The Power of Languages
As professional linguists, you can imagine our delight when we read a recent New York Times op-ed titled, The Sacred Spell of Words. It’s not often that non-linguists think of language in sacred terms, and yet those of us who make our living as professional interpreters and translators spend the majority of our time reverently processing the text of an original document, and translating or interpreting it carefully, accurately, and sensitively into our client’s target language(s).
Language is power!
This can be a superhero effort – especially when we encounter words or phrases that don’t have direct equivalents in the target language. Along those same lines, the quality of our work literally makes or breaks our clients’ and their brand’s overall impressions in the world. The wrong turn or twist of phrase – or an inexperienced or unskillful translator’s clumsy attempts – can have an immediate negative impact.
Using experienced linguists (language superheroes) keeps you from becoming your industry’s epitome of the “fake news stream,” ensuring all of your written information lands exactly how you want it to – and with respect to your target audience’s culture. And, let’s face it, you don’t have to translate from one language to another to intentionally – or unintentionally – send inaccurate messages or information.
This happens all the time in English, where the large majority of news headlines are geared to get readers’ attention rather than share accurate or authentic news. Alas, it seems that fewer and fewer journalists and editors prioritize accuracy over profit. If only they shared the sentiments of Russian-American author and psychologist, Maria Konnikova, who said, “It’s not always easy to be both interesting and accurate… but it’s better than being exciting and wrong.”
Let other languages pick up where English leaves off
Languages are interesting because they are not interchangeable on a word-for-word basis – something worth noting if you’re making the mistake of using machine translators, rather than their professional human counterparts. While some languages are simpler in form and expression than English, others are more complex, allowing translators to convey what you’re wanting to say more accurately.
For example, you know that feeling when you don’t figure things out quickly or seize the best opportunity right now, you may miss out altogether? Germans have a single word that encapsulates that poignant sentiment: Torschlusspanik, which literally translates as, “gate-closing panic.” On the flip side, many of the compound words we use in English don’t translate literally at all into other languages, so translators must reconfigure those altogether.
These are two of thousands of examples we could give about how powerful language is and can be when you choose the right wordsmiths (and translators) to create content, documents, scripts, subtitles, etc. In some cases, you’ll find the translated document is more clear, more informative, and more concisely imbues the sentiments originally intended by in the native version.
The power of language relating to…
Politics and sensitive negotiations
On occasion, mistranslations are “merely” an issue of brand reputation. If the errant mistake makes its way into a single draft of multiple types of marketing brochures you produce, it isn’t the end of the world. But imagine what can happen if translators or interpreters miss the mark in political deliberations or during sensitive, international business negotiations.
In the current, very heated geopolitical climate, odds those on “the other side of the table” will be less inclined to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. In worst case scenarios, the outcome of poorly translated documents or communications, or clumsy and erroneous interpretations, could wind up threatening national security or innocent civilians’ wellbeing.
In medicine and pharmaceutics
Similarly, language becomes a powerful force in the medical and pharmaceutical industries where misinformation could mean a physician prescribing the wrong drug, a pharmacist missing a key contraindication, or a patient ingesting the wrong medication or signing off on an incorrect medical procedure altogether.
Then, there is the question of countries where native languages and cultures are losing their power – and fading out of existence as a result of globalization. The widespread adoption of “global” languages – such as English, Chinese, Spanish, and French – is helpful to those of us who speak those languages, but not at all beneficial for those whose languages are unrepresented in multinational corporate business, marketing, and social media. Language preservation is a hot topic in the world of linguists, and professional translators and interpreters are key players in that invaluable work.
Ultimately, we all live in a better world when we speak, write, translate, and interpret with mindful integrity. If you own or work for a multinational company or organization, we recommend working with language service professionals – the language superheroes – known for their impeccable work ethic and dedication to wielding language power wisely.
Whether in politics, medicine, or any other field, an interpreter’s code of ethics and confidentiality is obviously key, so make sure to always hire the right kind of professional linguists. Chang-Castillo and Associates (CCA) is the industry’s platinum standard for translation, interpretation, and other language services. Contact us online or give us a call at +1 877 708-0005, to learn more about our services and to obtain an immediate estimate.