Author Topic: Language Barrier at Work!  (Read 3339 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

RavenousEdenFleur

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 108
Language Barrier at Work!
« on: June 13, 2013, 09:15:40 PM »
Hi everyone. I started a new project, I'm working in a new industry that is very challenging and interesting and something I have little experience in. To make things more difficult the company is local but was originally started in another country, so no one in our small office speaks much English. Some speak it more than others but there seems to be a gap of understanding withus. Everyone is really sweet and works hard but it's a language I am not even a little familiar with and one that is hard to learn on your own, but I'm willing to learn a bit.

Over the last several days there has been issues with me taking a really long time doing a task because there was a misunderstanding on exactly what program to use and where the files were or exactly what the task was. I was told to make something from scratch but the main boss said she did not relay that to her assistant, she told me to update something already in the system... even though I made sure to reiterate what was needed.

Have you ever encountered this? We have started to make sure to have things in writing which has helped but is there anything etiquette wise I can do to help? I have researched the business culture and am following those etiquette rules as best as I can!

Marguette

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 345
Re: Language Barrier at Work!
« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2013, 09:35:00 PM »
Would it be possible to budget for an interpreter for a period of time?

Minmom3

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2355
Re: Language Barrier at Work!
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2013, 01:25:23 AM »
Can you get online and hit up a translator site?  Babbelfish (sp?) is one that works (we can use that where I work for customers for whom we're really stuck understanding).  None of them is perfect, but even rudimentary translation to help understand instructions better would be better than misunderstanding something to the point that you get lectured about it!
Mother to children and fuzz butts....

Marguette

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 345
Re: Language Barrier at Work!
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2013, 06:33:44 PM »
A computer translation site is better than nothing, but beware, depending on which languages are involved, the result can be worse than nonsense: it can turn the meaning of the sentence around to its opposite, especially between two languages that have different ways of saying negatives. Consider the difference between (a hypothetical, but realistic example).

Don’t push the red button until the nuclear emergency signal sounds.
Hold down the red button until the nuclear emergency signal no longer sounds.

These are examples of translations that computer translations can get wrong in the sense of reversing the meaning of the sentence because it gets confused by the negative.

Another one is when translating between a language where the adjective comes before the noun (like English), and one where the adjective comes after the noun (like French, Spanish, and other Latin languages). It’s really common for an adjective to float away from its noun and get attached to the wrong noun in translation – imagine the diplomatic pitfalls that result!
« Last Edit: June 15, 2013, 10:32:27 AM by Marguette »

artk2002

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 12569
    • The Delian's Commonwealth
Re: Language Barrier at Work!
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2013, 11:20:54 AM »
Ah yes: "The vodka is good but the steak is rotten."

(A possibly apocryphal result when "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" was run through an English-Russian and then Russian-English translator.)
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

Thipu1

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 6335
Re: Language Barrier at Work!
« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2013, 06:31:58 AM »
Ah yes: "The vodka is good but the steak is rotten."

(A possibly apocryphal result when "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" was run through an English-Russian and then Russian-English translator.)

Ah yes.  There's also the story that an attempt to translate 'out of sight, out of mind' ended up as 'the blind man is insane'. 

Try to explain the title of the movie 'Two-Bit Crooks' to a person whose native language is French. 

Seriously, even among native English speakers problems can arise in business situations. 

To 'table an issue' means something very different in the UK than it does in the USA. 
« Last Edit: June 16, 2013, 06:51:45 AM by Thipu1 »

Marguette

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 345
Re: Language Barrier at Work!
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2013, 04:09:33 PM »
It’s fun to share those (perhaps) apocryphal machine translation fails, but I want to remind the discussion that my examples are real.

Often you can tell when machine translation is nonsense because the result… doesn’t make sense. Then you can reword and try again. But the more subtle and dangerous cases are like as the ones I detailed above where the result makes perfect sense, and is expressed in correct language – but – it means the opposite of what it was supposed to mean. And if the two parties are communicating via the machine translation app because they don’t actually understand each others’ languages, there will be no one who can check the process, or realize what caused the blow-up when it happens.

mom2four

  • Jr. Member
  • *
  • Posts: 55
Re: Language Barrier at Work!
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2013, 09:19:24 AM »
Machine translations can only give you a rough idea of what a piece of writing is about. Apart from the examples already mentioned machines cannot make correct translations of words that have more than one meaning. I was recently quite puzzled by a review on a travel site untill I figured out that google translate had translated the word spoiled which on this occasion was used to mean ruined into a word in another language that means pampered (which is another meaning of spoiled - but it does make a difference when choosing a hotel)

camlan

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 8345
Re: Language Barrier at Work!
« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2013, 10:16:12 AM »
Some suggestions:

The office should invest in a couple of good English to [other language] dictionaries, including, if possible, a dictionary for the specific field the company specializes in.

Ask if the company will pay for language lessons for you, be they on-line, a tutor, a program like Rosetta Stone, etc.

It might be worth the expense for your boss to write up clear instructions for tasks you will be doing frequently. Then get them translated into English by a good translator who is familiar with the specialized field--you need someone who really knows the technical jargon in both languages. Best if the translator is a native English speaker. If the company is considering hiring more native English speakers in the future, this is an investment that will pay off. Translators usually charge by the word, starting low for basic language translation, like Spanish, French or German to English with simple text, and much higher for languages that don't use the Roman alphabet/highly technical language--Arabic, Japanese, Russian and medical, legal or scientific terminology, for example. So the cost will vary greatly between a Spanish to English document on how to copy double-sided documents and a Japanese to English electronics patent.

There are services that provide nearly instant interpretation. You call the service, tell them what languages you are dealing with, and they can interpret over the phone. So it would be a three-way phone call between your boss, the interpreter, and you. I have no idea what the cost is, however.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn

RavenousEdenFleur

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 108
Re: Language Barrier at Work!
« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2013, 12:44:50 PM »
Thank you everyone!! I am so bad at answering threads lately, for shame :(

We actually decided it was better to part ways, they found someone who spoke the language and had similar skills.I will miss it though!