Language and communicating are much more than just about the words we say, they’re about allowing someone else to understand our thoughts and feelings. Were you to simply translate a sentence from one language to another, in theory you might be saying the same words, but you’re likely communicating something very different. Nowhere is this more true than China, where the language and cultural differences are a significant hurdle to successful business. To overcome these barriers companies hire professional Chinese interpreters.
This is why interpreters are much more than a living, breathing foreign dictionary; it’s a highly-specialised profession that requires years of training and practice. Equipped with skills beyond the average bilingual person, the very best can communicate meaning across the boundaries of language and culture fluidly. Here are a few things you will find from a good professional interpreter.
An interpreter’s work always starts at least a few days before the on-site meeting. They will have conducted thorough research on the specific industry and topics, ensuring they are well versed in the terminology in advance. Additionally, if their interpreting involves people from an unfamiliar country, they will have looked into their culture and trained themselves on any relevant dialects or accents.
Professional interpreters must be extremely punctual, arriving to meetings at well ahead of the scheduled official appointment time, just in case someone should show up early. The importance of this becomes clear when considering what would happen if an interpreter arrived 10 minutes late. Both parties would be left being unable top communicate with each other, creating an awkward and tense atmosphere which would start things off on a sour note and could even impact the meeting’s end result.
Listening and recall
In order to maintain accuracy for a sustained period of time, interpreters require intense levels of active listening, memory recall, and note-taking skills, since the speaker can talk for a few seconds to several minutes. To be able to do this effectively, professional interpreters undertake specific training and testing which they must continue throughout their career.Chinese interpreters
This may seem like a given, but what most people do not realise is the extent of knowledge and vocabulary needed in an interpreter’s target language. According to the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC), in order to be a professional their “understanding of the language must be comparable to that of an educated native speaker”. To reach this level of fluency, interpreters must not only have language degrees and certifications but also have studied or worked abroad for an extended period of time to develop their skills and improve their cultural literacy.
Interpreters must remain impartial as well as being able to accurately and idiomatically transmit a message from one language to another without any additions, omissions or other misleading factors that can alter the intended meaning. After all, what an interpreter says is automatically considered to be coming from the speaker. Non-professionals who alter the original meaning, even with the best of intentions, are influencing the potential outcome of meetings. They have been hired as interpreters, not consultants, so by creating their own version of a conversation it runs the high risk of seriously damaging you or your company’s reputation.
Fluency in a language is not enough to facilitate effective communication between two parties, as it does not address the cultural barriers. This is especially important if the two parties are from regions that are culturally very different from one another, e.g. China and the US.
One of the most common mistakes made by international companies that come to China on business is to hire ethnically Chinese people who speak both English and he native language. On the surface this was a logical choice. However, what these companies found was that their bilingual speaker did not understand the country’s business environment and the many local customs, manners and expectations which that entails. This resulted in huge communication problems and ultimately the failure of many endeavours.
Professional interpreters, on the other hand, have had extensive cross-cultural training, absorbing the sensibilities and nuances of the target culture. Therefore, they can navigate through the cultural and conceptual gaps separating the participants and act as a guide through these challenging waters for their client. Chinese interpreters
This is arguably the most overlooked factor when employing interpreters. Regardless of their field of work, interpreters will often encounter sensitive information and delicate situations which require both tact and maturity. Being the conduit for all messages being exchanged, they can manage the mood of the meeting and help both parties communicate in the professional manner they would expect. For example, during a business meeting, an American party may ask their Chinese counterparts what the flaws of a product or service may be. This line of questioning and the directness – while perfectly normal in many western countries – would likely offend the Chinese party and cause them to lose face, which in turn would almost certainly derail any negotiations. So, to ensure the meeting remains harmonious, the interpreter would take the literal meaning of the original message and slightly alter the spirit of it, allowing the question to make the transition over the cultural divide while still remaining true to how the speaker intended it.
Hiring the right interpreter is key to effective communication and, ultimately, the success of your business endeavours. However, with demand currently outweighing supply, finding the right interpreter can be a daunting task. Our reliable team of professional Chinese interpreters can help facilitate business meetings, negotiations, presentations, marketing events, factory tours, site visits and conferences. Contact us here for a free quote.