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.

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