Imagine sitting in the plush surroundings of a leading national bank and getting to listen to the collected wisdom of business leaders from several sectors as they describe how to succeed internationally. Yesterday, I had the privilege of doing just that, when I attended the Scottish International Week conference in the Bank of Scotland building on The Mound in Edinburgh. It was an event that demonstrated the power of Scottish business while explaining just what it takes to succeed in a global economy.Continue reading
Go to export events and you will hear speakers talking about emerging markets, building an international presence, and winning clients abroad but we often neglect to mention one issue: not everyone in business speaks English. Even if they do, carrying out business in English only is a risky decision.
The Risks of English Only
Consider this case: you send your best sales person off to France to sell some medical aids. They come back beaming, with the news that the client talked about ankles that were swelling. They are excited to hear that there is such a great market for your products.
Except, they’re wrong. In French when someone has “les chevilles qui enflent”, it actually means that they have a big ego. Far from your sales person finding an exciting new market, they have discovered an audience that were really not happy with how they presented themselves.
Misunderstandings, cultural miscues, and loss of important nuances all happen when we expect people to do business in our language, rather than doing what it takes to allow everyone to do business in the language in which they are most comfortable. It’s little wonder that a famous report from the House of Lords in the UK found that British businesses lose out on £50billion per year due to a lack of language skills.
Building a Language Strategy
Thinking strategically is familiar territory for any business. Work out where you are, work out where you want to go, plot the course to get there and set sail.
The same process that is used around the world to decide on sales, product distribution channels, marketing, and business development can and should be applied to languages.
What are your strategic markets?
What kind of investment are you willing to make to get them?
How hands-on do you want to be with your content in that language?
Do you prefer brand consistency or would you prefer content to be rewritten for the new audience?
Will you be visiting in person or selling from afar?
Knowing all that, which language tactics do you need to use? Translation? Copywriting? Interpreting?
Work with Experts Early
Few business leaders would pull in a consultant two weeks before they started a new business venture. Few managers would hire a new sales team on the day they needed all the sales to be concluded.
The same goes for language strategy. Sure, hiring translators, interpreters and writers late might work once or twice but it is a recipe for a headache.
It’s much better to get them on board early, so they can work alongside you to shape the strategy as well as the final product. A good consultant interpreter will be able to tell you when you really don’t need interpreters and when they will be invaluable. An honest translator will often be able to drastically reduce the amount of content that needs to be translated, while delivering incredible Return on Investment on the rest.
The earlier we involve experts in language, the better our language strategy will be.
If your business is looking at rolling out a language strategy to reach new markets, drop me an email for a free call.
“Remote interpreting is here and it works.”
Those weren’t the words of the owner of a video remote interpreting business but of Sarah Hickey, Chief Interpreting Researcher at Nimdzi Insights, when she spoke during the town hall session of the Conf1nt100 conference in Geneva.
And she’s right. Remote interpreting, without or without video, with or without studios, with or without safeguards, is used all over the world, from emergency medicine to high-level webinars. And yes, it does work.
Not long ago, I said that I would not consult on remote interpreting, due to some of the severe issues found with that kind of work. At that point, I saw the picture in much simpler terms than I do now.
As the ITI Position Paper on Remote Interpreting shows, those issues haven’t gone away. Even the most recent research (check the details in the footnotes) shows problems with interpreters feeling disconnected from the event, with them being unable to interrupt when they need to and with possible physical and mental health issues.
Something else covered in that same paper, however, is that remote interpreting fills important gaps. When it is too dangerous to have an interpreter there in person, when you can’t afford to wait for the interpreter to arrive, when there are no good interpreters with those languages locally, when the meeting is happening entirely online anyway, remote interpreting has a place.
Remote interpreting has a place. That’s my new thinking in a nutshell.
Personally, due to my own personal circumstances, it’s not a service I will be offering myself but, in the right contexts, I would now offer consulting on it. Most likely, that would involve working closely with people like Ewandro Magalhaes and Prof Barry Olsen, who have dedicated large parts of their career to being specialists in remote interpreting.
Yes, we still need to do more about the negative effects of remote but it turns out that there are many interpreters who offer remote interpreting as an additional service, not as their entire careers. Yes, we still need good standards for remote, but it turns out that the good providers care about that stuff already.
So I was wrong. I painted too bleak a picture and missed crucial details. That’s why I am learning to slow down, ask more questions, listen harder and accept it when people I respect point out that I have tripped up.
That’s how we learn.