Increase international reach – globalize image, sound and events
How can various topics be better aligned internationally?
Internationalize, think big and build international relationships. We explain what it takes to keep up with globalization trends.
Think big – Align internationally
Think big – Of course, many companies will claim to be internationally oriented. But what does this mean exactly? Just selling products and services in other countries is not enough. It is also about lasting international relationships. Because despite all the globalization trends of recent years and decades, there are still often more cultural differences than we generally assume. So it’s not just a 1:1 translation of information into other languages that’s needed, but a transfer into other cultural contexts – and that’s despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that we might assume we’re automatically internationally connected through the various social networks. Just because we send our tweets and LinkedIn posts in English does not mean that we will be understood outside our culture. Nevertheless, these tech tools offer opportunities for communication on a scale that seemed unthinkable not so long ago. Ultimately, they are tools that require proper use. According to the saying that if I only have a hammer at my disposal, every problem looks like a nail, we should use the right tool from the toolbox available to us. One of them is also simultaneous interpreters, who with their knowledge not only of the language alone, but also of the respective cultural context, can do much more than a mere transmission of facts. An example: Have you ever tried to tell a joke in a foreign language? If you are lucky, your counterpart will have laughed – out of politeness. Humor is exemplarily something that works differently in different cultures. Everyday language changes. When we learn a foreign language in school, we mostly learn an abstract version of the language. No one talks the way we learned it in school – and certainly not the way we learned it in school many years ago. Misunderstandings caused by inadequate translation, which leave communication partners confused or distraught, are often difficult to sort out afterwards. Avoiding this and ensuring smooth communication is the task of simultaneous interpreters.
Digitization offers new opportunities
To refine our toolbox, digitalization offers many new possibilities. Against the backdrop of the pandemic, we all got the opportunity to learn about some of these new possibilities and systems. How many different video conferencing systems have you had to deal with recently? Not everything has always worked perfectly but in the acute phase of the pandemic this was tolerated according to the motto: better than nothing. But now it is time to think about which new event formats have the potential to be used successfully even after the pandemic and thus make our international cooperation even more efficient.
This makes it easy to bring together participants from all over the world. There are no travel costs and no travel time. Hybrid events are also conceivable, where one part is actually present and one part participates remotely. But something we’ve all been sorely missing lately is face-to-face interaction with each other. So far, there is no technical system that maps this important socializing aspect to the satisfaction of all participants. So it is always necessary to weigh up which format is the most suitable. At some conferences, for example, the personal exchange during coffee breaks or at the buffet is at least as important as the presentations themselves – especially since video recordings can be provided later. If, on the other hand, managers from different regions of an internationally operating company meet for a regular exchange, a purely online format may be sufficient, especially if the people taking part already know each other from previous face-to-face meetings and everyone knows exactly who they are dealing with.
Challenges and opportunities
For simultaneous interpreters, online-only formats present further challenges. This is because 80% of human communication is non-verbal. This means, for example, that an interpreter must see a speaker in order to anticipate content. Gestures, facial expressions and body language must be included. If the interpreter only has a coarse-grained video image from an inexpensive webcam available, and if this video image does not show much more than the face, the interpreter is lost in terms of non-verbal communication. So there are quite mundane technical requirements to consider if the online or hybrid event is to be a success. Many video conferencing systems compress the video and audio signal for performance reasons. This may be sufficient for attendees – especially if multiple participants have their video image enabled. For interpreters, it is not, because a compressed audio signal acts like in low-pass filter, where the highs are lost. For speech, this means that sibilants become indistinct and “smear”. The brain can no longer distinguish between “s” and “f” and must abstract from context, requiring additional capacity. A compressed video image loses detail. Gestures and facial expressions can no longer be recognized perfectly. The image looks as if it has been softened. Both are detrimental to the quality of the interpretation. It becomes even more difficult when the image and the sound are not transmitted synchronously.
Good microphones with expert positioning at the speaker, good video cameras that are aligned so that they do not just show the speaker’s nostrils, and a reliable Internet connection are, from a technical point of view, a basic requirement for good interpreting performance. This is the essential lesson learned from the pandemic year. With regard to formats that will make it into the “new normal” in the future, this fact should not be neglected. The technical possibilities are there. They just need to be used consistently and taken into account when planning and budgeting events. This would complete the toolbox for efficient communication on an international level – free of misunderstandings.