Sunday, March 24, 2019

Real-time Translation

In my line of work, I present to random people of random nationalities all the while. Sometimes they understand me and my Maharashtrian accent, sometimes they don't. And that to me (and I believe also to them) is perfectly fine. I have been in many presentations where I have had blank stares from people mainly because of language problems, and I leave it at that and move on.

So last week, I had to present in several different meetings in Shenzhen (China) to quite a few Chinese people. I was expecting to have a mute meeting where I blabber, they partially understand me, and then we part ways happily and may be go out for a dinner where they talk in their language and I sit and enjoy my food.

However, to my pleasant surprise, I noticed that they had arranged for "real-time translators" in the room. These translators were 2 women who took turns (every few minutes) to translate me, in near real-time, to Mandarin as I spoke. All participants were wearing these nifty Bluetooth ear-pieces (including me) and whatever I said in English would be translated to them in Mandarin. Also, whatever they asked back in Mandarin would instantly be translated to English into my ear. I was amazed that - not only could they translate all the technical terms like Balance Sheet/ Consolidation/ Journals/ Notes to Accounts/ Schedules etc. but they also understood the context of the situation that I was talking about.

Later during the break, I chatted with them a bit and understood that they were translators specializing in "Financial and Performance Management Software". This brings me to the fact that whenever I see foreign leaders with different languages talking to each other on TV, I always wondered what they were actually talking about. However, after experiencing real-time translation myself, I can safely assume there are translators out there specializing in "diplomacy, politics and foreign affairs"!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Getting up on time

It's funny how I have to go back to a blog post that I wrote almost 10 years ago! So this one is like a follow-up to my post about clock radios and why I love them so much!

At the beginning of this century (2000) I discovered clock radios because my parents got me a Panasonic Music system that had a function for waking up at a time I desired; with the source of music that I liked (CD/ Radio/ Cassette). Most of my engineering days I used that function to get up almost always on time without any issues. After I started working, and I moved to a different location, I bought a clock radio there and continued my morning routine. Which remained so, all the while till I completed my MBA.

Around 2010, I discovered smartphones and more or less have been using them as alarm clocks ever since. Unfortunately, being a light sleeper, an alarm clock startles me out of bed every time it goes off, however soothing a sound I keep as my alarm. Not only does it make me grouchy, but also it makes me get up with an elevated heart beat, something I don't feel comfortable with.

Towards the end of last year, I decided to go give clock radios another shot mainly because I developed the bad habit of checking my email in my bed after my alarm went off in the phone. This turned out to be a very bad way of starting my day by thinking about work (Your email is everybody's action items for you - I don't remember which celebrity said that).

Anyway, I purchased the Sony ICF-C1 (it's sad to see that the Clock radio genre is dying and there are not many options in the market anymore). It does it's job quite well, and I have been having pleasant mornings ever since. I have started getting up on time ever since, and I don't feel that grouchy and stressed the moment I get up.

So, if you are like me, I highly recommend ditching your phone (keep it far away from your bedside table) and getting a clock radio because:
  1. You can get up gently (most clock radios progressively increase the sound of the music so you don't get startled)
  2. You won't check Email/ Messages/ Social Media first thing in the morning
  3. You will get to hear some good music early in the morning (hoping you have good soothing music radio stations in your vicinity)
  4. Unlike an alarm clock, you won't feel like switching off your radio to sleep more (even if you lie in bed listening to the music for 10 more minutes), and it will gradually awaken you!
So, to conclude - it's 2019, I am not getting any younger, and I feel like a nostalgic grandpa. I am, therefore, going back to old tech that I used while I was younger!