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Tokyo, Japan

Without language, we may as well all be chickens

Posted 10 March 2014

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What sets us apart from animals?

Well, we humans are sophisticated creatures, capable of abstract reasoning, language, problem solving and introspection. Social learning leads to the establishment of cultural norms, values and rituals. Human society is based on a social structure comprising cooperation and competition. Humans are also uniquely adept at using language for self-expression, communication and the exchange of ideas.

This unites us as human beings and yet language is so diverse that we are unable to communicate with our fellow man globally. However, we do have the ability to learn languages, and language learning is considered a valuable commodity.

And then along came the Internet…

and the world has become smaller in so many ways. People who have lived in traditional communities can now have contact with people on the other side of the world. Or can they…?

There’s a huge hurdle still in the way that often stops this in its tracks – the language barrier!

To quote Anna Deavere Smith:

“I think we can learn a lot about a person in the very moment that language fails them. In the very moment they have to be more creative than they would have imagined in order to communicate. It’s the very moment that they have to dig deeper than the surface to find words, and at the same time, it’s a moment when they want to communicate very badly. They’re digging deep and projecting out at the same time.”

Wherever we go in the world, we want to be understood. If we’re in a country whose language we don’t speak, wild gesticulation may help to get your point across. Some people attempt to be understood by speaking their own language very loudly, mimicking the accent of the other language, assuming it’ll somehow miraculously turn their mother tongue into the desired foreign tongue.

Children seem to have a knack of communicating with their peers without too much trouble. They can play all day on holiday with a new companion from another country without speaking a single word and still have fun, but when it comes to communication in the adult world, this simply isn’t enough.

“Having a go” is to be admired, but in business it is only a good idea on an informal level.

As soon as more serious negotiations are needed or a potential customer shows an interest in your service or product and wants to know more, only accurate language and professionally translated literature will do if you want to build a trusting relationship with potential customers.

Learning a language isn’t an overnight sensation, neither are all language speakers natural translators, but there are solutions.

Engage the services of a professional translation agency to act as your partner overseas. Results are guaranteed!

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