If you perform supplier audits then there are a few things that you should consider.  Firstly, ensure you received good training in how to audit.  This will make for a better audit and will help to ensure you represent your company professionally.  Secondly, try and shadow an existing auditor for a few audits first in order to get a feel for the audit process.  As your experience grows then you should get more confident.  Eventually though you may end up with a new challenge for all new auditors – being asked to perform an audit in a foreign country, where you don’t speak the local language!  How should this be tackled?

Firstly remember it is not impossible to perform an audit in a foreign language and these happen all the time.  Here are a few tips that may help the process.

Clarify in advance what language they speak Can you speak this language?  See also if you can get a feel for how well people speak your language.  If you can speak English, for example, then you may well be in luck – as lots of people speak English as a second language.

Take someone to help you translate.  You may be able to take someone from your own site or an affiliate in the country you are auditing who can help you with translation.  You can, of course, take a professional translator – but this usually adds a fair amount of cost to the audit.

Get documents in advance A lot of organisations will send you information in advance of performing an audit.  If you can get some key documents and procedures beforehand then you can get these translated in advance.  This can be done professionally or you may use many internet based tools which, whilst not perfect, should give you a feel for the content of a document.  Also ask if the organisation has any translated documents already available – they may be audited many times and have versions of key documents in multiple languages.

Plan for more time If people don’t speak the same language as you then it will be worthwhile planning for the time needed for any translation to occur.  This may mean it takes twice as long to review a document.  Either have a longer audit or focus on fewer areas.

You can still look at things Whilst it may be that nobody speaks a word of your language and every document you see is in a foreign language you can still visit the site and get a feel for the organisation.  Facilities, equipment, layout, storage conditions and what people wear are not dependant on language, so you can still get an understanding of how the organisation works.  You can also see if they have procedures (OK – you may not understand them and may need to be talked through them) and you can still see if reports, records and log books exist and if they are completed properly.

Make a note in the report Finally, it is always worth mentioning in the report if language barriers were an issue during the audit.  In other words, if you audited in France and you cannot speak French then this will be worth stating.

I hope this brief post is useful.  I have just done two audits in Brazil and I cannot speak a word of Portuguese.  The audits went well and I had the help of a local representative to assist me.

If you want to see further information on the auditor training courses that we offer – please visit our web-site.  Feel free to add your own comments and experiences to this post.

Dominic