Exploring languages and cultures
Exploring languages and cultures

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Exploring languages and cultures

4.3.1 Using interpreters

When doing business with international partners, the lack of a shared language can be an issue. Both of the speakers in the next two videos use the term translation as they describe interpreting jobs. These two skills are often confused, and you will learn more about each of them in Activities 31 and 32.

Activity 31

In this video, Declan O’Dea, sales manager at Guidance’s international marine department, discusses the advantages and disadvantages of using plurilingual staff as interpreters to facilitate communication in international business situations.

Watch the video and complete the sentences below.

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Transcript: Interpreting (Part 1)

Declan O’Dea, international sales manager (marine):
When I go to meetings in Brazil, in the first year going there on my own, I often had to rely on a service partner, for example, er, translating in the meeting because one thing that surprised me initially was that very few people, um, have fluent English. Depending on the level of education, er, some will have, you know, basic English, but, you know, I was relying on most of the customers being able to understand me and me understand them but that wasn’t the case, so fortunately, that we have a couple of service partners out there who would do the translation. However, it is a disadvantage because you lose control of the situation. You’re relying more on your service partner to deliver your sales message rather than yourself, and of course, you don’t know if they’re doing that effectively or talking about a completely different topic. So, that’s why the Portuguese lessons are a great help because even though it just gives us a basic knowledge, sometimes it’s enough just to pick up what’s being said. If you are using a translator, it means you know the topic and sometimes you can jump in and just indicate by your response that you are understanding, er, you know, the flow of the conversation. You don’t have enough to ever conduct the, er, the discussion totally in Portuguese because you won’t have that level of fluency, but often, it’s very beneficial just to have the gist of what’s being said.

End transcript: Interpreting (Part 1)
Interpreting (Part 1)
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1. The advantage of using an interpreter is that …

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Answer

It enables people to understand what their interlocutor is saying.

2. The disadvantage of this approach is that …

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Answer

You rely on somebody else to deliver your sales message and so you lose control of the situation.

3. One way to get around this problem is to make sure you have …

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Answer

A basic knowledge of the other language, so that you can at least figure out the gist of what is being said.

Activity 32

You will now watch another account of an experience involving language mediation, this time from the perspective of the person doing the interpreting. Alessandra Bunel is a business development manager who occasionally also acts as an ad-hoc interpreter. Watch the video and answer the question below.

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Transcript: Interpreting (Part 2)

Alessandra Bunel, business development manager:
I have done this kind of translation a lot and recently, we did a offshore test which I suppose not be involved because that would be a technical job, and the captain which was in charge of the vessel, a whole crew were Portuguese, Brazilian actually, and he asked me to be on board because he, he wasn’t comfortable to communicate. So, was quite a experience because one thing is when you do a translation on like a meeting, which is, there is no risk involved, but we are doing some operations off a vessel and I have to kind of guide the captain which way he should go to move the vessel and everything like left, right, give instructions basically, and it was very tricky, and one thing as well that just make me remember is the fact we Brazilians sometimes speak everybody at the same time [laughs]. So, especially in this situation where I have the captain, I’ve got the pilot, I’ve got some er Brazilians that they were from the [inaudible], and I have some English, em, personnel from Guidance on board. So I could see two or three people speak at the same time and even myself I was confused, so I have to say, ‘Come on, let’s talk one each time’, which is quite common as well. So, I have done this kind of translation on job. It’s very tricky, but it’s very rewarding at the same time because you can make everybody understand each other.
End transcript: Interpreting (Part 2)
Interpreting (Part 2)
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In what way do the challenges described by Alessandra Bunel differ from those mentioned by Declan O’Dea in the previous step?

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Answer

While Declan O’Dea considered the potential impact of mediation on sales, Alessandra Bunel’s concerns are principally related to safety. She also mentions the added difficulty resulting from the Brazilians’ habit of talking at the same time as each other.

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