Scholarly article on topic 'Kazakhstani and English Sales Promotional Letters: Strategies for Effective Cross-cultural Communication'

Kazakhstani and English Sales Promotional Letters: Strategies for Effective Cross-cultural Communication Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Aliya Aimoldina, Sholpan Zharkynbekova, Damira Akynova, Lyazzat Dalbergenova

Abstract In recent years, the economy of the Republic of Kazakhstan has undergone significant development and, as a consequence, many business transactions are carried out between speakers of radically different languages and cultures. Therefore, the growing number of international companies and joint ventures in the Republic of Kazakhstan indicates the increasing use of English, along with Kazakh and Russian, as one of the main mediums of communication. Nowadays, in the context of modern Kazakhstani business discourse business correspondence written in Kazakh, Russian and English is extensively used in the Kazakhstani business context. However, little research has been done in this area so far. This cross-cultural study examines the communication strategies employed by Kazakhstani and English business professionals in their sales promotional letters. In addition, the language, format, organization, and tone of business correspondence reflected the values of the writers and their environment. The study makes an attempt to raise an awareness of Kazakhstani business professionals of differences in persuasive writing across languages and cultures, worth noting for developing cross-cultural understanding and communication strategies for effective intercultural business interactions in the dynamic business environment of the 21st century.

Academic research paper on topic "Kazakhstani and English Sales Promotional Letters: Strategies for Effective Cross-cultural Communication"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 143 (2014) 212 - 216

CY-ICER 2014

Kazakhstani and English sales promotional letters: strategies for effective cross-cultural communication

Aliya Aimoldina a*, Sholpan Zharkynbekova b, Damira Akynova c, Lyazzat

Dalbergenova d

a,b,c,d philology Department, L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University, 5 Munaitpassov Street, Astana 010008, Kazakhstan

Abstract

In recent years, the economy of the Republic of Kazakhstan has undergone significant development and, as a consequence, many business transactions are carried out between speakers of radically different languages and cultures. Therefore, the growing number of international companies and joint ventures in the Republic of Kazakhstan indicates the increasing use of English, along with Kazakh and Russian, as one of the main mediums of communication. Nowadays, in the context of modern Kazakhstani business discourse business correspondence written in Kazakh, Russian and English is extensively used in the Kazakhstani business context. However, little research has been done in this area so far. This cross-cultural study examines the communication strategies employed by Kazakhstani and English business professionals in their sales promotional letters. In addition, the language, format, organization, and tone of business correspondence reflected the values of the writers and their environment. The study makes an attempt to raise an awareness of Kazakhstani business professionals of differences in persuasive writing across languages and cultures, worth noting for developing cross-cultural understanding and communication strategies for effective intercultural business interactions in the dynamic business environment of the 21st century.

© 2014 Elsevier Ltd.Thisisanopenaccess article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of CY-ICER 2014.

Keywords: Communication strategies, business professionals, sales promotional letters, cross-cultural analysis;

1. Introduction

The study of business persuasive correspondence regulating commercial relations of business partners has become especially crucial under present-day conditions of expanding international business contacts. In accordance

* Corresponding author: Aliya Aimoldina. Tel.: +7-705-235-6988 E-mail address: a_aliya_86@mail.ru

1877-0428 © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the Organizing Committee of CY-ICER 2014. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.07.390

with many researchers (Zhu, 2005; Bhatia, 1993; Swales, 1990; etc.), the investigation of persuasive messages in relation to business merits much attention, since business persuasive correspondences, including sales promotional letters, are "a major medium through which business companies convey their brands, ...create a catalyst effect in boosting sales volume, ... have ever affected our buying decisions as consumers, ... enhance cross-cultural intellectual exchange, [and].. .contribute to modern civilization (Cheung, 2010: 354). However, despite some shared common writing conventions in business letters, some scholars reveal diversity in some rhetorical moves (Bhatia, 1993; Chakorn, 2002; Zhu, 2005), linguistic realizations (Johns, 1980; Jablin and Krone, 1984; Park et al 1998), the rhetorical appeals (Zhu, 2000; Chakorn, 2002) and politeness strategies (Powell, 1991; Zhu, 2013). Moreover, Iris Varner (1988) demonstrates that "international business communication is culture specific" (p. 55). Thus, to write letters that are effective in other countries, it is important to understand the business communication principles, particularly, appropriate communicative strategies relevant to this or that country. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important for the writers of business letters to better and more successfully transfer a pragmatic plan of business texts, since most of the intercultural breakdown the researchers examined so far is due to pragmatic and discourse rules, and not grammatical or phonological problems (Zhu, 2013; Zhu, 2005; Clyne, 2009; Schnurr, 2013; etc.).

With the economic shift of Kazakhstan in 1991 from a centrally planned economy to a democratically independent republic, the country has seen its volume of external trade increase on a global basis. Consequently, Kazakhstan is now engaged in international commercial activities with more than one hundred and seventy countries and has trading and economic agreements with more than fifty other countries under a "Most-Favoured Nations (MFN)" regime (Salykova, 2012). The growing number of international companies and joint ventures in the Republic of Kazakhstan indicates the increasing use of English, along with Kazakh and Russian, as one of the main mediums of communication.

The purpose of this study is to examine similarities and differences between three corpora - Kazakh, Russian and English business persuasive correspondence, i.e. sales promotional letters, particularly, in the areas of communicative strategies. Despite the presence of a quite wide enough spectrum of the works considering various aspects of the Kazakhstani business discourse, there is a high need for further research into the various features of business correspondence. The research is aimed at a correct perception of written business correspondence, taking into account national-cultural features (in this case English, Kazakh and Russian cultures). This guarantees a pragmatically success in local and multinational business contexts. The research findings contribute to improving pedagogical approaches in training to business English language in Kazakhstan.

The present article will first explain the research methodology and present the results of analysis in relation to the communication strategies of the Kazakhstani sales letters as compared with that of the English ones. Extracts will be quoted from the corpora to illustrate the similarities and the differences. This article will end with the main conclusions, followed by an examination of the relevant limitations and suggestions for further research and study.

2. Methodology

In this study, the business correspondence, which is under analysis, is written by Kazakhstani business professionals working in international, national and foreign companies and is produced by their international business partners. The cross-cultural variation is investigated both quantitatively and qualitatively from contrastive text linguistic and pragma linguistic perspectives.

In general, between December 2011 and September 2013, 167 sales promotional letters were collected, including 55 Kazakh, 62 Russian and 50 English sales letters. The collected sales letters turned out to be written in 3 financial, 3 manufacturing, and 4 service companies. 6 of which were located in Astana, 1 in Almaty, 2 in Atyrau and 1 in Aktau.

In collecting our data, some participating companies required us to make contact at the company level instead of contacting individuals in order to get access to the business correspondence of the company. In this connection, access has been allowed only to the limited types of letters, and all names of persons and organizations were deleted or changed prior to the delivery of data in order to preserve confidentiality. These experiences confirm St. John's (1996) observation that many companies consider their business correspondence confidential, hesitate to give researchers access to it, and prefer not to explain the business contexts.

3. Results and Discussion

The result of comparison of the sales promotional letters written by representatives of Kazakh, Russian and English communicative cultures testifies that the texts of the collected sales letters show both similarities and differences in all the aspects and text levels being analyzed.

3.1 Organization of a sales letter

In general, Kazakhstani citizens used the indented style for business letters both in the Kazakh and Russian languages; the blocked style was rarely used. The date and the office number of the letter, even in blocked letters, tend to be typed on the left side of the page. The inside address in Kazakh and Russian letters is typed on the right-hand side. The zip code precedes the name of the city by Kazakhstani postal regulations. A typical arrangement in the Kazakh letter looks as follows:

№ 42-3/2 «16» csyip 2013 ж.

Казахстан Республикасы 010000 Астана ^аласы С.Сейфуллин кошес^ 107-уй «Шугыла» ЖШС директорына

Курметт Ас^ар Асаубайулы мырза!

In an English letter, this information would be arranged as follows:

The Director "Shugyla" LTD

107 Seifullin street

010000 Astana

Republic of Kazakhstan

April 16, 2013

Dear Mr. Askar Kanybekov:

In Kazakh and Russian letters an exclamation mark rather than a colon follows the salutation as is the case in the United States. Salutations are more formal. Typical salutations are:

Kazakh: Аса цурметт^ (name) мырза/ханым! К^рметт1 (first name and patronymic name)! Кргмбатты (name) мырза/ханым! K^adipni (name) мырза/ханым!

Russian: Уважаемый Иван Степанович! Дорогой Данияр Ахметович! Господин Директор! Многоуважаемый Михаил Васильевич!

First names both in Kazakh and Russian are used very seldom in business correspondence even if the writer and reader know each other quite well. English business specialists should stay on a formal basis using last name or a first name with a patronymic name and "Ci3 " or "Оздер " in Kazakh and "Вы " in Russian, which are the polite form of "you". First names should be used only if the Kazakhstani people specifically ask that first names be used. Even if first names are used, the Kazakhstani citizens often continue to use "Ci3 " or "Вы " rather than "сен " or "ты ".

The English business professionals, who want to be on a friendly basis immediately, may have a hard time and actually turn off potential business partners with his or her outgoing approach. It is important to recognize that formal style of address does not necessarily mean disinterest, coldness, and unfriendliness. Personal relationships take a long time to develop in Kazakhstan.

The analysis of sales letters in Kazakh and Russian showed that Kazakhstani citizens can simply finish a business letter by pointing out only their requisites, or using such phrases as:

"С уважением, генеральный директор Б. Ахметов" ['Yours faithfully, the Director General B. Akhmetov'], К,урметпен - Алматы ма^та-мата комбинаты директоры Ш.БолатYЛы, etc.

As for English sales promotional letters, it is obligatory to meet the requirements of selected greetings with a

form of ending the letter. In the rules of etiquette of a business letter in English, the salutation Dear Mr. Lindell requires the form Yours sincerely at the end, and a greeting to the addressee, the name of whom is unknown or to the group: Dear Madam or Dear Sirs require Yours faithfully. One more etiquette rule connected with the form of the address is an address to the woman - to the business partner without exact instructions on her marital status and a preferable choice of the form as Ms Hartford.

3.2 General Tone of a letter

The differences also become apparent in the use of the letter's mood types, formulaic expressions and lexical choice, which indicates different degrees of formality. Kazakh business professionals use a more formal, official, cold style of communication, whereas English business professionals quickly move on to a more friendly and partnership type of relationship, which is reflected in the choice of a particular language in business letters. Kazakhstani business letters generally use the declarative mood type and their use of the imperative seems to be limited. The English speakers' letters use a more imperative mood, either with or without the politeness marker 'please'. They also use many more polar interrogatives and modal-initial interrogatives in the request sentences. Most sales letters written by Kazakhstani business professionals make an extensive use of formulaic or "stock" expressions especially those concerning gratitude, appreciation and anticipation.

Generally, the content of sales promotional letters is the same for both countries. However, some differences exist in the style and in the organization of the letters. In most cases, English sales letters start with the main first. The letter goes from specific points to more general ones. In Kazakhstan, letters often go from general to more specific points.

The analysis shows that in sales promotional letters, specifically, in Kazakh and Russian business correspondence, the authors' personality is presented by using singular "I" or plural "we". It should be noted that in these letters there was also a tendency of the writer's depersonalization or to express the unity with the addressee. On the linguistic level it is shown by the rejection to use the 1st person singular pronoun, but by the increasing use of the pronoun of the 1st person plural "we":

Уважаемый господин X,

Мы подтверждаем получение вашего письма No.04-03-6/361. ... Однако, мы проведем более детальный осмотр, как только мы будем иметь в распоряжении укомплектованный подъемный кран ...

[Dear Mr. X,

We acknowledge receipt of your letter No.04-03-6/361. .However, we will carry out a closer inspection once we have the crane complete.]

"№638 партиясыньщ тeлемi тауардьщ Астанага келу кушнде б1здщ фирма ар^ылы журпзшетшш мэлiмдеймiз" ['We inform you that the payment of the order #638 must be paid at the day of the good's arrival to Astana'].

However, at present in sales letters (mostly in English sales letters and less in Kazakhstani ones) there is a tendency as a co-called "you-attitude" (Powell, 1991) similar to what Jenkins and Hinds (1987) called "reader-orientation", when the writer communication from the reader's perspectives to draw and maintain his/her attention. For example,

"You could send your request through mail, email or even send fax, whatever you think is convenient for you. "

"You may call me at 800-555-9875 if you have any questions or concerns. Your continued patronage is important to us."

According to Bhatia (1993), the writer can either highlight the expertise and achievements of the company or indicate his/her perception of the interests and needs of the potential customer while implying that the company can fulfil those interests and needs. The former approach often uses the "we" orientation (Bhatia, 1993:50) whereas the latter frequently use the "you" orientation (Bhatia, 1993: 50).

As we can see from the focus or key terms, the writer tries to create a good impression of the company by emphasising its worldwide leading status as a major company, which provides high quality work and service. The "we-orientation" is used to convey this message to the reader.

The you-orientation is, as in Bhatia's (1993) findings, used when the writer tries to express the interests and needs of the potential customer while implying that his product or service can fulfil those interests and needs.

4. Conclusions

To sum up, business discourse in contemporary Kazakhstan has been shaped, and continues to be shaped, under the influence of three languages: Kazakh, Russian and English. The presence of three languages in the common communicative area of business discourse gives rise to the questions considered in this paper. The comparison of collected sales promotional letters show that, overall, Kazakh, Russian and English business letters share similarities, but there are also many differences.

At present, there are very few studies on written business discourse in Kazakhstan. This study is a small cross-cultural study with an aim to shed light on communicative strategies used in sales promotion letters by the business professionals of different cultural backgrounds. The findings suggest that Bhatia's (1993) pattern of moves does not entirely represent the rhetorical moves and strategies in all sales promotion letters.

In business writing there are, generally, two principles of relationships between communicants, i.e. ppositive emphasis, "you-attitude" / "we-attitude".

We agree with the researchers (Cody, 1906; Powell, 1991; etc), who previously identified different strategies of business letter writing, and point out that an effective sales letter must be persuasive, it must employ positive suggestion, and the writer of such a letter should focus on his/her projected reader. In some letters, both in Kazakhstani and English sales letters the following strategy as "verbal avoidance" can be observed. It involves the omission of those moments that can lead to cross-cultural misunderstanding.

Probably, the lack of business correspondence elements of communication strategy, known as "verbal assertiveness", which provides a direct reference to cultural differences and the demand for their recognition is due to the tendency of politeness, fear of offending partner, and therefore not to get the desired results. These observations, of course, do not reflect all the features of business letters, but emphasize their specifics that need to be considered in the process of business communication.

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