Archives for Interpreting - Page 2

Minding the gaffe in a global business world

handshakeA great article in yesterday’s Times from Jenni Russell, talking about social norms now that we live in a world where we need to work with and understand people from so many different cultures.

She says that the Foreign Office is launching the Diplomatic Academy, essentially a finishing school for diplomats, to help them through these social and cultural minefields and make them the best in the world.

Of course, it’s not just diplomats who need this sort of knowledge – it’s everyone in business who wants to export their products to other countries or has a multicultural workforce. As Jenni puts it:

‘How many of us know that Finnish acquaintances should never be hugged or kissed; that two or three-minute pauses in conversation are common and should not be interrupted, and that a careless British phrase such as “We should have lunch” will be taken as a solemn invitation when all we mean is: “I like you but I may well never see you again”?

‘Or that the Dutch get down to frank business negotiations immediately and will proceed fast once consensus is reached, whereas the Portuguese expect several discursive meetings before any clear results? That the French would prefer you to blow your nose in private, that Americans expect brief questions and answers in social situations and get uncomfortable if anyone holds the floor for a long time; that you should not show anger or attempt to tell jokes in Singapore? That Turks will be deeply offended if the sole of your shoe faces them? Or that in some Asian cultures, by advancing on anybody with your arm outstretched, insisting on eye contact and saying: “Hello, I’m Bill”, (or Jane), you might be offending on three fronts at once?’Go Global

Our Go Global product includes notes on culture for each language you want your documents translated into – and of course, we can translate documents and provide interpreting for your workforce too.


You can read the full article here (paywall)

Tess Wright Chief Executive


image credit: Henkster

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Are dying languages worth saving?

old bookI was thinking about this over the weekend, when I listened to Any Questions on BBC Radio 4 (guaranteed to get my blood boiling for all sorts of reasons!)

The last question was about whether it is necessary or desirable for the Welsh government to spend time and significant amounts of money on translating information into Welsh, providing interpreters and teaching Welsh in schools, when it is spoken by only a small proportion of people living in Wales.

The questioner was booed when he asked the question, and the panel unanimously (perhaps running scared) said that it was both necessary and desirable (although a substantial part of the audience later disagreed when they voted on it).

I had a look for some information on this, and found an article on the BBC website –    It’s from 2010, but still interesting reading.

The Foundation for Endangered Languages held a conference in Camarthen, West Wales, appropriately enough to discuss the facts that although there are over 6000 languages spoken worldwide, up to 1000 of these are only spoken by a handful of people – and 25 languages are lost every year.

Samuel Johnson said ‘language is the dress of thought’ – if you lose the language, you lose the knowledge it expresses, and also individualism and identity.

Others say this is nonsense – it’s about cultural change, how do we ever progress if we have a romantic desire to cling on to the past, to things that were once useful but are now irrelevant.  We should focus on teaching people useful languages like Chinese Mandarin, Spanish and English.

I can’t make up my mind on this.  Part of me loves the idea that we don’t just do things because of their usefulness, and I think the past matters – not just romantically, but because of what we can learn from it.  The other part thinks that when resources are limited and need is great, we should spend money where it will do most good – and if the language hadn’t progressed, we would still be speaking Anglo Saxon, or Middle English – which were surely of their time and not relevant for now (much as I love Chaucer!)

What do you think?  Do add your comments below.

Tess Wright, Chief Executive


image credit: Pontus Edenberg /

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Can you learn a language in three months?

speech bubblesI was listening to Midweek on Radio 4 last week and was fascinated by a guy called Benny Lewis, who says he couldn’t speak any foreign languages when he left school but now speaks ten, including Mandarin, Arabic, Portuguese and Hungarian!

I don’t think he means he can speak them well enough to do interpreting or translation, but enough to hold a conversation with the people in whichever country he is in that goes beyond ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘where are the toilets?’

Enough to give him an impression of the language and culture – by joining in – that is much richer than the superficial impression most visitors would receive if they can’t understand the language.

He does it by total immersion – going to live in whichever country whose language he wants to learn and refusing to speak English.  One of his main techniques seems to be don’t make excuses such as ‘it’s too hard’ or ‘I’m too old’ or ‘they’ll think I’m an idiot’ – these rang a bell with me!

He’s just been made National Geographic’s Traveler of the Year on the back of all his learning trips.

You can hear the programme via the Radio 4 website – 

and you can visit the website of the man himself at 

So what do you think – is it possible to learn a language well enough in three months to do more than get by as a visitor?  And is it just the British who are scared of looking stupid when they try and speak other languages?

Look forward to your comments below.

Tess Wright, Chief Executive

Cintra Translation contact details