The United Nations have declared 2008 the International Year of Languages.
But if you listen to the global buzz, you might think that you don’t need ‘languages’ any more, Globish (Global English) is THE language that will get you everywhere, in particular in business.
A number of companies consider it as the way to save.
Save on what? On one essential aspect of international communication: language diversity. So if that is the case with your company, you will undoubtedly find some interesting insights in this excellent broadcast on Radio France Internationale.
The title was: ‘Interpreters in the world of business’, and several professional interpreters, as well as top players in the field of global business were interviewed.
It’s true that for medium-level meetings and communication, conference interpreters will be less and less needed. Why is that so? Because business executives are increasingly made to use English in their daily interaction with their foreign counterparts, and even among themselves! But it also means that they need to be trained (and this has a cost too).
Did I say ‘made’? That’s because I’ve had many opportunities to discuss this with French business executives, some of them extremely FLUENT in English. They resent the fact that some meetings held in France have to take place in English. They would very much prefer to use their own native language to work faster, and better.
For important business negotiations and top-level meetings, interpreting will continue to be needed, if only to ensure that the top management are allowed to speak in their own languages. But not only them: one case in point are the EWC‘s (European Work Councils) set up by European multinationals. The participants in EWC meetings are management and employee representatives, and the latter do not necessarily have the command of English (nor do they receive the kind of language training…) that would enable them to follow the meetings in any meaningful and positive way.
So interpreters now have a bigger role in business. They have made the switch from diplomatic conferences (their main line of business when simultaneous interpreting was invented, just after World War II) to business conferences, and they are a most valuable part of them, not only as language interpreters, but as cultural mediators too.
Take Chinese. As the Chinese interpreter points out in the interview, the Chinese are not giving up on their language, quite the contrary. Why should they, anyway? Very high-quality Chinese interpreting is essential to many business deals. If the two sides can’t communicate efficiently, what happens? The deal falls through or is delayed. The Chinese have enough suitors at the moment to afford to pick and choose.
So, the United Nations have declared 2008 the International Year of Languages. Are you doing anything for your language this year? Any plans? I’d love to hear about them.