MAGIC Global Training: Overcoming the Language Barrier - Part 2 of 2

Click here for Part 1

By Jansje Stramwasser

Thank you all very much for your interest in Part One of this article, which focused on facilitating MAGIC across a variety of languages and cultures. In Part Two, I will explore this subject further, addressing the questions you posed and leaving room for further discussion.

As a Master Facilitator of The MAGIC of Customer Relations, MAGIC E-Mail Writing and MAGIC Coach, I keep one thing in mind: transmit to the participants the principles of MAGIC. My most important task is to empower participants by making them aware of how they behave and relate to people. Participants then come to regard MAGIC as a life changing experience rather than a one time course they need to attend. MAGIC gives us the tools to make that possible.

Setting the Stage

Focus on Awareness

Instead of getting side-tracked by “foreign” languages or cultures, focus on your main objective--heightening participants' awareness of their personal responsibility. When you are successful with this task up front, everything else follows.

From the start of the program, I emphasize to participants that during the MAGIC course, they will become aware of how they relate to others and how and why others relate to them. This awareness will allow them to grow throughout their lives.  It will assist them in everyday encounters and enrich their personal and professional relationships.

I explain that, throughout the course, we will explore tools to help them increase their awareness. This is why the first three flip charts in the Introduction are so important. In particular, the Virginia Satir quote reinforces this understanding of being solely responsible for the way people relate to you.

This clear statement of your one main objective will:

  • Ensure that participants realize the course is about self-discovery
  • Get them involved from the very start.

Your goal as a facilitator is to engage participants so that they want to:

  • be in the class
  • learn about all of the MAGIC tools
  • train themselves to improve their relationships with others

Modifying “The 33 Points” for Different Cultures

It is important to stay open to participants' suggestions and ideas. As in your own country, different people have different ideas about the language you speak and how that should be formalized.

Use of Sir and Ma'am

I spend quite a bit of time going over “The 33 Points” in English first. I share with the participants my experiences with the different cultures and how that affects our monitoring tool, “The 33 Points.”

For instance, with MAGIC it is preferred that you say the name of the customer instead of Ma'am and Sir. Yet, in the Southern parts of the US, such as Texas, it is very acceptable to address the customer as such. We, therefore, decided that associates can use those forms of address twice during the conversation. They should also use the customer's name at least twice—at the start and end of the conversation. 

Greetings Vary By Country

Facilitators need to be aware that greetings vary by country and adjust accordingly. That's why it's important to research and prepare the greetings content prior to the program.

In my first article I shared some of the ways of greeting customers in different countries:

Argentina and Chile
If a customer's name is Bernardo Gonzalez, the associate would use the first name when addressing that customer and say “Don Bernardo” rather than “Señor Gonzalez.”

Titles are very important in this culture. Therefore, they need to be mentioned in the greeting. So, in Germany you might say “Gutentag Herr Doktor Schmidt” or “Gutentag Herr Professor Karlmeyer.” Anyone with a PHD will be called Herr/Frau Doktor.

People prefer not to be called by their surname as it might have a derogative meaning. It is used at a very minimum so as not to offend the customer.  The first name might be used like in the case of Chile and Argentina as in “Mrs. Ewa.” Also, associates may respond professionally by asking for the customer's ID, verifying whatever is needed and continuing the conversation.

Modifying the Points for Japan

The Japanese language is quite formal, and if not expressed accordingly, the customer would feel very uncomfortable, which would make a “tragic” rather than a MAGIC impression. We, therefore, modified the following points:

Point 1: Greeting—words
In Japanese, greetings are usually as follows: “Thank you for calling ‘program's or organization's name'. My name is …” It is not common to say "May I help you" in the greeting.

Point 5: Express empathy through words
Empathy is not expressed in Japan as it is in American culture. For example, while it is common to say "Congratulations," a Japanese associate would not say “That's great!” Also, direct references to how someone is feeling is not the norm.  One wouldn't say, for example,  “I understand how that would upset you,” “or I recognize your concern.”

On the other hand, it is completely acceptable for the associate to express empathy in these ways:

  •  “I apologize for the inconvenience."
  • “My condolences on the death of your spouse.”

Point 10: Use “I,” not “we,” when appropriate
In Japanese culture the “I” pronoun is not used very much as it is considered too personal. The use of “we” is acceptable, as the culture is focused on the collective, not the individual.

Point 20: Give security—Use MAGIC phrases
A phrase like, ‘I'm sure I can do that' would not be used in Japan. The Japanese language is vague; the use of words that deliver a clear message like "sure" is not common. 

Also, the acceptable expressions of empathy noted above for Point 5 are MAGIC phrases common to Japanese culture.


Facilitation Styles for Different Cultures

The Need for Flexibility

We each have our own particular facilitation style. However, it is important to keep in mind that our style may not be aligned with the culture of the participants in the class.

Adapting to Asian/European Audiences

For instance, when I was in India, I very quickly understood that my way of opening up the class for questions did not quite work as anticipated. The class just looked at me and giggled. India still has an old English style of teaching in the schools where the teacher speaks and the pupils are quiet and listen—where the teachers are considered to be “right” and to have the last word.

I explained to the class that in order to have a successful course we needed to work together and that this depended as much on them as on me. I went on to say that I would like to take the liberty of assigning a person at random to answer a question, and that we would take the next questions clockwise. They were amenable to this approach—and I have found that this same approach applies to other Asian countries as well.

In Europe, I normally ask for one volunteer (emphasizing from the start that volunteering is very MAGIC) and then from there I go clockwise.

Reading aloud the English text in a foreign speaking country is effective as it allows everyone to read and listen at the same time. I would suggest not to do it too often as this puts the limelight on you as facilitator rather than on the training material and the participants. It is important to be continuously aware of how your participants are responding to your style.  You can ask if they have a preference—would they rather listen to the facilitator, read aloud or read to themselves? They might prefer the latter especially if their English is at a high level.

I loved sharing some of my experiences with you. There is much to learn about this topic and I welcome your thoughts and questions. Feel free to contact me at
Before and After
Before and After
Just one "tragic" contact can influence your customers' perception of your company (and their buying decisions). Listen to the difference MAGIC® can make.