Old and new economies are increasingly entwined and the boundaries between them continuously blurred. Businesses planning to go global or cater to varied clientele often face problems with language barriers, making business translation vital.
From crafting messages that appeal to their clients in different regions to striking deals with partners speaking a foreign language, business translation is needed on a daily basis.
Business translation helps when handling foreign customer calls and answering their queries and concerns. Equipping businesses with the leaders and employees who have the appropriate skills to communicate across borders efficiently is a good idea.
But it’s not always feasible to get people with the right language skills onboard. That’s where business translation experts and interpreters can help.
Language Problems & Business Difficulties
1. Language Barrier in Business Communication
Misinterpretations and misunderstandings are common where language barriers exist. In business communication and business translation, they can have serious implications – from not getting the intended message across to understanding it all wrong, or thinking it to be mean something when the intention was to mean something completely different.
Language barriers are common when people who are interacting don’t know the language well in which they are communicating, don’t have access to business translation, or don’t have adequate understanding of the accents and dialects even when they speak a common language.
For instance, there are several Chinese dialects that are commonly spoken, like Mandarin and Cantonese, and two speakers – each knowing one of these dialects, will have difficulty in talking when they have to communicate in either Mandarin or Cantonese without business translation.
So, unless the people involved have a thorough understanding of the language, putting forward business propositions, knowing the viewpoints of the involved parties, negotiations and arriving at business decisions could all become an uphill task, if not completely impossible without accurate business translation.
2. Language Barrier in the Workforce
When employees have difficulty understanding the language in which you conduct most of your business tasks, they may fail to understand issues or concerns you want to be handled. They can miss the level of urgency of an allotted task, or simply nod their heads when they actually don’t understand what’s being communicated!
All these situations may lead to severe misunderstandings which can interfere with the work and eventually affect the bottom-line adversely. This can be avoided with the right business translation.
Though you can use some electronic translators that will help with emails and websites, they won’t facilitate real-time communication. In addition, the accuracy of such tools is often dubious and many of them translate in such a way that the original language patterns and meanings often get lost.
3. Language Barriers in International Business
Businesses with global operations and influence need a multilingual workforce than can communicate efficiently in several languages. They also need accurate business translation.
Since language is socially constructed, it’s embedded in the local culture. Unless one is a master of the language, understanding the embedded meanings and interpreting the words or the cultural meanings linked to them won’t be possible. For global businesses, language barriers may:
Adversely affect the entire interchange
Create problems in customer relations due to communication gaps and/or miscommunication/misinterpretation, and may even end a relationship with a customer
Trigger a failed conversation with a key business partner, which could be a deal-breaker
Cause miscommunication with a supplier that could have severe strategic or financial implications
4. HQ & Subsidiary Relationship
Language barriers can have serious implications on the relationship of multinational companies and their subsidiary operations. Usually, it involves two broad aspects – the communication cycle and the management cycle. Here are some ways language barrier can cause problems with respect to both these aspects:
Intra-organizational knowledge transfer within various geographically scattered units
Knowledge sharing between the HQ and different departments, groups, or divisions of the subsidiary
Decoding centralized messages being sent from HQ (especially where such messages are sent in the language of one culture but are decoded in the context of a different language without business translation)
Personnel and/or organization selection
Control and autonomy procedures
Global integration strategies
5. Knowledge Sharing & Management
Having a common corporate language (which is English in most cases) in a multi-linguistic environment often helps in easy transmission of knowledge and experiences.
But when the individuals involved (who have come from different cultural backgrounds and have different native languages) aren’t fluent in the language used, or often nod their heads or simply say “yes” (just to avoid embarrassment) business translation is needed.
When they don’t understand the message conveyed fully, knowledge sharing and management can hit a roadblock. From not understanding the intended message to misunderstandings (the worst scenario is where a completely different meaning of the message is understood, rather than what was actually intended), the flow and extent of knowledge sharing and transfer can be adversely affected in a multi-linguistic environment.
Overcoming the Difficulties & Problems
1. Narrow Your Target Market
Instead of targeting each and every market all around the world, you should focus on only those regions where the customers use your products most frequently and spend a sizable amount of money. This way, you will have adequate time and resources to spend on:
Understanding the local culture and its nuances
Learning the local language
Training your employees (especially those who aren’t local and have been brought from other regions)
Planning your marketing campaigns in the local language to make them effective
Keeping business translation costs down
2. Respect the Language – Use Business Translation
Knowing the principal languages spoken in your target market will help you learn the phrases and start your marketing campaigns using the local language. This will help you grab your target customers and potential local business partners’ attention fast.
In addition, this will reflect positively on your business and earn you the admiration and respect of the locals, since you have invested time and effort to learn and understand the customs and language of that specific region and on accurate business translation and localization.
3. Translate Documents
Translating all official documents in the native language of your employees will help them understand the message and instructions clearly without any ambiguity.
You can use several free online tools or websites to translate your documents. However, it pays to be cautious since the business translation may not always be in the exact same dialect that your employees use.
In addition, the words your written business translation has may not always match up with the meaning that you intend to get across through your work documents.
4. Specialized Translators
Specialized business translators have sound knowledge of their respective fields (such as economics, finance, marketing, scientific research etc) in addition to that of the target market and current events. By hiring these business translation professionals, you can:
Get your documents translated into the desired language of every targeted demographic in a personalized way
Get the cultural and local references right without offending anyone with the wrong choice of words or phrases
Create content for marketing that is free of any linguistic, grammatical or colloquial errors, that will help you create an instant connection with your target market
5. Hire an Interpreter
Hiring an interpreter is a must when your business is planning to expand on a global scale, has a diverse clientele across countries, or targets to reach people who don’t have English as their native language. Here are some benefits of hiring an experienced interpreter:
Excellent quality when communicating difficult concepts or specialized/technical language (like legal aspects, medical diagnosis, etc.)
Ensuring your business translation and translated documents are culturally correct by picking up the relevant local or cultural references or influences, if any
Managing your brand assets with a consistent tone and terminology in communication, without which the reputation of your business may get hit and you may even end up losing some potential business partners and opportunities
6. Language Classes
You or your employees don’t necessarily need to be fluent in another language, especially not with access to business translation.
Yet, you have to know the fundamentals of a new language. Language classes are perhaps the best way of doing it. Getting your employees enrolled in a language class will help them:
Know the basic greetings, warnings, as well as work phrases in the local language
Communicate well with co-workers and customers using the predominant language that your target market uses
Coexist and succeed by working closely with other team members
Understand your target market better
7. Go for Visuals
When written or oral communication is tough to get your message across, you can use visuals, which would be a lot more effective than audios or even one-to-one interactions marred with language barriers.
Since the majority of humans are naturally disposed to visual learning, using images, diagrams, videos, animations, cue cards, signs and other visual aids to convey your instructions, messages, or assignments would be an effective way to overcome the language barrier.
Businesses planning to expand globally or aiming to step foot into markets beyond their region of origin can do so speedily and effectively when they have adequate resources to support each new language they are targeting and when they plan for business translation.
Since they need to get a huge volume of content translated in their target market’s native language – from business mission and vision to documents related to HR policies, new employee orientation, training, marketing etc., they need accurate business translation to handle the task with precision and consistency.
Though many tend to use free online tools, documents thus translated often miss the essence of words in their translated version or end up meaning quite the opposite than what was intended.
It’s important to understand that business translation isn’t just about words. Rather, it’s related to what the words are about. That’s exactly what professional translators and interpreters are adept in dealing with.
So, when you want to expand your business speedily on foreign shores, you need to hire professional translators and interpreters to create that local connection and get your intended message across fast to the target audience without any important aspect getting lost in translation.
Erica Richards is an English translator. She can’t resist reading a good novel. Besides loving those amazing pieces of literature, she works as content strategist for United Translations.
Some pointers on etiquette and best practice when interpreting in a medical setting.
For the first time in months, I took an assignment for a medical interpreting job. While my language skills are just fine for this setting, I was reminded of how difficult this work really is and how flexible we have to be. The experience also made me remember how nervous I was when I was new, mostly because I had no idea what to expect.
The points addressed here don’t have anything to do with terminology. Terminology and asking for clarification is a different matter. What follows is a basic rundown of what you can expect in an interpreted encounter in the outpatient world.
Professional introduction with front desk, patient and family, and clinical staff: During the initial introductions, I want to make sure that everyone knows I’m the interpreter—not a family member or friend who came with the patient, and not a bilingual staff member getting pulled from her regular duties to interpret. I make it a point to introduce myself not only to the patient, but also to anyone who is with the patient (including children). This helps build rapport quickly and can ease any tension that might be there when you’ve got bilingual family members and you’re afraid they’re going to give you a hard time, which, by the way, almost never happens. The patient’s bilingual family members are not there to harass the interpreter—they just want their sister, mom, dad, etc., to be okay. When I introduce myself to the doctor, I ask if he or she has ever worked with an interpreter before. When doctors aren’t sure how to work with an interpreter, they probably won’t ask, and they’ll be grateful that you brought it up.
Waiting with the patient: It’s time to stop scaring interpreters about being alone with the patient and to start talking about why they don’t want to be alone with the patient. Basically, you don’t want to be there when the patient is telling you about his or her condition and there’s nobody to interpret it to. You don’t want to compromise your neutrality and confuse role boundaries. If the patient wants to talk about the weather while sitting in the waiting room, the world will keep spinning. If she asks you about her condition, politely suggest that she ask the doctor the same question and that you would be happy to interpret it for her.
Sight translation for intake paperwork: There are different ways to do this. One option is to read to the patient what’s on the form and show them where to write. If the patient doesn’t know how to write, you can sight translate the form and write down the patient’s answers. (Sometimes they’ll come right out and tell you they can’t write, sometimes they’ll just ask you to do the writing, and sometimes the family member will fill it out, in the same way I would fill out paperwork for a sick family member.) If patients have questions while you’re filling out the form, make sure to encourage them to ask the doctor.
Consecutive for the interview: The nurse will ask the patient initial intake questions: What medicines do you take? How much do you weigh? Where is your pain, and when did it start? What does it feel like, and how bad is it on a scale of one to ten? I use the consecutive mode for the questions as well as for the patient’s answers.
Simultaneous for the patient: When the patient is describing her pain in more detail, I move to a simultaneous interpreting, maintaining eye contact with the patient to keep her talking while I interpret. (I know that in training we learn this is a no-no, but it can be used to support good communication.) This way the doctor can hear her at the same time she’s motioning to different body parts. Another nice way to use simultaneous is when the patient is going on with a story about what happened. While note-taking for memory and consecutive is great to allow the speaker more time to talk, when you use simultaneous the doctor can have a chance to intervene and redirect the patient, just as he or she would be able to do with an English-speaking patient.
Positioning during an in-office exam or procedure: During the interview, I like to sit next to the patient if there’s room. Wherever I can hear everyone and they can hear me is a good spot. (Don’t be afraid to move around as needed as long as it’s not drawing attention to you.) If the patient is having an exam or procedure, it’s nice to look at a neutral spot so you’re not staring while their boil gets lanced or their toenails get yanked out. If they are exposed, go behind the curtain if there is one, and if not, turn around. I like to actually say (especially with male patients), “I’m turning around now so I can’t see anything.”
Sight translation for instructions: I like it when the nurse goes over the instructions with me first and then I sight translate them to the patient. It’s a nice touch and helps to maintain transparency if you let the patient know that the nurse is explaining the instructions to you first before you read them. You can sight translate anything to the patient without the nurse explaining it to you first, but you’ll want the nurse there so she can answer any questions you or the patient might have. Keep in mind that standards for accuracy in sight translation are the same for any other mode of interpreting.
Neutrality at the check-out desk: It might be tempting to fudge a little so that the follow-up appointment is at a time when you’re available to take the assignment, or to tell the check-out person that the patient requested you for the next visit. However, this creates an obvious conflict, so don’t do it.
Be prepared to take notes: Make sure to take a small notebook and something with which to write. I’m especially challenged by numbers, and they will come flying at you in the medical setting in the form of phone numbers, addresses, weight, height, dosages, times, and dates.
Smile: You can be professional and firm with your role boundaries, but be friendly.
Take time after the assignment to reflect on what went well and what could be done differently next time. Most of all, enjoy the experience of serving others! If you have any tips that might be helpful to new interpreters, I invite you to share them with me.
Elizabeth Essary has over a decade of experience as an interpreter in many different settings. She has a Master of Conference Interpreting from the Glendon School of Translation at York University in Toronto. In 2012, she received her national Certified Healthcare Interpreter™ certification (Spanish) through the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI), and in 2013 she was certified through the Indiana Supreme Court Interpreter Certification Program. She is an accredited trainer through the CCHI Continuing Education Accreditation Program, and in 2013 served as an item writer and subject matter expert for CCHI’s written exam. From 2011 to 2015, in her work as language services supervisor at Indiana University Health Academic Health Center, she educated hospital staff on working effectively with interpreters and oversaw the bilingual staff approval program. She also developed a series of workshops to prepare staff interpreters for national certification. You can find her blog at https://thatinterpreter.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared in The Chronicle, the official publication of the American Translator’s Association. Read it here.
Access 2 Interpreters held an Interpreter Training Session at Columbus Public Health (CPH) on Wednesday, November 29, 2017. The presentation was conducted by Yana Schottenstein, CEO and President of Access 2 Interpreters.
The training, “Working Effectively with Interpreters,” was designed to improve the working relationship between CPH staff members and interpreters in order to enhance the ability to provide meaningful services to Limited English Proficiency (LEP) patients and their families.
The session focused on three core areas of the interpretation services profession. These included the interpreter’s role and boundaries, the Interpreter Code of Ethics in Healthcare, and techniques to help CPH staff members use an interpreter’s services more effectively.
The first segment examined the interpreter’s role during an interpretation session. This section reinforced the idea that interpreters are required to interpret the conversation between CPH staff members and LEP patients. This part of the presentation also clarified the interpreter’s boundaries before, during, and after the interpretation session.
The second part of the training focused on the Interpreter Code of Ethics in Healthcare. Interpreters must adhere to federal ethical principles while working in the field. They must interpret everything said during the appointment, maintain confidentiality, and maintain professionalism at all times.
The final portion of the training provided CPH staff members with techniques for working with interpreters during assignments. This section provided insight into particular behaviors and techniques used by interpreters during interpretation sessions. CPH staff members were given tips for assisting interpreters during an assignment.
“Every time we meet with users of our services during seminars such as this one, we always get very positive feedback. Medical staff appreciate the insight into the interpreter profession—especially when it comes to compliance with confidentiality and HIPAA,” remarked Schottenstein.
Access 2 Interpreters can provide similar training seminars to its clients upon request. Each event is specifically tailored to the particular needs of the hosting organization.
As the world becomes increasingly more global and cultures and languages become intertwined, using interpreters becomes something of a necessity. Thanks to the Internet and international travel, the world has never seemed so small. While most people would be quick to name particular industries in which interpreters would be in high demand, there really is no clear response. Truth be told, there are many industries that are benefitting or could benefit from using interpreters.
First, choose a credible interpretation company
The most important thing to consider when looking an interpretation/translation company, choose one that can provide services in many languages, and will commit to providing you with the highest level of quality and accuracy. By selecting an experienced interpretation company, you are ensuring not only a successful interpretation/translation experience but a chance to heighten the presence of your organization.
Government interpreters are increasingly important in today’s ever-changing world. Local government can benefit from interpreters by making sure non-English speaking or ASL using local citizens are able to utilize government services. National government benefits from interpreters when dealing with foreign governments or updating its multilingual citizens on current events or emergencies.
Interpreters and translators are consistently in high demand in the medical industry. It’s a fact of life that people get sick and need doctors, which could be a stressful experience if you are not an English speaker. A medical situation requires a clear and accurate translator, so as to convey the correct information to the patients.
Having interpreters and translators on hand in schools is critical in ensuring that all students get a fair and equal education. Sitting through a lesson can be tough, but imagine doing so when you don’t speak the same language as your teacher or your class. Interpreters and translators are important assets of the education industry.
As the world becomes more interconnected, it becomes more important that your business or company has an interpreter or translator on hand, in case you begin conducting business with an international branch. Interpreters and translators would be helpful during conference calls, or working with you to translate a document. Moreover, they could help your business secure international clients.
When people think of translators and interpreters, typically their mind goes to book translators. Book translations are incredibly important in helping to spread the ideas and beliefs of one culture to the rest of the world. In fact, many of the most beloved novels of our day have originated in a different language!
Ensuring that legal documents are translated correctly and understood is so important, as legal jargon is typically dense and difficult to understand, even in one’s native language. In addition to the complexity of the language is the fact that laws differ from country to country, which is necessary to know when traveling abroad. Related to this is the idea that, if someone breaks the law when abroad, they are entitled to a trial that they can understand.
Last but not least, the travel industry is extremely important for interpreters and translators. Not only can they assist with planning a trip abroad and understanding itineraries or booking reservations in a different language, but they can also help with interpreting or translating once you arrive.
Interpreters and staff from Access 2 Interpreters attended a seminar hosted by Nationwide Children’s Hospital on Thursday evening, August 24, 2017. Among the Access attendees were CEO Yana Schottenstein, COO Christopher Stein, and over 160 Access interpreters.
The topics of the seminar were HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and interpretation assignments at the Child Advocacy Center. The HIPAA segment focused on protecting Personal Health Information (PHI), maintaining HIPAA compliance, and preventing violations and breaches. The section dedicated to the Child Advocacy Center provided interpreters and staff with valuable information regarding child abuse assignments. NCH offered advice and guidance on how to handle the sensitive interpretation sessions at the Child Advocacy Center.
“I was excited and proud to see our large group come together as one team united by one goal: to learn more about laws and situations that govern our profession and improve as individuals and as a team,” remarked Schottenstein. “The presenters were excellent, and the positive feedback I received after the event is a testament to the fact that the interpreters left the seminar empowered by additional knowledge.”
“I found the seminar very useful. It was important to have the information about assignments at the Child Advocacy Center reinforced for our interpreters. It is vital information,” added Access interpreter and trainer, Dr. Ali Al Safi.
“I want to thank the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Interpreter Services Department for their collaborative effort in working with our Access team and helping our interpreters continue growing as professionals,” Schottenstein concluded.
Language is one of the most important components of culture: members of a group need to be
able to understand each other, and the shared language is often a unifier of that group’s members.
Unfortunately, the irony of the globally connected world we live in, in which culture can now be
shared across the world in seconds, is a rapid extinction of the languages of many cultures. It is
estimated that a language goes extinct every two weeks, which nearly wipes out those cultures.
Here are some examples of endangered languages from across the globe.
Why languages go extinct
Several factors can cause a language to become endangered or extinct. Speakers might not be
passing the language down to the youth of that culture. Another source is speakers of the
language no longer viewing it as important to their sense of self, meaning they are less likely to
use it in everyday situations. Luckily, many cultures are making efforts to preserve their native
Sauk Fox-American Midwest
Sauk Fox is an Algonquian dialect that is currently down to less than 200 speakers. The decline
of this language goes back to colonial America, in which American settlement forced them
further west. There are remnants of the Sauk and Fox in the American Midwest and Oklahoma.
Unfortunately, all fluent speakers of Sauk Fox are above the age of 70, placing the language at a
high risk of becoming extinct.
To combat the potential loss of Sauk Fox forever, an apprenticeship program was created in
which the fluent speakers teach younger members of the tribe who teach other students.
Irish is a Celtic language and was the inspiration of other Celtic languages such as Scottish and
Welsh as it spread to what is now Britain. The Irish had a rich literary history, and tablets have
been found with the Irish language translated into Latin from the 600s AD. This discovery makes
Irish the oldest written language north of the Alps.
The decline of the Irish language began in the 1500s after being conquered by England. The
conquest created the need to use English in affairs of state. Additionally, the Great Potato
Famine in the 1800s caused many speakers to emigrate. Today, Irish is rebounding now that it is
recognized as an official language of the Republic of Ireland.
The Ainu are a Japanese minority from the northern island of Hokkaido. The Ainu language is
unrelated to Japanese, and its origins are still currently unknown. The language was stigmatized
by the Japanese, leading to the loss of many native speakers as well as an aging population. The
remaining fluent Ainu speakers are at least 80 years old. In the modern day, Ainu is taught in
several universities to preserve the language’s heritage.