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"!

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