translation ineptitude, problems, & solutions

Monday 20 April, 2009

I attended the American Bar Association Techshow & picked up a copy of the ABA Journal, which contained this article Lost in Translation. Interestingly, I came across this article the same day Illinois hospitals enlisting video translators.  Translation is a critically important component in international business, but fraught with perils, which the 1st article illustrates.  I think it also indicates the ineptitude even smart professionals like lawyers encounter when trying to solve these problems.  Lessons learned:

  • networking to find translators helps, but there may be problems with qualifications
  • writing style guidelines & guides resolve differences
  • ignore dialects at your own peril, they can create big problems

The 2nd article offers a potential solution for another profession.  It looks like a blatant outsourcing solution without saying that, but in connecting with translators located far away onlinie, that’s OK.  The most imporant thing is to be able to solve the problem professionally in a time effective fashion, which this seems to do.  (Some of the solutions in the legal article seem to be unacceptable, i.e. people not getting paid, detaining a witness for 8 weeks, etc.)  Ironically, the cost of the system is minimized in the context of avoiding costly medical errors.  $.80/minute used to be cheap for international long-distance calls, but now I’m sure this is done via VOIP (voice over internet protocol), so the actual cost of the call is pennies, &  the costs for translators, especially in developing countries, can be added on & still show a profit.  This also displays the power of the network, i.e. rather than having to track down a live translator for each foreign-speaking patient, being able to tap into a large network with many language capabilities on a moment’s notice offers real power to the solution.


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