International communication – what gets lost in translation?

Today SanTranslate was one of the translation companies attending the EMITA International Communications Masterclass in Nottingham, and very interesting it was too.

We talked to lots of people already, or about to become, responsible for furthering their companies’ international trade about what their concerns are when working with translation companies.  Despite coming from a wide variety of sectors including manufacturing, food and software development, they all had one thing in common – a need for accuracy in their technical translation and legal translation such as contracts.  Many were also investigating the issues around web site translation.

We also managed to attend some useful presentations, including one from Rob Williams, of the University of Westminster and International House, who led an interactive presentation where we got do discuss a number of case studies, identifying the unhelpful culturally-based assumptions that people had made, unwittingly leading to problems.

In most cases, both side could not understand what they had done wrong, insisting that they had, rather, been helpful and had been hard done by by the other.

Rob explained that these unhelpful assumptions can be broken down into three groups: cultural assumptions, language assumptions, and assumptions about using English.  For example, different cultures have different styles of discourse – some will talk at length giving many examples and explanations which might seem irrelevant to others who are more direct and might, in turn, be perceived as abrupt and rude.

He explained some of the reasons why misunderstandings can occur and how you can avoid them.

Language can be ambiguous and people work out meanings from context, their past experience and their assumptions about how things normally work.  They fix these ideas quickly but they are not necessarily appropriate to different cultures.  One culture’s attitude to “small talk” might be that it is essential for creating rapport; to another it can seem insincere and hypocritical.

In the UK, it seems, we should be aware of habits that unhelpful to non-native English speakers:

  • We talk too fast for them to understand but should slow our speech without sounding patronising;
  • We use confusing and non-commital language – what is a non-English speaker supposed to make of an expression such as “That sounds like a plan”?
  • We tend to ask negative questions which take a bit more thinking about than phrasing the question in positive terms;
  • We bandy about acronym and expressions based on our own culture that do not relate to others;
  • We assume that because someone speaks good English that they are just as adept at understanding us so instead we should check understanding regularly as we converse.

There was some discussion about whether using an interpreter can help to avoid problems and misunderstandings.  Some audience members suggested that doing so gets in the way of developing one-to-one relationships which is an interesting point.  Everyone agreed that the ability of the interpreter would be crucial as a poor interpreter could cause more problems than they solve.  We weren’t surprised that quality was an issue for this audience for interpretation as well as translation; the more serious a business is about its international trade, the more the quality of language service provision counts.

By | September 24th, 2010|Blog|0 Comments

Need translation for your Chinese trade visit?

If you’re joining the East Midlands China Business Bureau and UK Trade & Investment visit to Southwest China and Shanghai in October 2010 to explore the significant business opportunities, you might want to invest in some translation and typesetting to make sure that your business cards and literature create a professional impression.

Taking in the Shanghai World Expo 2010, the visit will also explore the opportunities presented by Chongqing and Chengdu, two pilot cities for indutrial, economic and financial reform with enormous purchasing power and strong government links with the East Midlands.  Despite the global economic downturn these cities have enjoyed GDP growth of 31.2% and 14.9% respectively.

We hear that qualifying companies can receive funding of up to £750 to help meet the costs of the visit.  Find out more about how to get involved here.

By | September 21st, 2010|Blog|0 Comments

China & India: Trading with Asia’s Giants

If your business is based in the East Midlands and you’re thinking about trading with India or China, then EMITA’s half-day workshop on 7th October in Nottingham is not one to miss.

The event will include:

  • insights into the next 5 years for the Chinese and Indian markets;
  • a business case study;
  • an exploration of the challenges that businesses can face when trading with China and India – and recommendations for overcoming them;
  • advice on how to develop long term relationships with partners and customers in China and India.

For more information and to register for the event, visit the EMITA web site.

By | August 18th, 2010|Blog|0 Comments
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