Between, Between and Drink a Chair

By | June 12, 2015

Be careful with translations.  Relying on Google or any other digital translation can bring you problems,  Not just small mistakes; but mistakes where the meaning is jumbled up and confusing.

Effectively using a language that you to communicate with customers requires understanding the cultural context that it comes in.

The title of this blog is the literal translation of entre, entre y tome una silla in Spanish.  Which more often means Come in, come in and have a seat.

Lest you think that English is immune to the context, particularly cultural context of meaning, consider the word “table.”

If you are in a meeting with U.S. speakers of English, “to table” means to put aside.  But in England, “to table” means to discuss it now as the next agenda point.  Same word.  Opposite meaning.  There are quite a few words and expressions like that where the cultural context makes a huge difference in the meaning.

There are also ideas where the cultural context requires using different words.  When we dealt with an Australian client, we did considerable work with their superannuation products.  At first our account manager did not understand what they were talking about.  Why?  Because what they call superannuation we call pensions.  Same idea, but different words in different contexts.

The same is true in French and Spanish, the most common languages we work with beyond English.  It makes a difference if it is Quebec French or France French.  And Spanish has so many flavours it is hard to be culturally neutral.  From Spain to Argentina to Colombia, people use different words and have different idiomatic expressions to refer to the same things.

The message here, like it always is for communications, start with an understanding of who you are speaking to.  And make sure the message is not just passable to them, but reaches them in a way they can understand.  Remember the goal is to get through, be clear and be remembered.

For translations, use someone who has a cultural background that relates to your target, not just the language skills.  The language is only half of the equation.  Every piece of communication has a context it is received in.  And clarity is what you are after.

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