Peak Translations

Why it pays to include an interpreter in your videoconferencing

English is spoken by some 430 million people as a second language across the world. However, that does not mean that English is comprehensively understood. Relying on other people’s ability (or desire) to communicate in English in business can be a costly mistake, with any misinterpretations causing confusion, delays, and a loss of goodwill.

The world has become more virtual as a result of Covid restrictions. It is important to remember that getting your message understood online is as important as in a face-to-face setting; perhaps more so since gauging the ‘temperature’ of the room is even more difficult.

There are many occasions where you might choose to employ the services of an interpreter to virtually engage with your foreign audience.

Here are the most popular:

1. Communications with your supply chain

There is an issue with your supply chain, and email exchanges have only compounded the confusion. Recently, we supported a customer in the UK who needed to resolve an issue with their Chinese supplier. Up until now, verbal communication had not been an issue. However, there had been a change in personnel and the company’s new contact did not have the same command of English as their predecessor. Our interpreter helped to bring the issue to speedy and successful closure.

2. Internal conferences

Global companies are also global in their personnel. Employing the services of an interpreter ensures that the communications of the most senior people within the company are delivered in the same way to all staff, regardless of their first language. We recently supported a client where the UK CEO wanted to address his German team on a company presentation in the same way as their UK counterparts. The result? All felt part of the same team, with the same goal. 

3. Customer and distributor communications

What better way to impress a future customer than to include an interpreter as part of your sales negotiations? For distributors and agents too, it may help to accelerate their onboarding and product knowledge.

4. Technical troubleshooting 

Attempting to explain a problem on email or even over the phone, is incredibly difficult where the subject is technical in nature. Holding that conversation on a video call – as we did to facilitate effective communication between a fruit grower in Spain and a commercial refrigeration company in the UK – allows you to visually demonstrate what you’re talking about. 

5. Research

If you are looking to acquire an overseas business, your due diligence process might include speaking to members of staff within that company. Getting ‘under the hood’ in this way on sales pipelines, market share and product roadmap requires nuanced communications. Where you seek to expand your business overseas, having an interpreter on hand for any virtual focus groups will, again, allow you to understand any subtleties when undertaking your market research.

6. HR meetings

HR is another area where it is vitally important that communications are understood. Where dealing with an individual who does not have English as a first language, it is important to ensure they have had guidance in their native language to the same level as their English-speaking colleagues (Peak also offers support on such translations.) Having a sound approach to translating written instructions may well negate the need for an interpreter at a disciplinary hearing; if indeed, the issue was down to responsibilities of the job not being understood

7. Legal issues

Where an issue goes to court, it is likely that an interpreter will be provided as part of courtroom proceedings. Prior to that, it may be helpful to bring in an interpreter to any preliminary meetings you have with your lawyer.

Our top tips on preparing for your video interpreting

1. Find out who is going to be on the call.

How well can they speak and understand English? Their emails and any social media posts, will help you to ascertain their standard of written English. As a failsafe (and particularly where the meeting has particular significance, e.g., a large contract negotiation), you may wish to contact them by phone beforehand to measure how well they speak English.

2. Understand the subject matter.

Is it medical? Legal? A good translation company will need to know this in order to place the right interpreter with the most appropriate subject matter expertise.

3. Choose the right language/ dialect.

If your video call involves delegates from Barcelona, they may favour Catalan, rather than Spanish, as a language. For conferences or training courses, you might want to capture people’s language requirements on your booking form.

4. Timing

Consider not only any time differences in determining when to hold your event, but what else might be happening in the world. Does your preferred date coincide with a public holiday, for example?

5. Is your background an appropriate one?

For those of us working from home, it may have become more acceptable for pets or children to appear on Zoom calls, but your gorgeous Labradoodle may not get a warm reception from nationals of those countries where dogs are considered unclean and rarely kept as house pets.

6. Make use of virtual interpreting services in webinars.

The addition of Zoom’s Simultaneous Interpretations feature means that Peak’s interpreters can be provided for the appropriate channels, allowing non-English speaking attendees to select their language of choice and tune in.

When it comes to virtual engagement with a foreign audience, quality interpreting makes all the difference…


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