Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Bridging the Communication Gap across Cultures

Bridging the Communication Gap across Cultures

By: Hayder Al-Ani

Doing business globally presents both a myriad opportunities and challenges. While businesses can reap greater market share and economies of scale outside their home country borders, they are also exposed to new and complex foreign languages, cultures and customs. The slightest miscommunication can sound the death knell if businesses are not cautious. Image Source:

Applying a blanket market strategy across each and every country in which a company does business is, put plainly, a naïve thing to do. Not only are countries different in terms of the languages they speak, but can also differ in their degree of openness, directness, socialization, individual and community values, religion and even body language and gestures.

Before taking that big plunge to enter into a new market, companies should ideally do their due diligence and research beforehand in order to ensure a smooth launch. Each and every marketing campaign must be carefully scrutinised and tested. What works in one country may not necessarily work in another – even if they may be neighbours. Each country has its own unique cultures and traditions – in fact most countries are home to a host of different subcultures, languages, religions, etc. that make them complex and ever-changing systems.

The mantra of ‘think globally, act locally’ is key. You have to tailor your message (however subtly) in order to properly attract and engage foreign audiences. Know which media vehicles to use, how frequently to use them and how best to communicate. Remember that knowing the mind of your international customers is just as important (if not even more) as crafting the right message for them to raise awareness, increase sales or whatever it is you intend to achieve through your marketing campaign.

No doubt we have all stumbled upon some bizarre and awkward communication gaffes suffered by companies internationally. Even the very largest companies with their own full-fledged marketing and public relations departments have occasionally fallen victim. Not even global companies like Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, KFC, Pepsi, IKEA and UPS have escaped cultural miscommunication. But what’s important to take home from their obvious shortcomings is the fact that in each case, the company (or the ad agency under contract) failed to read the local culture and adjust the message accordingly. In other words, the right localisation just wasn’t there.

To communicate effectively across borders, you need competent and effective localisation services that have a solid track record of delivering results. Their portfolios should be exemplary as is their list of previous clients. The ideal localisation service should sure that your marketing and communication materials are translated and transliterated in the perfect manner. In this case, instead of hiring out a typical ad agency, consider doing business directly with interpreting and translation companies. Doing so will help you effectively avoid any potential communication mishaps that have plagued many companies (both large and small) over the years.

A good name in the UK interpreting and translation market is Convocco Ltd, which has a fine history of serving its clients with professional and dedicated interpreters and translators on call. As globalization continues to go unabated, no company wants to be left behind. Foreign markets present tantalizing potentials for companies seeking expansion and greater global visibility. As such, you should tailor your communications internationally the right way. Avoid slipping up in your international communications by doing business with interpreting and translation companies. Look to companies like Convocco Ltd, among other good service providers, for tailoring and localising your content across borders.

Monday, 6 January 2014

The Word Translation

“The word 'translation' comes, etymologically, from the Latin for 'bearing across'. Having been borne across the world, we are translated men. It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling, obstinately to the notion that something can also be gained.”
Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991 

Friday, 3 January 2014

WebInterpreter - The Future of Video Interpretation

Is this the future for translating and Interpreting? Technology is rapidly changing the way we communicate every day, either via text, Facebook live chat, Skype etc so why not use it to expand our translation and interpreting services. 

We are fully aware at Convocco most people prefer face to face communication but
Convocco’s web-based videoconferencing service has the convenience of not having to find someone quickly in your area and it's proven to be just as effective as face-to-face interpreting. This also eliminates and travel costs so really as an extra service it's a winner all round.

  • Unlimited free training
  • Instant access with no delays
  • WenInterpreter removes the need for time-consuming security clearance
  • You can choose to have a video recording or transcript of your session
  • No need to travel benefitting the environment and reduces carbon emissions
WebInterpreter is very easy to set up and can be attached to your PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. No software to install as it's used through your web browser. Simple and effective.

Hayder Al-Ani

Monday, 23 December 2013

Nelson Mandela’s Memorial and the Need for Professional Interpreters

As the Nelson Mandela memorial has recently showcased, it’s imperative for individuals and organisations to utilise professional and competent interpreters before major events, for obvious reasons. To bungle up on such an important and globally publicized event like Mandela’ funeral is no laughing joke. Solemnity and soberness was the order of the day an required from all the stately participants and organisers of the late South Africa activist and leader’s funeral. See here

Nelson MandelaWhat obviously stood out from an otherwise well-orchestrated procession was the not-so-choice appointment of the event’s sign language interpreter. Thamsanqa Jantjie shot to worldwide fame (in the wrong light) by giving off fake sign language gestures during Mandela’s memorial. After the incident, the 34-year old actually claimed to have had a schizophrenic episode while gesturing mentioning how he “saw angels descending” on the Johannesburg Stadium during his performance.

A few days after the global mockery, Jantijie was admitted to a Johannesburg psychiatric hospital by his own wife Siziwe. What’s important to understand here is that it wasn’t Jantijie’s mental state during the event that was the main issue. Rather, the more glaring problem was the way the event organizers and government haphazardly went about their recruitment. Had they done their due diligence, then they would have found out that Jantijie actually had a history of mental problems and violent bouts in the past and was previously admitted to a mental institution for well over a year. Moreover, Jantijie has been implicated of past false impersonation and a string of serious crimes in the past, something a simple criminal record check would have highlighted.

Ironically enough, on the day of the his scheduled four-hour sign language performance, Jantijie was due to have a medical check-up. After getting the sudden request to interpret at Mandela’s memorial, his wife cancelled the appointment and notified the hospital to reschedule on another day. Clearly events like this do not leave a good impression on others. Especially considering how Mandela’s funeral was globally televised and had an impressive guest list of over 100 current and former heads of state and government. In fact, Jantijie’s bizarre act was performed only feet away from the American President Barack Obama and other esteemed guests.

The lesson of this story is to always do your homework before appointing interpreting and translations services. Clearly, the South African government got it wrong on this case and in consequence, has had to publicly admit their mistake and apologize to deaf people for any offence that Jantijie may have caused on its behalf. Apart from his troubled psychological state and lacking of the required competency, Jantijie was also a security risk in the presence of major world leaders and power brokers.
To avoid similar embarrassments (of course on a smaller scale), you need to make the right decisions and carefully do your due diligence. You should always seek out professional and reliable interpreting and translation services that have a solid track record and a dependable roster of translation staffs on standby.

Ideally, you should only look for those firms that are professionally certified, have quality accreditations, provide a wide range of interpreting and translation services (including sign language) and has a large number of translators and interpreters ready to serve. Look for companies like the UK’s Convocco Ltd to seek out the right interpreter for your needs. Companies like Convocco will guarantee the right appointment (they have a network of over 6000 sector-specific interpreters and translators fluent in over 250 languages – including British sign language) and take care of all the background checks and due diligence themselves to help build trust and maximize your business relationships.

By: Hayder Al-Ani Convocco Ltd Birmingham

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Selfie and Other Recent Word Additions

Selfie and Other Recent Word Additions

By: Hayder Al-Ani
Convocco Ltd

Not too long ago, the Cambridge Dictionary (owned by Cambridge University Press) made quite a splash in international papers when it decided to introduce a raft of new words into its 2013 web dictionary. Among the most controversial were the words “selfie,” “poshitis” and “phubbing.”

In the company’s own words, it defines selfie as “a photograph taken of yourself,often for the purposes of posting on a social-networking website.” Selfies, as they were, are indeed ubiquitous throughout many social media websites – whether you’re talking about Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest or any other network that vigorously uses photos.

Indeed it is simply a sign of the times, that is, just how pervasive and influential social media is in our lives. Not surprisingly, one glaring statistic shows how globally,1 in 6 people have a Facebook account and how over 300 million people around the world have access to Twitter. This obviously has a direct impact on the waytranslation and interpretation of languages takes place (including face to face, video and telephone interpreting).

Cambridge University Press argues that in order to be considered for induction, a word must be used consistently and frequently across various mediums. The word selfie has actually witnessed a 17,000 percent increase in usage from 2012 – enough reason for the publisher to adopt it into the mainstream. The origins of the word are unclear, however Cambridge News themselves claim that it can traced back to 2002 when the word first appeared on an Australian online forum. The author of the self-picture was alleged to have uploaded the picture of his injured face suffered after a drunken bout. He apologetically wrote “Sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.” Only in 2004 did the word gain circulation through social media but it’s not until mainstream media referred to the word on a wider scale for its usage to become household.

Other recent buzzwords accepted by Cambridge include poshitis – described as “the pain caused by carrying large bags fashionably in the crook of your arm”; quidditching, defined as “the internet craze brought about by the Harry Potter game”; and phubbing, cutely explained as “the act of snubbing someone in a social setting looking at your phone.”

To follow suit, the Oxford online dictionary too has added the word selfie onto its esteemed depository (however the print version has yet to be so forthcoming). It was also recently announced that selfie was Oxford’s international word of the year last month (for 2012). The Editorial Director of Oxford Dictionaries, Judy Pearsall, stated that using the company’s language research program, Oxford is able to collect some 150 million words of current English words in usage monthly. Based on this data, Pearsall and her team can identify an astoundingly upward trend in usage for selfie in 2013 – thereby cementing its place for Oxford’s word of the year. Among the other recent additions to Oxford’s online dictionary includes ‘bitcoin’ (a form of hot digital currency method with sophisticated and ambiguous encryption), ‘twerking’ (a form of raunchy, sexually provocative dance) and ‘phablet’ (a smartphone with a large screen – that is, a crossover between a smartphone and a tablet). Over the years hundreds of new words have been added to Oxford’s dictionary – many of which are technology-inspired. Even more controversial and less popular words to make the cut include ‘hackerspace’ (a gathering for data enthusiasts), ‘BYOD’ (bring your own device), ‘srsly’ (seriously) and ‘apols’ (apologies).

Katherine Connor Martin of Oxford Dictionaries Online mentions how some words have been around for years but have only recently gained popularity. She cites the word ‘twerk’ which is actually around 20 years old and was originally coined by the American hip-hop scene but only recently thrust into popularity (pun intended) when Miley Cyrus performed it for all to see during this year’s MTV Video Music Awards alongside Robin Thicke.

The common theme around many of these new additions on Cambridge and Oxford over the years is technology and social media. Each year, approximately 1.8 billion new words are detected of which only around 1,000 are inducted into the database. With the pace of new word additions having accelerated over the years, some purists and traditionalists have taken offence feeling left out and antiquated at the inundation of new, more tech-savvy words.

What’s important to understand is, the words we speak and more specifically, the manner by which we communicate them, are a reflection of the time. The future will require translation and interpreting companies like Convocco Ltd. among other big players to catch up and service clients keeping in mind changing technology and social trends. Though technology is ultimately more beneficial to us than harmful,we must ensure to maintain that the integrity of languages and basic structure of languages remains intact.

Monday, 16 December 2013

The Internet’s Harmful Effect on Languages

By: Hayder Al-Ani

Everyone knows just how wonderful the internet is. It is a treasure trove of information of all shapes and sizes. Its virtually unlimited potential can be used potentially both for a great deal of good or harm.

However, one of the most harmful effects of the internet – apart from the usual complaints against inappropriate content, exploitation and abuse, internet bullying, over-usage, advertisements and spam among others – is the negative effect it is having on languages.

Languages are in essence, systems of communication (whether verbal or nonverbal). They constitute the basic mechanism by which humans (and other organisms too) communicate and exchange information with one another. It takes years if not centuries for languages to develop and blossom into distinct and discernible means of expression. Today, the most popular languages across the globe are English, Chinese (Mandarin), French, Spanish and Arabic.

Through the widespread dissemination of the internet, different nations and their associated cultures and languages have spread their influences across their physical borders. No longer are once parochial languages like Flemish or Swahili reserved to specific geographical focal points but are now instead,
available globally through various sources for all to see. Recent free web technologies like Google Translate among others have made it even easier for the interpreting of one language to another and the translation of obscure languages – thereby bridging communication gaps. Image source:

Paid software, like Convocco’s interpreting and translation (including its face to face, telephone and video interpreting) service has also contributed to improving linguistic understanding both in the UK and abroad. In spite of the greater reach and scope of spreading and popularizing languages, not all languages are benefiting from the phenomena. According to a recent study by Norwegian linguist Andras Kornai, less than 5 percent of world languages are in use online – resulting in the other 95 percent of global languages being left out. This does not bode well for the shelved majority as according to the Alliance for Linguistic

Diversity, already over 40 percent of the world’s languages are endangered. Even countries with multiple official languages or language dialects can witness such glaring inequities. Kornai cited the sweeping differences in the use of Norway’s two official languages – being Bokmal and Nynorsk – as a case study. Though both receive equal support in government and business, Bokmal is immensely more popular online for its associations with Norway’s advertising, music, fashion and entertainment.

In a different light, major languages too, are susceptible to the harmful effects the internet has on languages. Owing to the universal use of the language across the World Wide Web, no language is more vulnerable to the harmful effects internet than English. Over the years, various groups and subcultures have devised their own slang and terminologies whether they were computer programmers, hackers, internet gamers, porn viewers, or more recently, teenage chatters (the so-called “netizens”) on instant messaging services and social networks and their insatiable use of shorthand abbreviations, symbols and emotions.Networks like Facebook and Twitter have only compounded the situation. No longer are children today content with spelling out and articulating their emotions online. Rather, most would prefer to abbreviate what they want to say – using such conveniences like LOL (laugh out loud), ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing),

BTW (by the way), IDK (I don’t know), BRB (be right back), G2G (got to go) among others. Recent technologies like the meme (an image with user-generated wording) have further worsened the situation. Rather than using popular slang words and acronyms, certain expressions have gained a lot of traction through many social networking sites like ‘you only live once (YOLO),’ ‘faith in humanity restored,’ ‘epic fail,’ ‘Photoshop level 9000,’ etc. The worst problem of them all seems to be deliberately misspelling words and using bad grammar when chatting with others, for instance using “welcs” for welcome, “selfie” for self-picture or putting everything in lowercase including proper nouns and names like I, John, Smith, Washington, etc. in an effort to “fit in” and be more accepted and “cool.”

A similar, but equally starting fact is how modern internet users prefer seeing graphics and pictures over reading letters and words. With the barrage of content found online, people nowadays resort to looking at images online to “understand.” Hence the pervasive use of emoticons (i.e. smiley faces) and infographics in place of traditional text and articles.

Indeed the continuing saturation of the internet presents both benefits and challenges. Among the most pressing is how it is negatively affecting global languages – whether it’s shoving them into oblivion or eroding the very integrity and soundness of the language. The future of the translation and interpretation of languages will be a challenging one. In this respect, as human beings, we must do whatever it takes to preserve all languages and ensure their continuance for future generations to practice and articulate.

By Hayder Al-Ani
Convocco Ltd

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Businesses Attracting More International Clients through Website Translations!

Recently, a number of law practices in the many English-speaking countries have taken bold new initiatives to attract more international business to their firms. Initially it began with bilingual and multilingual training for practicing lawyers. But now, a large number of law firms and other professional services like accountants, consultants and tax specialists too are finding it rewarding to translate their websites into multiple languages and implement “localisation” practices.

The Connecticut Law Tribune recently carried an opinion piece mentioning how localising a company’s content increases the firm’s visibility and profit potential all while solidifying relationships with international clients. Bloomberg Business Week also ran a similar piece where Susan Peters, Director of a software company in Silicon Valley, stated how by translating the essential pages and components of a company’s website, companies were able to better inform and engage with foreign visitors. The creative commercial law agency Isaac Parker describes how, by simply translating your firm’s website into Chinese or Spanish (two of the fastest growing online languages), your online reach jumps from 27% to as much as 60% of all internet users.


Hayder Al-Ani, CEO of Convocco Ltd Birmingham (one of the UK’s leading interpretation and translation companies) mentions how localisation extends far beyond simple website translation to include considering alterations to marketing and communicating the firm’s products and services. An understanding of foreign visitors’ cultures, practices and preferences must also be accounted for. That’s why companies like his provides integrated localisation services to better help and support companies in reaching out to international customers to expand their client base and business performance.

About: Convocco offers a full range of language services including interpreting (face to face, telephone and via video-conference), translation, localisation, consulting, bespoke services as well as its cutting-edge WebInterpreter tool. With more than 6,000 highly skilled interpreters and translators across 250 different languages, Convocco is committed to mending any language barriers that clients may face and lives up to its credo of “We speak your language.”

Contact: Convocco Relations: Phone (toll-
free): +44 (0) 800 849 5060