Negotiation Journal

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 17-34

First online:

Resolving Conflict Across Languages

  • Raymond CohenAffiliated withInternational Relations, Hebrew University of Jerusalem


English is increasingly used as an indispensable interlanguage, the commonthird language of non-native speakers, in international negotiations.In technical or commercial talks, where interlocutors share a stock ofexpert knowledge, semantic problems are relatively easily overcome. Inemotive and complex negotiations to resolve protracted international conflict,however, intriguing problems of interpretation arise. Though interlocutorsspeak in English, they are unlikely to think or work in English.Back home the political debate is conducted in the mother tongue. Thus thesemantic fields, the full range of meanings and connotations, of keyabstract concepts at the heart of the negotiation may not be conveyed intranslation. The ill-fated Syrian-Israeli peace talks are drawn upon to exemplifythe argument.