Four months ago I drove through the high end of Winter Park, just north of Orlando, to see in what style the latest construction was more prevalent and to write down the names of the builders for future contact.
There were two builders of note whose names started with Z. One advertises his business name by posting nothing but an orange painted Z in the ground, sometimes with a phone number attached. The other contractor's name is Zoltan. (I think there is a third one too!)
While at my favorite French bakery a few weeks back I saw a fellow in a blue T-shirt with the logo 'Zoltan'. So, of course, I introduced myself and told him I had seen his house going up and that I was also designing transitional houses in the area with another builder. I noticed his accent and asked him what 'Zoltan' meant. Apparently the Ottoman Turks had overrun Hungary in the 1200s and influenced their Slavic language. 'Zoltan' was the Hungarian version of 'Sultan', which means the king or leader. I had only one word I knew in Hungarian and that was Magyar. He smiled broadly. I told him I had collected the most colorful stamps from Magyar, which means Hungary. We talked a bit more and then said goodbye.
A few weeks later I wanted to send him a formal message via email and stopping for a moment, I typed 'English to Hungarian' in the Google search bar and started writing a few paragraphs that automatically went into his native language. I simply copied the text and pasted it into my email. Within a scant few minutes, he had ecstatically responded wondering how on earth I could speak Hungarian so well and I had to take some of his response and translate it back to English. I stopped by the house, nearly finished, a few days later and he gave me a private tour. Of course he will not forget me, nor me him.
Three days ago I was getting nervous about a project in Jacksonville I had signed a contract to proceed, as the client was to have forwarded the updated floor plans that the wife had developed by herself on a consumer CAD program. They were several days late with the update and I started thinking the worst.
I started to write an email and then went from English to Polish in 'Google Translate'. I was upbeat and said jokingly that I hoped their marriage was intact and that they could send whatever they had at the moment for me to comment on. Within minutes I had a response from an ebullient client who wondered (again) how I could speak Polish so well, or if I had a friend that assisted me, as the message seemed impeccably written.
As you can see from these two examples, sending a message in someone's native tongue can be an icebreaker or workaround in a potentially sticky situation and also instills confidence and respect from your client. It is just a simple thing that speaks to the community of humankind, a commonality that you can share with a client that indicates an interest in their origins and a likewise respect.
Now, you may not always find this to work perfectly or to your advantage. You really have to assess the situation. I had spent some time in our first meeting comparing my 'Euro' Greek heritage to theirs from Poland. We discussed lifestyle, their history, architectural styles, the wars, etc. So, addressing them in Polish was not going to backfire in any way.
CAVEAT I would limit the translated messages to pleasantries and general information. Do not relate technical or legal information that may get misunderstood. If it comes to an argument, disagreement, or question of contract terms transmitted through a translation the result in a court decision may not be propitious.
In a slightly different situation, one in which I wanted to broach here on AR, I had a Greek American client in the Tampa area who I immediately started speaking to in Greek. He kept answering me in English. He told me that in his experience, business conducted between ethnically similar people had never worked for him because in the worst case the connection was taken advantage of and things would go awry.
What has been your experience with this?
I thought, before signing off, that I would send this message to Barbara Todaro as follows:
Բարև Բարբարա, Շնորհակալ եմ «նորաստեղծներին» շարունակական աջակցության համար ՝ այստեղ AR- ում: Առանց ձեր նման մարդկանց, ովքեր իրական հետաքրքրություն են ցուցաբերում մեր հանդեպ, մեր գրառումները ամբողջովին անտեսված կլինեն, և մենք կկորցնեինք վստահություն մեր բլոգավարման ջանքերի նկատմամբ:
Barev Barbara, Shnorhakal yem «norasteghtsnerin» sharunakakan ajakts’ut’yan hamar ՝ aystegh AR- um: Arrants’ dzer nman mardkants’, ovk’er irakan hetak’rk’rut’yun yen ts’uts’aberum mer handep, mer grarrumnery amboghjovin antesvats klinen, yev menk’ kkorts’nevnk’ vstahut’yun mer blogavarman jank’eri nkatmamb:
If you would like to know what I wrote above, go to the google toolbar and copy/paste. Of course you will have to research what language this is first...
The Rosetta Stone, discovered in the 1700s top photo, "was the first Ancient Egyptian bilingual text recovered in modern times, and it aroused widespread public interest with its potential to decipher this previously untranslated hieroglyphic script."