaks English as a second language and helped people in the same situation in English I'd say I wouldn't take offence to simplified language. The point here is to get your point clearly across. If you use too much slang, or complicated words or, construct a complicated sentence it only make things confusing. It is how business should be conducted in my opinion. Straight to the point. :>

      Of course if you know the person you are writing to have no problem in English at all and use the simplified language maybe they'd be offended.
    14. Hmmm, I can't really remember purposely adjusting my English in order to make it simpler... though perhaps the questions I've had to ask, so far, have not been very complicated anyway (no orders for custom makeup, for example, amongst others). The one time I had to contact LUTS about an order gone wrong, their English rep was pretty proficient enough for the situation.

      Though, sometimes, when I write emails to, for example Dollheart (usually asking them if this hat/shoes fits this size or something), I'll write them in Chinese cause I think it's just easier for them maybe.
    15. I don't notice myself making my english simpler when talking to people whose first language isn't english, since I try to make my sentences as clear as I can anyway. Partly because I'm a grammar freak, and partly because I really dislike being misunderstood by people.

      I type the same way, regardless of who I'm talking to. (As far as I can tell, anyway...)
    16. Anytime I know I am speaking to someone (company or person) who is not a native speaker, I will simplify my sentences and use simple structure and no slang. I try to be very clear and precise and if I know anything about their culture, I will try to use their more commonly accepted greetings (Kind regards, cheers, warm wishes...).

      I learned about slang a long time ago when a Spanish-speaking friend of mine who had recently moved here to the Southern US and knew English quite well just did not understand the phrase "I reckon". I took the words for granted and when he asked what it meant, I had a hard time explaining it. :) It was then that I began to carefully consider my wording when speaking to non-native speakers.
    17. I couldn't remember if i ever purposely adjusted my English when i contacted them. Maybe unconsciously i did that since i always tried to explain it as clear and descriptive as possible, or tried to use simple phrases and no big words, when i emailed them.
    18. Yeah, I guess I did~ I remember trying to figure out how to clearly ask if I could switch one pair of hands for another in my order. XD; For some reason it seemed.. complicated.. >_>;; (Maybe cuz one was magnet and the other was hook.) Buuut actually I guess I try to do that whenever I contact any company about anything, because customer service people always seem to kinda.. like, default to FAQs, even though what I'm asking usually isn't a FAQ, but they seem to skim over the details that differentiate it from one if you're not REALLY REALLY clear.;;; So do people on those dumb answer community sites like yahoo answers.
      But actually, non-native english speakers just hanging out on forums and stuff are easier to communicate with. It seems to me like it's just a customer service thing. >_<;;
    19. I'm so used to adjusting my English in every day life because so many of my close friends don't speak English that well that I do tend to do it online as well. I always try to be as clear and to the point as I can just to make things easier.
    20. I haven't really had much direct communication with doll companies - I think once or twice with Dollmore, and communicating in English was no problem at all. If I do adjust my English, it's a habit from living in a foreign country for five years. Having been on the other side of this, I would say that it really doesn't hurt to be as clear as possible, avoid slang, and keep to the point. It seems to mess things up when you ask, is it this? Or this? Or possibly this? Or would this happen instead? It seems to mess up your brain to hold multiple options while also trying to understand (at least it was for me :sweat). Offering a couple of clear choices about one particular issue as mentioned above sounds like a good way to do it.