Consider taking an interpreter when meeting with French business partners

25 07 2017

Europe’s second largest economy offers a number of opportunities. The key to a good relationship with French partners involves having a clear understanding of French culture and etiquette, which are distinctly different from those in the U.S. The French believe that the business relationships you develop are more important than the contracts, so think in the long-term about building partnerships.  

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To start with, remember: you’ll get furthest with some knowledge of French.

The traditional belief that the French often do not bother with English and other foreign languages is not far from the truth. In large and multinational companies, the situation is better, but it is still recommended to learn at least a few basic phrases in French. ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Enchanté’ (it’s nice to meet you) are almost essential. To a certain extent the emphasis on using their own language is due to national pride. The French have a deep patriotism. Although it is a very diverse country in which many different cultures live, they tend to have a reserved approach toward foreigners. If you are in doubt about a situation, it might be best to use interpreters’ services.

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French society is very hierarchic, and this also has an effect on business relationships. Therefore, always be careful to ensure that your French business partner communicates with someone in a correlating position in your company. Respect toward a company’s management is also shown through gestures such as standing up when superiors enter the room, or through acknowledging their arrival, at the least.

There is a general emphasis on education and good morals. In discussions with you, French business partners may debate about the most wide-ranging topics and in the process assess your intellectual abilities. French men are gentlemen based on principle, treat women with courtesy, and adhere to ethical standards. Of course, there is also an emphasis on elegant fashion and aesthetics in general. For instance, the French consider the quality of their environment, wherever they are, to be very important. So, when choosing a location for lunch or dinner, consider not only the quality of the food and a good address, but also the restaurant’s interior design and ambiance.

First – and lasting — impressions

The French prefer personal interaction, so initial contact should be made by telephone, rather than e-mail. Arrive at meetings on time (although the French are comfortable with slight delays), shake your business partner’s hand, and start the meeting with casual conversation. The French do not get right down to the heart of the matter, and this is in part because they are seeking to understand you as an individual. If you seem disinterested in debating the issues involved with your potential deal, they can consider that a sign of arrogance.

The French pay close attention to detail, so you can expect a lot of added questions. It will be a major advantage to have a visual presentation prepared, such as a PowerPoint presentation, and descriptions in French will aid your cause. The French are generally conservative when it comes to body language.

When defending their own interests, the French know how to be tough, and when negotiating, they are suspicious of supposed “win-win” deals. They are not generally fond of risk, and prefer arrangements that leave room for adjustment and adaptation over time.

During negotiations, it is acceptable and appropriate to take detailed notes so that you will be able to ensure that everything makes sense. French meetings tend to be more creative than the average American business meeting. It can seem as if they are rudely interrupting you in conversation, but this is a customary French mode of expressing interest in the topic. It’s probably a good idea to pay close attention to their suggestions, without allowing them to throw off your focus. For important negotiations, it is a good idea to sign a written document, such as a memorandum. In fact, with the French oral agreements don’t mean much, so if you’re serious, get it in writing.

http://www.skrivanek.com





A Special Challenge for Political Interpreters: America’s 45th President

6 03 2017

Professional language interpreters of political leaders face numerous obstacles to accuracy. Among those: the speaker’s voice or accent, his or her attitude, missed words, misheard words, misconstrued logic of the speaker’s thoughts. When every sentence must be quickly or even simultaneously translated, the interpreter must – like lightning – 1) understand what is being said, 2) convert it, and 3) deliver it.

A prestigious job, certainly, but an extreme challenge under any circumstances.

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Add to this picture a leader like the new American President, whose speech contains multiple idiosyncrasies, and the problems are not merely technical, but can become ethical. As French translator Berengere Viennot wrote in the French edition of Slate, if she translates what he is actually saying, French listeners may not understand him; however, if she edits and smoothes his language then she misrepresents him as “an ordinary politician who speaks properly.”

An interpreter’s job requires acting; the interpreter must “become” that person whose words they are translating. Vile ideas, ugly words, offensive arguments … these are not the interpreter’s to soften or exclude. It is incumbent upon interpreters to expressively communicate all of the ideas their subject speaks, as well as every emotion, nuance, and tonal element that can possibly be conveyed.

So translating low-minded comments and vulgar words is all part of the job, although slang, sarcasm, and innuendo are notoriously difficult to find equivalents for. What’s troubling in the 45th American President’s talk is more fundamental. Good interpreters attempt to get into the minds of the politicians they are translating, because if they can understand their subjects’ ways of thinking, the interpreters can more fluently anticipate and comprehend the speakers’ ideas. But finding integrated ideas at the core of the 45th President’s mind has proven difficult so far.

From the point of view of many professionals, Donald Trump’s ramblings often just don’t contain clear meanings. Agness Kaku, based in Tokyo, told the Washington Post that within Trump’s remarks the subject is very easy to keep track of: “it’s about him, it’s about the enemy.” But the actual point of his sentences is hard to track. “It just drifts,” she said. “You end up having to guess as a translator, which isn’t very good.”

And who takes the blame for incoherent translations that might have relied on some guessing?

“Trump gives me outbreaks of sweat,” his German translator said, according to a Tweet by journalist Laura Schneider. “He is so contradictory that people think the translator talks rubbish.”

There have been many tense moments and high stakes in the history of political interpreting, and it seems there may be an increased number in the near future. But on the other hand, in your world, for your interpreting needs, Skrivanek offers some of the best professionals in the industry, and we are ready for any challenge.

J. McShulskis





Germany’s Dedication to Data Privacy

6 02 2017

Germany is working toward being the most secure digital data site in the world. But as the world’s citizens knit together in networks that aren’t confined within geopolitical borders, the governments of individual countries with strong values face complex legal and trade-related issues when trying to assert them.

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A serious emphasis on privacy is embedded in German law, and even more deeply ingrained in German culture. The 1949 German constitution created after WWII forbids spying on German citizens, and challenges to the fierce protection of privacy tend to spark quick, wary references to the past. The Federal Data Protection Act was established in 1990, and has continued to be strengthened since then.

Digital Society, in Berlin, is a group of 35 industry specialists (such as copyright lawyers, cryptography professors and journalists) formed in 2010 to keep the public educated about data privacy issues, and to propose legislation to the German parliament. “In Germany,” said Markus Beckedahl, one of Digital Society’s founders, “privacy is a civil right, and in the United States, it’s an option.” Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations about the US data collection of German citizens’ phone conversations by the NSA dominated German media for a while, and damaged German-American relations.

But pressures from the EU and international giants like Google and Amazon, push data-sharing agreements that prioritize corporate profits and consumer convenience, as well as fears, such as that of terrorism. Many countries are building policy around such concerns, but Germany would like to avoid capitulation to compromised security standards, even as it retains leadership as an economic power.

A recent survey by auditor KPMG and the German digital trade association, Bitkom, shows that 83% of German companies expect their cloud provider to retain its data centers in Germany, while 74% want them to at least be located somewhere in the EU. This is not a perspective that supports such strategies as the EU plan to create the Digital Single Market (DSM), which would be a unified EU digital market that eliminates regulatory barriers for online services and goods.

Nor does this attitude embrace the EU-US Privacy Shield agreement that went into effect in July of 2016. That agreement gives companies the legal right to transfer data from the EU to the US, but with required US Department of Commerce reviews. Resistance continues, however, although one compromise that seems to be effective as practiced by companies such as Microsoft, is to assign “data trustees” within Germany, no matter where the data is physically stored or what levels of encryption it has undergone.

Awareness of this highly sensitive issue is important to keep in mind when dealing with German clients, maintaining respect for boundaries you may not be accustomed to dealing with. Skrivanek Group is well acquainted with all the relevant subtleties of the German culture and language, as well as the country’s laws, including the new and volatile area of cyber-law.

 J. McShulskis

 

 





New Markets in an Ancient Land – Localizing in Persian

15 12 2016

Nearly 80 million people inhabit Iran, the second largest country in the Middle East, and years of trade restrictions have limited that enormous consumer population’s connection to international products. Businesses in the west hoped for an explosion of trade after the nuclear-program-related trade sanctions of 2012 were lifted shiraz-1481595_1280in early 2016, but that has not yet happened. Apparently, logistical and diplomatic work remains to be done to secure trust and compromises about policies, the current resistance arising more from the government of the U.S., than that of Europe or Iran.

 

In spite of the hitches, Persian localization is accessible, and much more approachable than it was ten years ago, before some large-scale localization work was done by mega-companies such as Google and Microsoft. The frontier has been softened by the development of new, effective tools for translation into Persian, larger software glossaries, an increased number of available language and subject matter experts, and the like.

There are three modern strains of Persian, Iran’s being called by both Persian and Farsi. Since the Muslim conquest of Persia in 651 AD, the word “Farsi” began to be used in documents, because the word “pars” – for “Persian” – contains a “p” and Arabic does not provide a corresponding character or sound. That term “Farsi” was officially adopted to describe the Persian language by English nations in 1935, for political reasons, and it is often used in the west, but Persian refers more accurately to the language of Iran versus the Persian of Islamic/Arabic influences.* The two other modern strains of Persian are Dari, spoken in Afghanistan, and Tajiki, of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the latter of which uses the Cyrillic alphabet; but speakers of all three Persian variations can understand each other without significant obstacles.

Obstacles to localization, on the other hand, abound, for many of the usual reasons: religion, culture, consumer history, limited native on-site expertise, and unusual language features. Consider the simple fact that Persian reads from right to left, and therefore a customer reading advertising text who comes upon the left-to-right reading name of a European or American company has to switch directions when reaching the English interruption. Directional processes affected by the placement of tabs and action buttons must also be considered. The entire orientation of a page is going to be different.

Since the ninth century, Arabic has influenced Persian – the scripts are quite close, for example – but there are still notable differences that will show up as errors in translation software that is checking for Arabic alphabet accuracy. For example, Perso-Arabic individual letters have up to four different, slightly altered forms, depending on their location within the word, and therefore the automatic joining of letters (when prefixes are involved, for instance) is not always desirable. Because computer programs are set up to join the letters of distinct words in a cursive string, a nonprinting character called ZWNJ (zero-width non-joiner) must be used to override automatic joining and ensure breaks where they need to be.

There is passionate national feeling for Persian in Iran – it is an ancient language that has been evolving in a country with a seven thousand-year-old architectural presence on the planet. English is spoken more commonly than it once was in Iran, and it has a presence in major Iranian cities, but that presence is still a limited one. Even young consumers, who may be fluent in English, prefer localized websites. It’s a country where per capita income has been for the most part steadily rising for decades until the trade sanctions of 2012. Now that those have been lifted, there seems to be every reason to hope that the Iranian consumer market will soon be a strong one.

As one of the top fifty language service providers in the world, Skrivanek has extensive experience localizing all types of content for the Iranian market, and we are happy to discuss your needs any time.

 J. McShulskis

 

* “Persian NOT Farsi,” by Shapour Suren-Pahlav, 2007, Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies, http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Languages/persian_not_farsi.htm





Skrivanek will be at tcworld 2016 – Tekom Annual Conference, Stuttgart November 8th-10th 2016

18 10 2016

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Skrivanek’s Project Management Team Leader Jan Hirš will be representing the company at the tcworld conference in Stuttgart at the beginning of November. Jan has been working for various LSPs for almost 10 years and  has extensive experience in all aspects of the translation business. Most recently he has been appointed head of Skrivanek’s  International Project Management Center and Localization department providing language services to major companies and organizations worldwide.

 

If you would like to contact Jan prior to the event:

Phone: +420 739 391 791

Email: jan.hirs@skrivanek.com

 

See you in  Stuttgart!

L.Radova





Thinking Global from the Beginning

11 10 2016

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European “Eunicorns” have a globalization advantage: out of necessity, they globalize much earlier than successful North American startup companies. Markets in France, Spain, Sweden and other European countries are so much smaller than the English-speaking block, that entrepreneurs think beyond their own borders from day one. Then, when expansion to new markets is the best next step, their mindsets are flexible, translation resources in place, and geographical scalability already prepared for.

But why should a start-up in North America, the UK or Australia think beyond the enormous English-speaking market until much further down the road? For one thing, two-thirds of their customers lie outside that market, by some estimates. And since investors like to see long-term thinking, the question of where a company will be selling in five or ten years is immediately relevant.

An additional advantage is that some potential markets are also less competitive than those an English-speaking company may be most accustomed to selling to, because of fewer similar products. As an example, Arabic markets are often neglected by English-speaking companies, and yet they account for nearly 5% of the world’s internet users*. An early move to localize for such a market could be strategically brilliant.

Thinking globally before you “have to” could save not only money, but protect you from failed efforts and wasted time when you do start to move in that direction. If from the start you are planning with a global market in mind, you will use concepts, logos, and branding, that are simple and direct, and therefore easy to localize. Knowing and working from the essence of what your product offers your customers, you can choose keywords and phrases that don’t have to be abandoned later because they are only relevant to, for instance, an American audience.

Another important localization piece that can be provided for early on: any software you use should be able to support international character sets (Unicode), with user-visible text and images separate from executable code, and a capacity for text expansion.

For an American or UK start-up with limited localization resources, one safe, lower budget way to initiate global readiness could be to localize from American to UK English (or vice versa). Of course the languages are so close as to be interchangeable, to a large extent. It is easy to find UK variations that are accepted and understood by Americans, or Australian phrasing that does not deter purchases by UK buyers.

But the differences that do exist – spelling, phrasing, humor, cultural references — can be addressed and resolved. An internal structure for doing so can be developed within your company, including the development of a working relationship with a strong LSP such as Skrivanek. Then the interface for more complex localization will be in place, the process practiced and the glitches worked out.

J. McShulskis

*internetworldstats.com

 





Will Brexit Weaken the Presence of English in Europe?

18 07 2016

The European Union currently has 24 official languages, one language chosen by each of the 28 member countries. All enjoy equal status, a founding belief being that every citizen has a right to know what is going on in their name and to play an active part if they wish to.

English was chosen by just one country: the United Kingdom. Ireland chose Gaelic, and Malta chose Maltese, in spite of the fact that English is in everyday use in both of those countries. The existing structure of the EU dictates that if the UK leaves the EU, so does English as a member language.

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One of the practical consequences of that for the UK and other English-speaking nations that trade with the EU, would be that EU documents would not be produced in English by the internal EU translation entity, DG Translation. All translation would have to be done by the foreign, English-speaking companies or governments, at their own expense. Another consequence is that English is currently one of the three EU “working languages” used to apply for EU Patents, among many other processes, giving English-speaking researchers and corporations an edge over competitors who don’t work in English, French or German (the other two working languages), and that advantage would be lost.

The three working languages account for about 70 percent of material that is translated in the EU, according to Europa.eu, the EU’s official website. The other 30 percent is comprised of legislation and major policy documents, which are translated into all 24 official languages.

What is the linguistic future of the EU? As the UK begins to execute its EU departure, opinions vary as to whether English might be kept on as a working language, and there are strong comments from EU commissioners both for and against. The process could take up to seven years, European Council President Donald Tusk has warned, and the question of language is only one of many – but it’s one that cuts deeply into the emotions of Europeans all over the map.

Skrivanek has been providing translation services to the European Commission, Translation Centre for the Bodies of EU, European Parliament etc. since 2003, and in that time has delivered over 1,000,000 pages in 14 languages, including English, covering a wide range of subject matter. We will be watching developments closely, and our clients both commercial and institutional can rest assured that we will track changes and new requirements in order to provide exactly what is needed.

J. McShulskis