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Tips in Working with Translators

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Tue Apr 03 2012

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As cross-cultural training becomes more common, many trainers will face the need to work with translators. But not all translation is the same. What are some tips in working with translators?

Tip 1: Always ask whether a translator will be needed or is desirable. A translator can raise the cost of presenting training. But translation can also broaden the market appeal, making a training effort capable of reaching many more people than English language only presentations.

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Tip 2: There is more than one way to work with a translator. One approach is simply to have slides and handouts translated but present a seminar online or onsite in English. Another approach is to have concurrent (simultaneous) translation in which a translator talks while the presenter talks. That usually requires participants to wear headphones, which can be uncomfortable. A third approach is to have the presenter talk but stop periodically and have the translator present in another language. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages.

Tip 3: Nobody will be completely satisfied with a translation. It is impossible to satisfy everyone with a translation. It is like room temperature—someone is always too hot or too cold. The same principle applies to translation. Those who can understand English will feel that a translator is wasting their time and money; those who cannot understand English will wish that the whole talk could have been given in their native language.

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