I work as a programmer in Vietnam. Our client is a well known Korean electronics company. Because of their culture, they love to explain a simple problem in a complicated way.

Their English mostly comes from Google Translate. As a result, their requirement description is sometimes far apart from their actual requirement. For example, they specify a document and say, "this guide is eliminated", when they actually just want to disable a very specific feature on that document.

Only a few senior members of our team can communicate with them well. Is there any good strategy to deal with this problem?


You need a senior project manager who is fluent in both languages. He should talk to the Koreans to discover the requirements, and he should then present the requirements to the Vietnamese developers. Don't try to use English as a common language when neither side is proficient in it - it just complicates matters.

You have a 'few senior members' who can do this; use them. You should then not have to deal directly with colleagues in a different country using a different language. Keep Google Translate for social aspects, and nothing more.

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  • Sounds like some of the issue is cultural as well. – Paul May 25 '17 at 3:24
  • It's hard to find a PM like this. In fact, right now we can't. We used to have a Korean translator to help translating stuffs, but she was out of the team long time ago. – hucancode May 25 '17 at 3:59
  • And believe me, the mindset barrier is bigger than the language. Sometimes I have to rewrite their phrase into simple sentences, and ask them is it what they mean. – hucancode May 25 '17 at 4:02
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    I didn't say that a PM like that wouldn't be a Unicorn, but it's what you need... – PeteCon May 25 '17 at 14:38
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    Google Translate is never to be trusted. >.> I sincerely think it'll cause WW3 some day when I attempt to say "What an interesting concept" and it translates that into "I'd like to send your children into exile!" ;-p – SliderBlackrose May 26 '17 at 16:48

In principle, every communication should include the Korean original as well. That way, if you get an English message that seems wrong, you have a chance to find someone who can translate.

It also helps to use the simplest language possible to help google translate. To some degree, they can check the translation by using Google translate to translate back to Korean and see if the result makes sense.

Translated to Korean and back: You can help Google Translate with the simplest possible language. They can verify the translation by using Google Translate to some extent, translating it into Korean and seeing if the result is meaningful.

In this case, the text has changed but the meaning is the same, so I think the Korean text was fine.

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