Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Sound of Your Voice

American’s pattern of communicating, quickly and directly can be perceived as helpful, surprising, annoying or rude, depending on the listener. But it is not only the “say what you mean” style that can unsettle others. I was reminded of this reality by a comment from a Swiss friend who works in Switzerland, Germany and France. He said, “the more important our conversation, the quieter we get. You Americans, he said, you’re always loud. No matter whether the topic is important or not, everyone can hear you. It’s amazing.”

As we move around the world, speaking with people from many places, in a variety of situations, it can be useful to check our volume setting. Don’t let the sound of the words take away from their importance.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Your Translator May Need Help

We think it should be easy. Like having an audio dictionary. We image that our translator will know the exact equivalent any word we use in the language they speak. The reality is that it doesn’t always work that way. Recently the word ‘sophisticated’ didn’t translate easily from English to Chinese. In fact it was a challenge for three bi-lingual people including one certified by the government as a Chinese/English (American) translator.

For several minutes they struggled and discussed with the speaker how best to convey the meaning of the word in the context where it was used. Would refined or highly evolved or polished be reasonable substitutes?

Listening to the conversation reminded me that as speakers we should be prepared to help clarify our meaning, to provide synonyms and explanations. Working well with a translator means more than submitting your slides and outline in advance. Think of the relationship as a short-term partnership dedicated to ensuring that your message is clearly communicated. So don’t get unsettled if the going isn’t smooth. Let the audience see you working together to help the message become clear. It shows that you are interested in their experience and that is good in any language.