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Don't Get Lost in Translation - 6 Tips for Multilingual Meetings
April 27, 2011 @ 01:01 PM | By Sarah Murphy

It can happen to anyone...

Recently one of my European co-workers came home to New England to visit family that happens to live in the same town I do. As we sat down to dinner with our husbands, she and I started to talk about work. I turned to the husbands to apologize for ‘talking shop’. Her husband gave me a puzzled look and asked, “What does it mean to ‘talk shop’?” Fortunately it was easy to explain, but we sometimes forget our slang doesn’t always translate. 

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Slang aside, even when it comes to the same language, one word can have extremely different meanings. For example, trainers in the UK are sneakers; in the US, trainers are people who instruct/educate others on products, process, procedures, etc. If two English speaking cultures can have such different meanings of a word, imagine what could happen with someone who inadvertently mistranslates a phrase or word into another language.

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Here are 6 tips on how to prevent your meeting from getting lost in translation.

1. Speak slowly and clearly.

Folks like me in the northeast region of the U.S. have a tendency to talk fast, which isn’t very helpful when those listening are trying to process English into another language.

2. Reinforce what you say with visuals.

Using an online meeting solution like InterCall Unified Meeting lets you show or share documents/PowerPoint slides from your computer. At times, it is easier to understand English when reading it vs. only hearing it.

3. Take a breath.

Don’t ramble on for 20 minutes at a stretch. Information is easier to process in smaller sections with opportunities for participants to ask questions/clarify points.

4. Allow questions to be asked via chat.

Let participants use the online chat feature to type their questions or comments to you. It is sometimes easier to write in English than to speak it.

5. Consider time zones.

Schedule meetings with people located in other regions at the start of their day. Yes this may mean a late night for you, but it makes it easier on those who have to translate English into another language.

6. Make sure to record the meeting and have it available to your participants.

With a solution like InterCall Unified Meeting, audio and web visuals are included in the synchronized recording that can be paused and rewound during playback. At no extra cost, participants can play it back as many times as they need to ensure they understand what is being communicated.

What other tips do you have for using web conferencing to help with multiple language communications?

Sarah MurphySarah Murphy is a marketing manager at InterCall. With over ten years of experience in the conferencing industry, Sarah has worked with customers and products that cover all segments of conferencing, including traditional operator attended services, video and online meeting solutions.

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Comments

Alan

Basic procedures that all of us need to remember! Sometimes we forget based on whom we are talking.

Alesis M1 Active 520

Sarah, I think you have done a tremendous job with this post, pointing out how language and slang can get lost in translation even between 2 English speaking countries. Thank you for your valuable knowledge.

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