Tag Archives: communications

Don’t Get Lost in Translation

By Matt Baird

Matt BairdWe’ve all seen them: eyebrow-raising “translations” that leave you either shaking your head or slapping your knee. Just ask Google and you’ll find countless examples such as a no smoking sign in Israel that says “violators will be peralized” (yes, it’s even misspelled) or a bilingual road sign in Wales telling Welsh-speaking truck drivers: “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated.”

While blunders like these make for great laughs, mistranslations can have far more serious consequences on your company’s image and really stick you where it hurts—your pocketbook.

Imagine the money you would spend to completely rebrand yourself if the translation of your witty, well-thought-out tagline left your Spanish-speaking customers scratching their heads. And how much would it cost for a PR campaign to explain why the catchy slogan for your brand-new product launch was translated into something that makes people squirm?

Now, if bad for business weren’t bad enough, how about life threatening?

Medical professionals certainly understand how critical getting lost in translation can be. One wrong word, even in a non-medical text, can lead to illness or misdiagnosis. Picture having to recall millions of cans of baby formula because the instructions, translated from English, were misleading and could have sickened or even killed infants.

Getting Lost: Have you ever wondered how translations go astray? One reason is a general lack of appreciation for the importance of professional translation and interpreting. But that’s not surprising. The road to getting translation right is, in fact, congested with many common misconceptions. Think of them as billboards that constantly distract and confuse: “Everybody speaks English now. You don’t need an interpreter or a translator!” “Your coworker knows Spanish. Have her do it!” “Just run it through Google Translate!”

It’s not that there is no truth to these notions. Many people do speak English, so you probably won’t need a professional interpreter on your next family vacation. And if your colleague speaks Spanish, by all means put her skills to use. Even free online translation tools have their place: Browsing foreign language websites is a great example. The trouble is that when it comes to your business—where your company’s reputation and even legal liability come into play—blindly trusting your instinct to dismiss the importance of a solid, professional translation process will lead you down a road that ends in costly embarrassment and more.

Getting it Right: Still not convinced? Let’s clear up four of the most common and distracting misconceptions so you can refocus on the road to great translation.

1) Everybody Speaks English Now. Why Do I Even Need an Interpreter or Translator? In fact, only 17 percent of the world’s population speaks English natively. Non-native speakers can easily misunderstand, misconstrue, or completely miss the fine points of your message. Wit and persuasion can fall flat.

Research shows that when people spend their own money, they want to use their own language. Don’t you? International players know this already. That’s why so many commercial websites around the world are professionally translated and updated in multiple languages. It’s just good business sense.

2) My Coworker Knows Spanish. Why Not Just Have Her Do The Translation or Interpreting? Knowing two languages doesn’t make you a translator or interpreter, just like knowing how to sing doesn’t make you an opera star. Here’s the problem: many bilingual people overestimate their skills. Even when bilinguals are fluent in both languages, they aren’t always good at moving information and emotion across the language and cultural barrier. Often, relying on an amateur is a waste of human and financial resources.

Professional translators and interpreters can transfer complex ideas—technical, legal, financial, and more—accurately between languages and cultures. Professionals also have specialized terminology and subject-area knowledge, and they know how to choose the most appropriate solution when a word has many possible translations. All of this takes considerable experience and top-notch writing skills.

3) Can’t I Just Use a Free Online Translation Tool? The short answer is, “No.” A computer simply cannot comprehend all the nuances of language. It cannot interpret the meaning of a text. It can only read the words and translate them based on dictionaries, databases or other algorithms. You cannot ask clarifying questions of these tools or explain the context of your document to them. And there may be confidentiality issues at stake when you upload your text to a free site.

You can’t afford to risk your image, liability, and reputation. Services like Google and Bing might help when you need to get the gist of a document quickly and when accuracy isn’t important. But if you use them to translate something into a language you don’t speak, you’ll have no idea what the outcome is and where the errors are.

4) Aren’t Computers Replacing Human Translators? Interestingly enough, since free online translation services have been around, the market for professional translation and interpreting has actually increased. This isn’t surprising: as Google and Bing open the door to global markets, users often discover just how important translation is—and realize that they have sophisticated language needs that only human professionals can meet. Machine translation is a growing industry, but even then, the output needs to be edited by (human) professionals to eliminate errors.

Don’t Get Lost: Getting a translation wrong can hurt your bottom line, ruin your image, and even cost lives. Getting it right can be as simple as understanding the need for professional translation and interpreting—the roadmap that keeps you from getting lost—and knowing how to screen out the misleading signs along the way. So whether you’re translating a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign, an employee safety manual, or information for your state government, consult a professional. That way you’ll be sure you’re keeping your eyes on the road every time.

Matt Baird is a professional German-to-English translator with over 15 years of experience. He also serves as a speaker for the American Translators Association, which represents over 10,000 translators and interpreters across 91 countries. Along with advancing the translation and interpreting professions, ATA promotes the education and development of language services providers and consumers alike. For more information on ATA or translation and interpreting professionals, please visit www.atanet.org.

SOB or ESP: What’s your Communication Style?

By Tracey C. Jones

Tracey C. JonesTexan: “Where are you from?”
Harvard Grad: “I come from a place where we do not end our sentences with prepositions.”
Texan: “OK — where are you from, smart-aleck?”

We are rapidly losing the art of communication. The very trait which separates us from the animals is about to be our downfall, but fear not! There are ways we can rally and save humanity.  First and foremost, ask yourself: Do I communicate to serve myself or do I communicate to serve others?

In other words, when you communicate, are you an SOB: (Self-Oriented Behavior) or do you use ESP: (Emotional, Spiritual, Personal)?

In order to get to the heart of the issue, you have to get to the heart. Communication is not simply the external circuitry of words transmitted from your mouth to others’ ears, but rather an internal reverberation of thoughts between your mind and your heart. Communication is simply the golden rule. It’s part etiquette, part ethics, and part just being a decent human being. That means delineating boundaries for your emotional side so everyone can play in the sandbox nicely without getting into fights.

You can’t expect people to see your point of view if you can’t see theirs. When we get squeezed what’s inside comes out. All too often this takes the form of uncivil discourse. People are polarized by their tendency to see communication as a battle: somebody wins, somebody loses; too bad, so sad; in your face; suck it up, butter cup. It seems to be forgotten that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And if you can’t get comfortable floating in the fluidity of humanity, it’s sunk.

Opinions are not a competitive sport. They are deeply held convictions. So here’s a quick and easy way to assess if you are practicing great communication skills or if you are just being an SOB.

SOB: Self-Oriented Behavior. Let’s face it: A lack of compassion is downright distasteful and has nothing to do with who or what is right and wrong. If you constantly feel the need to seize and to preach the “ministry of me” then you are an SOB communicator.

SOBs exhibit the following traits in their communication:

  • Aggression
  • Seeking sympathy
  • Manipulation
  • Clowning or mocking tone
  • Competition
  • Domination
  • Labeling
  • Bullying/cyberbullying

If you’re an SOB, you view communication as a battlefield. Your level of indignation grants you the right to go from silence to thermonuclear in your content and tone. You have a hard time with dissenting points of view because you assume anyone who doesn’t agree with you is a bigot. This type of behavior has been amplified by technology and mainstream media which grants unfiltered, unchecked, and ample coverage to an unending parade of poltroons. Winston Churchill said it best, “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

Now let’s look at the flip side of the coin: How can you best communicate with another in a way that affords the respect and civility that binds you to others in deeper and more knowledgeable ways? Here are the ways to win friends and influence people and ensure that you can talk to someone’s heart, thus guaranteeing an open and honest dialogue sure to leave both parties enlightened and valued.

ESP: Emotional, Spiritual, Personal. It’s like extrasensory perception on steroids. They say it ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it. Truer words were never spoken. The manner in which you connect is the most important factor in communication. If you do it well, the details are superfluous. Someone can completely disagree with everything you say, but still totally respect you as a person. The truth, no matter how hard it is to hear, should always have an element of love accompanying it. As the saying goes, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. The person who can accomplish this is a leader of unparalleled magnitude and a true uniter, not a divider.

ESPs exhibit the following traits in their communication:

  • Individuality
  • Respect
  • The Golden Rule
  • One-on-one
  • Private
  • Peace maker
  • Acceptance
  • Civility

The ESP communicator also understands that strongly held convictions do not necessarily classify someone as a “hater.” They respect the other person’s emotions and personal beliefs. Communication isn’t some sort of Darwinian survival of the fittest. The ESP communicator firmly believes that we are not to trample one another out of existence with the butts of our heels and the slices of our tongues, but rather to be kind to one another, especially when during disagreements. Churchill had another great quote about this type of communicator, “Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.”

Beautiful people see beauty; hateful people see hate. Someone once said, “Those who spend their time looking for the faults in others have no time to correct their own.” Once you get serious about discussing and not just cussing, you’ll take your communication to a new realm.

Be kind to humankind because it’s all you’ve got.

Tracey C. Jones is a US Air Force veteran, entrepreneur, speaker, and publisher. She speaks to audiences across the nation on leadership, accountability, business success, and other topics. Her latest book is Beyond Tremendous: Raising the Bar on Life.

5 Tips for Taking your Business Global

By Anne Connor

Anne ConnorThe Coca-Cola Company is the leading beverage maker in China’s $69 billion soft drink market, but the story might have been quite different if it weren’t for some smart and localized brand management at the very beginning of its foray into the country. Protecting the company’s valuable trademark was a high priority when Coca-Cola began to expand outside the United States.

When the company turned its attention to China, it became clear that the trademark also needed to be transliterated. That’s easier said than done. Finding the nearest phonetic equivalent to “Coca-Cola” meant sifting through some 40,000 characters to locate a separate Chinese character for each of the four syllables – an enormous task in the pre-computer days of the 1920s.

Today Coca-Cola products are sold in all but two countries: Cuba and North Korea. This worldwide success was only possible because the company realized the importance of taking the reins of its own international branding through proactive translation and localization.

No matter what size your business is, you can learn a thing or two from this story and Coca-Cola’s success. For one thing, don’t underestimate the localization process. But it goes well beyond that.

Here are five tips to help you take your business global.

1) Do Your Homework: One thing we have today that Coca-Cola didn’t in the 1920s is instant access to an Internet of information, where you can find tons of support for marketing products or services overseas. Check out the Small Business Administration’s online guidelines for doing business abroad. Then search the Census Bureau’s website for U.S. Exports of Goods by End-Use Category and Commodity, Services by Major Category, and the Top U.S. Trading Partners as of December 2015. These resources will lead you to plenty more so you can determine your potential in international markets.

2) Know Your Target Markets: Once you’ve assessed your potential and zeroed in on some markets, you need to understand your target market so you can tailor your business to it. For example, will the names of your products and services be accepted or do you need to have them translated or transliterated? A good place to start, especially for small and medium-sized business, is your local or national translators association. Professional translators are much more than linguistic experts; they also possess an intimate understanding of the business culture in the target markets in which they specialize. Most associations have searchable directories online, where you can find a professional who translates from English into the language of your target market. By taking a proactive approach to your branding before entering the market, you’ll avoid any potential mishaps.

3) Localize: Once you’ve taken a hard look at your brand, it’s time to localize your entire storefront. And like your brand, this means finding professionals to translate and localize your website and marketing materials. A small team of translation professionals can likely help if your company is relatively small and only targeting a few markets, but you’ll want to consider contracting a language company if you’re looking at more than three or four. The professionals who helped you understand your target market are a great place to start. Avoid the temptation to add one of those plug-ins that automatically translate web pages and blog posts, because you’re asking for trouble. Hiring professionals to handle the translation and localization will ensure that your foreign-language website really reaches and resonates with consumers.

4) Know What You Say and Sign: Speaking your customers’ language will likely go beyond your website and marketing materials and include communication supplies and/or local agents. Even if you’ve hired a local representative who both speaks English and understands the current laws for doing business, it’s still wise to have all important documents translated into English by a legal translation professional for you and your attorney to review. Taking a hard look at contracts before you sign them will save time, money and aggravation in the long run. Moreover, contracting a professional translator and communicating with customers in their own language does wonders for relations and retention, not to mention helping to avoid any cultural misunderstandings. And the expense shouldn’t be prohibitive. If you really want to up your international sales potential, hire an interpreter and follow up some of those emails with a personal phone call to your target customers.

5) Get Paid. No matter how well you manage your brand, localization and communication, you’ll need to ensure that you get paid and that getting paid doesn’t cost you too much. International transactions can be an expensive enterprise, so proper preparation should be part of your expansion plan. Do you need to adjust your prices in the respective markets to account for international wire transfer or online payment portal fees? PayPal, for example, charges a standard 2.9 percent fee plus a cross-border fee of 1 percent, both of which are deducted in the foreign currency payment amount before the exchange rate is applied and entered into your PayPal account in U.S. dollars. For large shipments or amounts, it may be best to request that your customer open up a Letter of Credit in your favor for an amount in U.S. dollars. Be sure to check with your bank or other international financial consultant to make sure you choose the payment options best for you.

Your business may not have the means to expand into foreign markets like one of the world’s leading beverage makers, but you do have the means to emulate how seriously Coca-Cola took the process. Before your first foray into the global market, consider the cultural and linguistic needs of your potential customers You’ll be miles ahead of the competition if you take the time to get closer to them and speak their language – and your company’s products, services or slogan won’t become the next Facebook meme to mock clueless foreigners. Do your homework and you’ll be well on your way to going global and achieving international success.

Anne Connor holds a BBA in Business Law from Temple University in Philadelphia and is an active member of the American Translators Association. The American Translators Association represents over 10,000 translators and interpreters across 91 countries. Along with advancing the translation and interpreting professions, ATA promotes the education and development of language services providers and consumers alike. For more information on ATA or translation and interpreting professionals, please visit www.atanet.org.

7 Ways To Improve Your Non-Verbal Selling Skills

Your body language sends wordless cues long before you try to close a sale.

By Bob Phibbs

Bob PhibbsThe more you understand about what your body is saying – oftentimes without our knowledge – the more you can see how often it gets in your way. And that is especially true when you are in a sales situation. That is because oftentimes our bodies communicate fear—and fear makes people look away.

Fear can cause you to lose your temper, or silence your own voice when it needs to be heard. Most of all, fear keeps strangers at arm’s length. That’s because 55 percent of our language to communicate with another person is non-verbal.

Our bodies can sense bad vibrations long before someone’s words arrive. So now think about a time you felt devalued by someone. Picture what their body position was. Now picture your own body’s reaction.

I’ll bet you averted your eyes and you slumped your shoulders. You might even have curled your toes inside your shoes. Now think what it would feel like to be served by someone whose shoulders were slumped, who didn’t meet your eyes, whose arms were crossed.

Would you feel engaged by them? Of course not! Their body was telling you they weren’t being authentic. Their non-verbal cues made it hard for you to trust them. Most people don’t even realize when their bodies are communicating, so the first thing to do is to simply notice your body position.

  • Do you cross your arms unconsciously?
  • Do you leave your arms down like a corpse when you talk to someone?
  • Do your shoulders slouch most of the time?

Those unconscious habits won’t bring customers to you. In fact, they are communicating your unease to them. When you have a whole crew of people doing that, the energy in your entire business turns toxic. It makes customers walk out saying to themselves, Something just didn’t feel right about that place.

Here are seven ways to improve your non-verbal selling skills:

1) Lift the sternum (that’s the flat bone at the front center of your chest). This allows more oxygen into the lungs. A good image to maintain is that of a string pulling your posture up from your sternum. This allows your shoulders to become more relaxed when engaging strangers.

2) Lean forward (but just a bit). Yes it’s subtle, but it keeps you from leaning backward, which shows a negative attitude.

3) Smile. A smile is your best tool to get someone to like you, and when you don’t smile, it’s the quickest way to turn someone off.

4) Meet their eyes. We like people who look at us. Too much eye contact and it can feel threatening, but too little and you come off insincere. Yes, this is a balancing act to practice.

5) Gesture. Point directly at a feature and look at it with the customer. They will follow your gesture, and so will their eyes as you describe the benefit. Use an open hand or two fingers together, it’s perceived as more open and friendly.

6) Arms open. Hold your arms open and loose to show a welcoming attitude. Arms folded over your chest indicate you are unsympathetic, authoritative, and at some level, you are closing yourself off from the other person.

7) Stand side-by-side not face-to-face. When you present merchandise standing by your shopper’s side, it is non-threatening. This allows you to do a sideways lean, which is friendly and non-threatening.

An old-school tip says to mirror your customer’s body posture. For example, if they use their hands a lot, you mirror that. If their arms are open, so are yours. However, if the customer suddenly crosses their legs and arms, you don’t want to mirror that. Their body is telling you they are closed off. You don’t want yours to say the same thing!

You need to maintain an open stance and see what you said or did to close them off. Addressing it with something like, “Did I just say something to put you off?” is a good way to bring them back.

Yes it takes practice, but once you’re aware of your own body communication, you want to be a student of your customer’s body communication too. Body posture is something rarely talked about in selling because it is assumed that if an employee is standing upright, that’s all they need to do. But there’s much more to it.

Begin by noticing your own behavior. In what situations do you lose your voice? At that moment, what does your body look like? When you’re about to close the sale, how does your body look? When do you notice your breath becoming shallow? When do you take a step back from a customer? The more you can choose your body posture, the more you’ll find you can also choose your attitude.

Your body is just like the car you have to drive. If you aren’t choosing the direction and checking the instruments, you’ll often be taken to a place you didn’t want to be. And while you might still be afraid at some level when engaging a stranger, when you use these tips, you act as if you aren’t afraid which allows you to place the fog of fear in the background.

The more you master your body communication, the easier it will be to master your verbal communication.

Bob Phibbs is the CEO of The Retail Doctor, a New York consultancy. As a speaker, sales consultant and author of The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business, Bob has helped thousands of businesses since 1994. With over thirty years’ experience beginning in the trenches of retail and extending to senior management positions, his presentations are designed to provide practical information in a fun and memorable format.


Engage Your Employees with Elevated Communication

Ascanio PignatelliBy Ascanio Pignatelli

In many ways, Adrian Aragon was a great CEO; hard-working and completely devoted to his staff and organization, but it was not until he analyzed his CEO performance review that he noticed the blind-spot in his leadership: the gap between how he saw his communication, and how his employees were interpreting it. Committed to becoming a better communicator and more effective leader, Adrian met with an old colleague Ivana Smith, one of the finest leaders and communicators he had ever met. After scrutinizing his report for what seemed like an eternity, Ivana asked Adrian: “Why do you think so many of your employees believe you have a negative mindset and don’t communicate effectively with them?”

Adrian took a moment then muttered, “With all the stress it’s hard to always maintain a positive and enthusiastic attitude.”

Ivana nodded in agreement. “That’s true, being positive when stressed is a real challenge, however doing so will help lower your stress, increase your energy and make you feel a lot better. It will also help set the tone for your entire company.”

“I guess you’re right. I should probably be more positive.”

“More positive yes, but the real key is to really listen to them. The most important part of communication is effective listening. Most of us are rather disengaged when we listen, but if you can really listen to what your employees are saying you will be able to build more trust and rapport with them, resolve more conflict and connect in a deeper way with them.”

Ivana is right. Effective listening does two things; it ensures that the sender’s communication has been received as intended, and it tells the sender that their communication has value. There’s an old saying, “Listening is love.” Great listeners are masters at making those they are listening to feel important, and perhaps on some deeper level, loved. To really connect with your staff and make them feel valued you’ll want to move towards empathetic listening.

Disengaged Listening: Have you ever had a conversation with someone you felt just didn’t get anything you said despite their involved contribution to the conversation? You probably sensed their minds were completely focused on what they wanted to say next, and not on absorbing and processing what you were saying. Well, that is disengaged listening, and most of the time although we might be hearing what’s being said, our minds are actually busy thinking about what to say next. Disengaged listening isn’t just responsible for corrupting the communication that’s being received; it leaves the speaker feeling unimportant.

To escape the disengaged listening trap, the next time you are having a conversation with someone begin to notice when your mind either starts to wander from the conversation or is thinking about what to say next. The simple act of bringing awareness to how you listen will make you a much better listener and leave those you communicate with feeling valued.

Engaged Listening: Engaged listening means listening without judgment, opinions or preconceived notions. Engaged listening creates a space for others to really express what they are thinking without them feeling like they are being judged. It also ensures they are heard, and that their thoughts and feelings are important to you. You can become a more engaged listener by asking empowering questions; questions that probe, seek clarity, focus on solutions and put the power to solve a problem or challenge into the other person’s hands. For example, “How might you accomplish that?” or “What’s another way of seeing that?”

There is a direct link between employee engagement and how much those employees feel their company values them. Organizations that have created a culture that values its staff by listening to them in an engaged and nonjudgmental way will find its members reciprocating the value and respect they feel by raising their energy and level of engagement while at work. You can become a much more engaged listener by acknowledging and validating the feelings other people express to you the same way Ivana did with Adrian.

Empathetic Listening: This is the highest form of listening and will build strong ties with your employees if you master it. Empathetic listening is feeling what the other person is feeling through their communication. It includes deciphering body language, reading between the lines, listening for tonal discrepancies and looking for what’s not being said as much as what’s being said.

Listening at such a high level lets the person who is speaking know that you’ve captured their emotional experience. Although empathetic listening requires considerable focus, effort and concentration, with enough practice it can become routine.

Adrian worked hard at being a more positive and effective communicator. He became a lot less judgmental and shifted his focus from finding problems to finding solutions. Whenever his employees were upset about something he’d acknowledge and validate their feelings. And when they became stuck or frustrated, he’d ask them empowering questions to shift their perspective. He developed more rapport with them, and earned more of their trust, which left them feeling more valued, respected and connected to him. It didn’t take long after that for their own performance and engagement to increase as well.

Ascanio Pignatelli is an award winning speaker, seminar leader, coach and author of the forthcoming book Lead from Need. He is the founder of ApexCEO, an executive coaching and leadership development group that helps C-level executives develop the leadership and communication skills to create more engaging workplaces. To book Ascanio for your next speaking event or workshop, please call him at 310.913.2313 or visit apexceo.com.