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Bridging the language gap

THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS

MONDAY JULY 04, 2011 MUMBAI

By Venkata Susmita Biswas

There are some professions which come to us as easily as breathing, interpretation is one such. The need for interpreters in a globalized  multi-cultural world is at its peak now as India is at the centre of some major business deals and also holds a very important position in world politics and policy making. “There is a great paucity of talent in this industry. There is a huge void that needs to be filled in by translators and interpreters,” says Dinesh Govindani of Academia De Español, Mumbai.

Just as interpreters, translators are also much in demand, but interpretation is quite different from translation. “The latter is restricted to the field of documentation while interpretation is used in one-to-one or group discussions,” explains Govindani who has worked with Hrithik Roshan and Barbara Mori on Kites.

The job

Communication is the bottomline when it comes to cracking deals, signing MoUs or making diplomatic visits. “What’s most important at cross-cultural meeting is understanding the mood of the delegates, their gestures and their sociocultural background. An interpreter can’t just walk into a meeting — he has to read up as much as he can about the two parties who are going to meet and what each of them want from the other,” adds Govindani. “Language is just a technicality, one needs to get a grip on the emotions of the people involved. The Japanese are very harmonious in nature, so one should be sure not to speak harshly or hurt them,” says MR Rangnathan, chairman, ABK AOTS Dosokai, Chennai.

Indian advantage
“We Indians are blessed with the aptitude to learn new languages really fast as we are exposed to at least three languages right from birth. But we fail to realise the great talent we possess and take it for granted,” says Govindani. Continuing on the same line of thought is Ranganathan. “Japanese is very close to Tamil. The grammar is similar. It is therefore easy for Tamilians. Even learning the language is not too tough as grammar is the base of every language and with Japanese, Tamil speaking population will not have any problem,” he adds.

Global village

“India is doing a lot of business with Latin-American companies — be it pharma, software or automobiles, we are clinching a lot of deals with countries that predominantly have Spanish-speakers. So the opportunities are great in this sector,” says Govindani. Interpretation is not restricted to business negotiations alone. Foreign authors who come to India to launch books also need them. Marketing is also going global and the manufacturing industry is seeing a lot of expat traffic. Most often interpreters can be employed at chambers of commerce, embassies or consulates. “In the manufacturing and software industry, there is a need for people who can interpret a foreign language at three levels — junior level programmers who often come across error messages in Japanese, interpreters and project leaders who can sit through video conferences and interact with the client and most importantly at the shop floor where an interpreter will act as a bridge between Japanese engineers and local work force,” explains Ranganathan. One can earn about `5,000 per day as an interpreter.

Specialisation

“It is common perception that French and German are most popular foreign languages, but languages like Spanish and Mandarin are gaining importance these days,” says Govindani. “One can complete a basic graduation like BA, BSc or even a graduate engineer can learn a foreign language and become an interpreter. Some of my students who started off as interpreters/translators have now been absorbed by Japanese firms,” says a proud Ranganathan who was conferred with the ‘Order of the rising sun, gold and silver rays’ by the Emperor of Japan.

— susmita@newindianexpress.com