Interpreters a Key Asset to International Companies

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Interpreters a Key Asset to International Companies

The wrong interpreter can cost a company its international business. Just ask Graham Cartledge, chairman of a British architectural firm. What he thought was a discussion of possible plans was understood by his international client as a final design. Cartledge had hired an interpreter who knew more about French literature than the building industry, and the miscommunication lost the project for his firm. With expansion into foreign markets, many businesses are now in the position of needing interpreters to communicate with both employees and customers. Setting up an in-house team is an option for companies that require frequent interpreting services, but companies using interpreters on a more occasional basis often hire from agencies to avoid overhead expense. The drawback? Outside interpreters may be excellent linguists, but they do not always have insider knowledge of the company and the industry's terminology. Businesses moving abroad are slowing recognizing the problem. "Someone who is fresh out of school may not be as good as someone with no qualifications and years of experience," says AstraZeneca Communications Director Birte Sebastian. Gaële Olivier, vice-president of communications at the Axa Group, learned first hand the major role culture plays in the success or failure of interpreting. Working in Japan, she began to question her reliance on an interpreter for the subtleties of the language. Olivier believed that cultural assumptions embedded within words may defy interpreting. She decided to learn Japanese. Sebastian notes that there are things businesses could do to ensure the success of their interpreting. She says that corporations often sabotage their events by not sufficiently briefing their interpreters beforehand. "Familiarizing the interpreter with the layout of the room, sharing the agenda and the objectives of the meeting with them—all these things can make a tremendous difference," she says.

From "A Matter of Interpretation"
Financial Times (United Kingdom) (02/01/10) Clegg, Alicia

Source: ATA Newsbriefs - February 2010


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