In Global Economy, ‘lost in translation’ Not an Option

By Amanda Roberge CORRESPONDENT with Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp.

WESTBORO —  Translations can be tricky.

Similar to the Got Milk? campaign in the U.S., the Hay Leche? campaign in Spanish-speaking countries translated to “Are you lactating?” for locals.

MacNeill Engineering Worldwide, manufacturer of CHAMP brand athletic products, is based in Marlboro, but manufactures all of its products in Hong Kong.

According to Jessica Georgenes, the company’s marketing manager and tour coordinator, English is the language spoken at business meetings, no matter where they are held. However, she added, it doesn’t always work out smoothly. Cultural differences and having quite a bit of vernacular “lost in translation” is an ongoing issue.

Sometimes we understand the words they are saying, but we have to really slow down and try to figure out exactly what they are asking,” she said. “The words might be clear, but the meaning might not be.”

If only it were as simple as typing a few foreign words into a computer program and getting out a clean, error-free and understandable translation.

(Computer programs) are good enough if you need to get the general gist of a private email or conversation,” said Nabil Freij, owner of GlobalVision International Inc., a company whose Westboro headquarters is run by his sister, Micheline Freij, director of global operations. “But if your interest is to look professional, you need to find a professional.”

Wendy Pease, owner of Rapport International in Sudbury, said, “Even through a difficult recession, this (interpretation and translation) industry continues to grow.”

The industry consists of three main avenues of service, and they are often confused with each other.

Interpretation is the real-time service, mostly used for face-to-face exchanges.

Translation is a transfer of written content from one language to another.

Localization refers to the final tier of the process, which allows for websites and literature to be translated within a cultural context.

Doing the actual translation is only 60 to 70 percent of localization,” said Mr. Freij.

Unlike Ms. Pease’s company, in which translation projects are done exclusively by people, Mr. Freij’s company has developed unique computer software that has a memory for past projects, and employs people to continually update that database. If selling in a particular country, he said, consumers will want to see the right cultural innuendos, currency, and jargon, which are fluid and ever-changing.

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Source: Amanda Roberge CORRESPONDENT with Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp.

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