When using consultants and contractors in environments where English/base language (lingua franca) is not common, prioritize users based on language capability first.

Speaking a language (well) is a sign of time spent in the required environment and a better understanding of the culture and community.

If you canʼt find a provider with the required language skills, then look to supplementing the required skills with a secondary support function such as a translator or linguist.

The use of translators, linguist and interpreters is a skill in itʼs own right.

Make sure either you or the provider have experience in using such resources or this too can be a guaranteed point of failure.

Only as a last resort should you bring in a provider, consultant or contractor that has no language skill for the area or task.

Security solutions at all levels are highly dependent on understanding the environment in which you operate and the communities supporting/surrounding them.

Not speaking the language or understanding the nuances is a significant disadvantage.

Regional or multi-territory projects do not require this.

Just because China, Brazil or Russia is within the region/territory of a project it is not necessarily a mandated requirement that the provider, consultant or contractor speak Chinese, Portuguese or Russian in order to achieve the directive.

A good proposal for services (and final contract) from a quality and experienced provider will be inclusive of translation or linguist support.

Be cautious in using your own internal staff for this task as they will always taint the translation, withhold information or not fully understand the project.

It is not their primary role.

Donʼt force it upon them and expect superior results.

Language and direct communications, whilst important are unlikely to be the entire scope of the requirement so don’t overemphasise it’s importance. I have conducted security consulting and management tasks all around the world. Whilst I do speak a couple of languages, I don’t speak them all 🙂 Competency and experience is likely to yield far better results than just someone that speaks a local or regional language.


Tony Ridley



Travel Safety Experts
Travel Safety Experts

Travel health, safety, security and risk management experts