October 11, 2017

Misconceptions of Language Services

Language services encompasses areas of speaking (interpretation) and writing (translation). Clients have come to Authentic Journeys for help in both areas of language, especially when looking at translating and interpreting differences between different Global Englishes (with focus on Indian and American English). 

Recently, I was able to attend a national symposium in the U.S. on Cross-Cultural Communication in relation to translation and interpretation. Near the end of the session, the panelists were asked the following question: 

What are misconceptions new clients have of language services? 
The panelists who came from both interpretation and translation backgrounds shared the following answers: 
  • Clients want one-to-one translation. While that may be easier to do for words standing on their own (as pictured to the right), this is not always true for written copy. As language is subjective by nature, it’s not always possible or realistic to do a one to one translation. 
  • While translators can translate, due to the complexity and specificity of the messages, subject matter experts are also often needed in addition to translators.
  • Many assume one-to-one or real-time language services are needed only for those new to the U.S. or to the [English] language, but this is not true. Professionals that have learned English in school in their home countries or even have spoken English in their home countries and have lived in the U.S. up to 15 years often need to build their context in American English.
  • Just because a translator knows how to translate the two languages, doesn’t mean he or she knows the subject area or the industry-specific jargon. This is why a subject matter expert (SME) is so critical.
  • Especially when it comes to translating or interpreting marketing materials, many clients forget the need to localize the content to the target market. 

How this relates to Authentic Journeys
While Authentic Journeys works only with different versions of English, Authentic Journeys deals with the above mentioned misconceptions in addition to: 
  • While the coders or engineers who created the software may be the subject matter expert, they often do need to fine tune their messages in both spoken and written English to get it to look and sound good. In some cases, the original writers may need to work with the translators in a live environment to build more context for the translator, especially if the translator is not also a subject matter expert on that technology, software, or industry.
  • Many clients Authentic Journeys has worked with have a better track record with writing business messages in English, but taking that same message and making it more conversational or causal becomes a challenge (this is true for spoken or written English). 
  • Because much of the software or marketing is targeting American clients, the English will need to be translated from Indian English to American English (or British to American English). These translations may require the help of a subject matter expert as well as grammar and language experts depending on the quality of the initial copy.
  • Translation has to do with language, not graphic design, website optimization or imagery. Though all of these are important for creating the entire marketing messages, language experts are not marketing, SEO, website optimization, graphic design, online video, or marketing experts. 
  • We need to identify who is reading the messages and their understanding of the jargon. If the message is being written for industry leaders, the language could possibly be more technical and industry specific. However, if it is marketing material for the general public who may not be aware of industry or technical jargon, it’s important to know how to translate the jargon into everyday English.
  • Translating copy is not the same as proofreading and grammar checking. After translating copy, a proofreader or grammar expert may be required to fine-tune the technical aspects of the language. Even when looking at translating between different forms of English, grammar rules may not always be the same. A case in point is punctuation rules between American English and British English
  • To facilitate understanding in any live context, interpretation on the part of a listener can be facilitated when the speaker's English is clear, void of phrases, idioms, slang and speed. Read more about this here

Authentic Journeys has experience translating:
  • Translating website content from Indian English to American English
  • Brochures, marketing materials, and video copy
  • Indian English into American English in a variety of written business communications 
  • Tech terms into ordinary English (F1 help type guides for non-techie people) 
  • Translating the same idiom into two different Englishes (see this example

Authentic Journeys has experience interpreting:
  • Conversations in global team meetings
  • Situations that happen in face-to-face encounters
  • Body language and paralanguage context
  • American English idioms into conversational English 
  • Tips on responding to idioms 
  • Some Indian English idioms into English Americans can understand
Keep in mind that while Authentic Journeys can provide translation services as mentioned above- Authentic Journeys real focus is on building the communication skills of your client facing global team members to craft their own messages in written and spoken English so they can confidently handle the interactions on their own. This often takes place in 1 to 1 training sessions virtually (over Skype, Hangouts or other VOIP type program) or in person whenever possible. 

If you have any questions or would like to talk about a project you have in the pipeline that we may be able to help out with, contact us today

**Photo, creative commons, Marina del Castell, flickr.

Related Posts: 
Difference between Slang, Buzzwords, Corporate and Industry Jargon 
Common Idioms Americans use to end meetings (podcast) 
Working Local but Thinking Global - Building Context on Global Teams (Video / Keynote Talk) 

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