How to be inspired by ninja thinking

What comes to mind when you think of the word ninja?

Things like pop culture, Japan, weapons, ninja turtles perhaps. When my son brought this cute ninja craft home this week, I was curious as to the popularity of ninjas and if I could try ninja thinking to improve as a translator and a human.

Ninjas are known for specialising in stealth and unarmed combat during the feudal period of Japanese history. As a translator, I of course looked up the etymology of the term. I discovered that “ninja” is actually originally a Chinese word made up of Kanji characters that literally translate as “the one who endures”. In Japanese, the same two Kanji that are pronounced “nin sha” in Chinese are pronounced “shinobi no mono.” “Shinobi” refers to quietness and stealth, essential qualities in a ninja fighter.

How can ninja thinking inspire us?

So if endurance, quietness and stealth are key characteristics of a ninja, how can this inspire us in our work and/or life?

You probably know how hard it can be to persevere. Endurance is tough and too often when something seems insurmountable, we resist or fight against it.

Instead of giving in to fear, try thinking like a ninja and:
– reach out to a colleague or friend to bounce ideas off,
– keep a positivity file to remind yourself of times when you did a job that seemed scary but had a great result/positive feedback,
– be consistent, even small amounts of action, if practiced consistently over time, will lead to results (I definitely struggle with this!).

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Don’t finish my sentences!

Australia and France have many connections both historic and present: the Aussies love French culture and the French see Australia as a dream destination. Why then, despite this mutual affection, do we often label the French as rude and why do the French see Aussies as “soft”, almost too laid back.

The response can be found in the way conversations are constructed and the different styles of expression that exist in Australian English and French.

Think about the following scenario….

Imagine you are having a conversation with someone and you’re trying to convey your views. The other person frequently interrupts you, often finishing your sentences for you. They pepper you with questions and you don’t really feel as if they are listening. You get frustrated because you are unable to explain your thoughts fully.

This is what often happens when a French and Australian person converse. The Aussie considers the interruptions rude and feels that the French person doesn’t actually care about their thoughts and opinions. 

But from the French person’s perspective, what the Australian said made them think and want to debate the topic. The conversation was so interesting that they had to interrupt and ask questions to find out more. They wanted to finish the other person’s sentences to show that they’re on the same wavelength.

Differences in the French and Australian interactional styles can be a source of misunderstanding.

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How to thrive in an uncertain world of work

Tom Goodwin writes in his 2017 article ‘Forget coding, we need to teach our kids how to dream’ that if we refocus education systems to foster creativity, fuel curiosity, and help our kids to develop healthy relationships and empathy, then we empower them to be self-reliant, agile, and adaptable to change in a world that we can’t yet foresee.

Goodwin believes that in a world of change, technological disruption and abundant information, we need to develop five key attributes in order to become robust, happy and balanced people. Translators and interpreters can not only take inspiration from these suggested attributes, but also take comfort in the fact that many of them are qualities already central to our practice.

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How to get information into your head

My latest lockdown book is Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting by Lisa Genova (author of Still Alice which was made into a movie starring Julianne Moore as Alice Howland, a linguistics professor diagnosed with familial Alzheimer’s disease shortly after her 50th birthday.)

Genova looks at how we remember and why we forget. Obviously some things we forget or don’t need to remember, like what time we brushed our teeth this morning but there are other things that we want to retain and not forget, so how do we do this?

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World Youth Skills Day (Journée mondiale des compétences des jeunes) – 15 July 2021

I take my hat off to all the parents who helped (or are still juggling) their kids through pandemic remote learning. I have a 3 year old so I didn’t have personal experience of this, but the statistics are sobering: UNESCO estimates that schools were either fully or partially closed for more than 30 weeks between March 2020 and May 2021 in half the countries of the world. In late June, 19 countries still had full school closures, affecting nearly 157 million learners, with an additional 768 million more learners affected by partial school closures.

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World Water Day

As I write, rain has been constantly drizzling outside, on a grey old afternoon. I’m thankful for the sustenance it brings to my garden and to my supply of clean drinking water.
Water is essential to life. Yet, living and growing up in Australia, I’ve seen the devastation of drought, the inconvenience of water restrictions but also the irony of the devastation of flooding to drought wrought areas. Water and easy access to it is something we take so much for granted, yet people in all kinds of places around the world are struggling to access the quantity and quality of water they need for drinking, cooking, bathing, handwashing, and growing their food.

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Storytelling to promote sustainability

I recently listed to an episode of the Advancing Sustainable Solutions podcast called Storytelling for Sustainability and, as a translator, the perspective of how we can use stories to inspire and connect emotionally resonated with me. I regularly work with clients who use stories, either through blogs, articles, videos or their websites – to connect. Using a narrative to communicate can more powerfully capture the reader or listener’s attention and cut through the information overwhelm we all face today.

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4 tips for effective marketing translations

Are you thinking of expanding internationally or entering a new market? One of the first things you are likely to do is to have your marketing materials translated. So how do you get your message and call to action across effectively in a different language?

  1. Choose a translator specialised in marketing

Take the time to find a translator who is experienced in marketing and who understands your business. Think about it. You wouldn’t want a financial translator translating your highly creative marketing copy, you can give them a call to translate your annual report but not your website or brochure. Translating marketing documents requires creativity, cultural competency and an ability to convey ideas whilst at the same time retaining meaning and eliciting a desired emotional response. Continue reading “4 tips for effective marketing translations”

3 reasons why you should translate your website

If your product or service is only promoted in one language on your website, non-native speakers of that language may have difficulty understanding it fully. The nuanced features and benefits of your product or service may go unnoticed, resulting in reduced engagement with your brand. For many companies, time and budget limitations can be obstacles to not getting a website translated. Too many companies rely on English being the so-called “language of business”. Don’t forget that SEO can only work in another market if your content is translated.

Can’t read, won’t buy

According to  Common Sense Advisory, 72% of consumers spend most of their time online on websites in their own language. Even though many people around the world understand English to some extent, it is estimated that half of these do not have a good enough command of English to successfully navigate a website. 55% of respondents only buy from websites where information is presented in their own language. As a result there is a reduction in browsing rates for English sites, non-consideration of a product or service and a limited desire to buy. Put simply, people prefer to purchase from a site that is in their native language.

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What makes Australian English and American English different?

So you’re going global and need a translation into English but you have to choose between Australian or British and American English. This will of course be dependent on your audience and where you are selling your product or service. I’m going to focus here on Australian English as I live in Australia! Let’s have a look at the main linguistic differences between the two.

The 4 main differences are:

  • Spelling
  • Dates and times
  • Vocabulary
  • Punctuation

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Purpose in Practice: what do you want to do with your translation?

What is translation purpose? Most common definitions would agree that the purpose of translation is to “convey the original tone and intent of a message, taking into account cultural and regional differences between source and target languages” (Globalization and Localization Association), but how does this reflect the relationship between translator and client in practice?

“Skopos” is a Greek word for “aim” or “purpose” that was introduced into translation theory in the 1970s by Hans Vermeer. This went on to become the technical term for translation purpose and the act of translating for that purpose. It refers to the understanding that each text is produced for a given purpose and as such should be translated in a way that enables it to function in the situation in which it is used, with the people who want to use and in the way they intend it to function. Translators create texts for clients who may be around the corner, in the same city or on the other side of the world, but these clients are not always good at communicating with translators in terms of explaining what they want or need when asking for a translation (sometimes they don’t actually know themselves!).

So in terms of translation purpose, the most important and basic question it seems is: what is it that you want to do with your translation? The second most important aspect to consider is how will a translator help you achieve your purpose?

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Tips on choosing translators for a new market

Translators and translation are key if you are exporting or importing to a new market. Maybe your business has a great product and you have identified a niche in a new foreign market. You may have invested in setting up a website in English and spent a great amount of time and money developing it with web design experts and copywriters. Now after all this effort, you will need to adapt your website and translate it for a new market. You may also need to translate instructions or other content for your target market.

Professional translators

Where do you start?

One option is to hire a translator directly as most translators work as freelance contractors. The other option is to hire a translation agency which acts as an intermediary, so you won’t be in direct contact with the translator. The second option is preferable for most projects as you will save time and money and a great translator who partners with your business can add real value and help you meet your goals.  Most translators in Australia are accredited by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI). This guarantees a certain level of professionalism in a language pair. It is however difficult to know who will be your perfect translation partner.

Here are a few tips:

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Book review: Found in Translation

Found in Translation: How Translation Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche

A book dedicated to translators, gasp! Is this book here to publicly recognise that it is because of us the world communicates? It would seem so. Jost Zetzche, a German translator who has written a doctorate on translation in history and Nataly Kelly, a Spanish interpreter and scholar in sociolinguistics, paint a vivid canvas of just how many aspects of everyday life are profoundly affected by translation. Well researched and presented, Found in Translation reveals the extent to which the products we use and the freedoms and pleasures we enjoy are made possible by translation. Above and beyond world politics and global business, the book is divided into chapters that cover areas as diverse as space travel, legal cases, battlefields, fashion, medicine, terrorism, marketing, the European Union, Ikea, Dr Seuss, the Simpsons, Twitter, Shakespeare, cinema, sport, religion, love, porn, the airline industry, food and more. Each chapter is interspersed with highlighted text boxes that provide examples of funny diplomatic and marketing mistranslations, linguistic facts or quirky stories such as being able to access the ATM in Latin at the Vatican. Continue reading “Book review: Found in Translation”

Priceless words

Translating for free! Gasp!

I know that many translators out there might balk at the idea of doing a translation “for free” in what is already a highly competitive marketplace that can all too often be driven by price not true value. But even in translation some things are priceless. Much more than Mastercard. Pro-bono translation is one of these invaluable things. It struck me the other day whilst doing some work for Translators Without Borders (TWB), yes for “free” for an NGO working to fight malnutrition in Chad in Africa, that despite our globalised, virtual and connected world there are still very real physical borders experienced by people living in Africa in particular. People who are struggling to access even the most basic needs including food, let alone quality healthcare services. Most countries in the Sahel region in Africa, experience a severe rate of overall malnutrition which was around 30% at the start of the 2000s is now around 40% (Bureau d’Appui Santé et Environnement). For me, this aspect of my work, this jolt back to another’s reality, lifts my eyes above my laptop screen in my comfortable home office to the world at large. Even though people might think that translators bridge cultures all the time in their work, the reality is that often we can fall into the trap of just translating and not reflecting on the impact of our work. Continue reading “Priceless words”