Guest post – Reporting from Cambridge

guest bookFollowing my post announcing the conference Communicating in Business, today, for all those who, like myself, didn’t manage to attend, we have a report summarizing the event from Christina Guy, the organizer. The piece was first published in International Trade Magazine.

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Stridonium launched the first of its series of “Getting Language Right” conferences at the Møller Centre in Cambridge on 24 March 2014. With the support of speakers such as former Ambassador Sir Colin Budd KCMG and Charles Grant CMG, Managing Director of the Centre for European Reform, the event was a significant success.

Stridonium is organising these events to demonstrate the profitability of using language effectively: greater cost effectiveness and efficiency might just be a matter of adapting strategy. The first challenge is to dispel myths and break down the barriers that exist between businesses and language professionals.

Adapt what you say to your market and interpret your market correctly

Sir Colin Budd’s insightful talk on the communication of meaning stressed the need for all those who operate internationally to use language in five main ways:

  • to interpret accurately what others say;
  • to build good relations;
  • to persuade/convince an audience;
  • to seek/reach/facilitate a consensus or agreement;
  • to express, when necessary, a firm and unbending position.

He emphasised that local knowledge is not limited to language but will also include emotional and cultural intelligence – something that is often overlooked.

Europe in 2020

europe20As most of the delegates are operating against the backdrop of the financial crisis in Europe and impending European elections, Charles Grant’s talk on Europe in 2020, which provided an excellent warts and all overview of Europe, was particularly relevant.

In what many later described as the clearest and most concise presentation of the current state of Europe that they had ever heard, he discussed the impact of the Euro crisis on those of us who trade across borders in Europe; the impact of the referenda in Scotland and the UK; prospects of recovery in the Eurozone and the real risk of a Brexit¹.

Paul Sturges, Director of Global TPA Services at Crawford and Company said, “Charles Grant provided a fascinating overview of the current state of Europe and the potential impact on multinational businesses wishing to trade within the region. The conference emphasised the critical importance of getting the language right in business.”

Chinese whispers

whispJeffrey Heasman, Director at the Pyramid Group and founder of IAELI, the newly-formed International Association for English in Law and Insurance, emphasised the need to use plain English. His before and after examples illustrated how complicated legal and insurance texts can be made readable and accessible by using clear wording and removing ambiguity. A Chinese whispers analogy brought home clearly the fact that the more complicated the English, the greater the likelihood of ambiguities being amplified in translations.

Professional support 

The talks by Sir Colin Budd, Charles Grant and Jeffrey Heasman were complemented by contributions from Andrew Wood, Consultant Solicitor at Birketts LLP and Director of the Netherlands-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), and Susannah Poulton, Culture and Language Advisor at UKTI East. Andrew’s account of business between the UK and the Netherlands, drawn on his own extensive experience, highlighted some of the differences between these ostensibly similar cultures that could easily lead to misunderstandings.

supportHe strongly recommended that companies take advantage of the expertise offered by British Embassies and UKTI and consult legal and language professionals. This was reinforced by Susannah, who explained how UKTI is expanding its network of culture and language advisers to provide this support and described some of the difficulties still faced by exporters because of their lack of knowledge of the language industry.

Language as part of business strategy

Driven purely by a perceived need to look cheap and fast solutions, some businesses might be tempted to cut corners and risk making huge mistakes. Others may accept that effective language can help to increase profitability, save time and avoid costly blunders – but do they know how to go about it?

A discussion of many hugely expensive international blunders that could have been prevented by the simplest due diligence was followed by an open and relaxed debate on some of the ideas raised during the day. They included the need to:

  • know your market;
  • talk to your language consultant;
  • allow similar time for a translated version as the time spent on the original;
  • make sure a translated slogan has the same impact in the target market;
  • ensure that the message is culturally appropriate.

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About Stridonium

Originally set up as an online venue for professional linguists, Stridonium now also organises seminars and workshops for linguists and business professionals in various sectors.

It will now be joining with the International Association of English in Law and Insurance (IAELI) to promote clear and effective communication in the insurance and legal sectors.

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¹ A British exit from the European Union.

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