By: Jamie Mitchell, Communications Coordinator, VPPPA, Inc.
This article is originally from the Summer 2018 issue of the VPPPA quarterly magazine, The Leader. You can subscribe to receive The Leader, here.
Earlier this summer, United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader, Kim Jung Un, met for a historic talk. But they were not alone in the room. Each leader had their own interpreter tasked with translating between the two men—accurately relaying every word with the correct context and expression.
Despite our technological world full of free online translating tools, the translation services industry is still booming. According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, the translation industry is expected to grow by 42 percent between 2010–2020. As the global economy continues to expand, and international business becomes more intertwined, communication between people who may speak different languages will continue to increase. This globalization in business, combined with a growing immigrant population, as well as people taking trips around the world (professionally and for pleasure), leads us to a growing need for language assistance.
English is very widely spoken around the world and is often the default common corporate language for international business relationships. However, holding a basic conversation in a language can be different than complete comprehension in the language. It is more effective to sell to people in a language they can fully comprehend. According to the market research company, Common Sense Advisory, “Based on a survey of more than 3,000 global consumers in 10 non-Anglophone countries in Europe, Asia, and South America, 75 percent prefer to buy products in their native language.” Translators can provide the necessary verbal and/or written assistance in the (business) world that crosses cultural communication boundaries.
Translation, Inclusivity & Innovation
As the world becomes more connected, it follows that it should become more inclusive. Interpreters and translators are also crucial in other industries, like the medical field. While the need for accurate translations increases, some industries still struggle to utilize these crucial services. Hospitals are required to offer translation services, and according to a 2016 Reuters Health study, nearly one-third of U.S. hospitals failed to provide interpreters to patients with limited English. In addition, “Private, not-for-profit hospitals were far more likely to offer translation services than private for-profit and government hospitals,” the study found. The Migration Policy Institute notes, “In 2015, more than 25.9 million people were Limited English Proficient, accounting for nine percent of the overall U.S. population ages five and older.” A patient’s health and safety is at risk if they cannot accurately describe what is wrong to their doctor, and studies have shown that patients with language proficiency gaps are often hospitalized longer or misdiagnosed. Melody Schiaffino, an epidemiologist at San Diego State University’s Graduate School of Public Health, commented to Reuters, “People have a right to hear a cancer diagnosis in a language they understand, not through hand gestures…When hospitals don’t make interpreters available, much can be lost in translation.”
Translating is not limited to the spoken word. Accredited Language Services states, “The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 established a series of measures to prohibit instances of discrimination because of a person’s disability. The ADA requires that the communication needs of hard of hearing and deaf persons are met, and this frequently demands the use of an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter.” A few key instances where an ASL interpreter would be required include: medical settings, a job interview, in school, or even in a hotel. As technology improves, we can hope to create an increasingly inclusive community for people with different abilities. One woman, Melissa “echo” Greenlee, owns and operates a review website called “deaffriendly.” The site, deaffriendly.com, allows deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing consumers in the U.S. to rate and review businesses on how accessible and deaf-friendly they are. Greenlee’s site also provides private assessments, training and consultation for businesses to improve their product or services to be more accessible.
Another recent innovation aims to make braille (a system of raised dots that can be read by those who are blind or with low vision), more familiar and accessible. Kosuke Takahashi, a Tokyo-based designer, has redesigned the tactile braille script to make it readable for both visually impaired and sighted people. To put it simply, this new system of braille, called Braille Neue, superimposes the raised dots onto letterforms. So far, Braille Neue Standard incorporates the Latin alphabet, and Braille Neue Outline can use Japanese and Latin writing systems. On Takahashi’s website it states, “Currently, we rarely see braille implemented in the public space since it takes additional space and sighted people consider it not important. Braille Neue addresses this issue by making braille easy to use for sighted people. Braille Neue is a universal typeface that combines braille with existing characters. This typeface communicates to both the sighted and blind people in the same space.” This innovator is also hoping to connect with the Olympic Committee to include Braille Neue Outline on the signs at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. He hopes to create a more inclusive society where braille is more commonplace.
Translating & the Safety Industry
Construction, manufacturing and other assorted industries are known to be dangerous. Added to that, the additional danger of a worker not understanding directions or safety protocols could turn a common work day into a disaster. It is estimated that about 25 percent of job site accidents are due to language barriers. An EHS Today article by Jill Bishop, the founder and president of Workforce Language Services, states, “When it comes to safety, it’s important to understand where your people come from— both literally and figuratively. Learn about the workplace safety expectations your employees are familiar with, and you’ll have a better idea of how they’ll respond to U.S. safety expectations… Knowing more about your employees’ cultural backgrounds and perspectives will also improve your management skills. Understanding why there’s a gap between what you want them to do and what they actually do can help you identify and develop strategies to better and more effectively address safety issues.”
Translating safety manuals into a language your workers can effectively comprehend, as well as utilizing other onsite cross-cultural safety trainings, could easily save lives. Not being able to communicate with someone, especially at work, can be frustrating. However, as we continue to create a more connected, globalized world, many of us will be in contact with more people with different backgrounds than our own. At the end of the day, creating more inclusive work environments can only be beneficial—leading to an increase in productivity and safety.
3. www.pangeanic.com/knowledge_center/ size-of-the-translation-industry/#
7. www.afb.org/info/living-with-vision-loss/ braille/what-is-braille/123
8. www.commonsenseadvisory.com/Default. aspx?Contenttype=ArticleDet&tabID=64& moduleId=392&Aid=21500&PR=PR