From 2013 to 2015, I became an online Hispanic marketing consultant and taught social media and global marketing. My research was fresh and relevant and I still found online communication interesting and enticing to continue studying and teaching about it. The most fascinating for me was not necessarily marketing but culture, mostly cross-cultural analysis on how people from different parts of the world engaged online. I even wanted to pursue a PhD in that subject to further research it. I applied to a doctorate program in Germany, but was not “shortlisted.”
I took up Hispanic Marketing even though I found marketing the cheesiest–blatantly inauthentic–area in communications. The demand for bilingual marketers was high up to 2015. Many companies wanted their piece of the Hispanic market pie.
Yet, Hispanic marketing as a field was in the process of disappearing. It was being diluted and forming what is now “integrated” or “total marketing.” In 2011, the prediction was that due to demographics,the majority of Latinos were bilingual without necessarily being assimilated. Latinos, mostly the ones of Mexican descent, were integrating into the U.S.-mainstream and at the same time keeping their Latino roots.
The greatest opportunity for today’s interpreters is beyond adopting new interpreting software. It is about internalizing the technology the way we have assimilated to smartphones and have found new things to do with them.
Traditional Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) has lowered the cost of interpreting services and exponentially expanded the number of interpreting assignments. Wireless mobile-accessed remote interpreting has added a new dimension. It has opened the doors for new settings, unconstrained locations, and streamlined processes. These provide more control and benefits to the interpreter.
With mobile-accessed remote interpreting, interpreters can have more freedom to create new work relationships, develop their own work systems, and enjoy the convenience of the Internet with limitless options for where interpretation can be provided. The greatest bonus is the mobility. The interpreter is not confined to a particular place nor is he or she expected to travel to a required location.
During graduate school, I researched online marketing and culture. I was fascinated by what social media was then–a powerful platform to bring people together for conversation and engagement sans marketing, selling, and ads. Facebook and Twitter in 2012 were platforms for people to come together and create communities around a topic, a cause, or an identity. It was a networking tool to meet other professionals in a particular field. There was, for example, the Online Hispanic Marketing Facebook group page where Hispanic Marketers from around the country and the world would come together to engage in industry-related conversations, talk about the news, discuss trends, and so on. There were unspoken rules of courtesy and friendliness around those conversations.
Discussions were substantial. The experience was similar to those great conferences in which the most relevant discussions happened in the hallway with other participants after the workshops. I definitely learned a lot and made great connections. Some led to business collaborations. There was the occasional bullies, but they would be buried in the discussion thread because no one replied to their posts. They would be basically ignored. There was no need to facilitate the discussions. The main reason for people to participate was to create a productive group discussion. There was also a sense of activism among these Latino professionals and a need to come together to speak up to call out what was deemed wrong.
Fast forward to 2016, keywords, algorithms and greed took over. Instead of discussions there were posts, videos and pictures disguised as ads. Most engagement became ads thanks to AI that could track who was doing what or who was posting about what. Many of the group pages became an annoying collection of irrelevant content. The ad posts continued, but the genuine engagement stopped. Who wanted to read spam-like posts?
Inter-ethnic relations have been a taboo in the U.S. because assimilation has been expected from immigrants and minorities. Assimilation has mainly occurred among people from countries with less cultural and linguistic distances (Anglo-Saxon, Ireland, France)—for whom the term expatriates is used—or among people who are not seen as “others.”
In the last decade due to fast technological advancements such as the Internet, social media, and cell phones, many immigrants are not assimilating. While there is a great level of acculturation to the American way of doing business—mostly by college graduates, immigrants and expats bring and keep their own worldviews, perspectives, and values representative of their first language and culture of origin.
Minorities in the U.S. who live in silos have strengthened their diversities. The more an ethnic group is segregated, excluded or other-ed, the less it assimilates. Diversity is a positive aspect. It enriches any company, organization or team. Silicon Valley, Tech Venture Capitalist, Paul Graham explains, “United States has only 5 percent of the world’s population; it stands to reason that most of the world’s best new ideas will be thought up by people who weren’t born here.”
The challenge is when communication styles clash let alone the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes. It results in misunderstandings, frustration, decreased productivity and lower morale. We all have seen this!
In this additional blog topic, I will record and share my journey into Data Science–what the Harvard Business Review has called “The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century.”
Recientemente recibí la siguiente pregunta sobre la traducción del termino “cross-cultural” al español.
“Hola Mari: Me parece muy importante que hagas la diferencia. Sin embargo no me queda claro la traducción al español de ‘cross-cultural’ es ‘croscultural’? El problema podría radicar en que ‘cross-cultural’ e ‘intercultural’ son términos que son usados con el mismo significado en francés y español pero no así en inglés.”
Esta fue mi respuesta:
“Gracias por tu nota. Yo uso el mismo termino en español “cross-cultural” sin traducir. De esa manera se indica y aprecia el significado único de cada termino. Dependiendo en las preferencias de estilo al escribir, también se podría usar “croscultural” sin la doble “s” ya que el español es una lengua fonética y no necesita dos eses. ”
De acuerdo al Profesor Asistente de Marketing (Mercadeo) en la Escuela de Negocios de la Universidad de Chile, Sergio Olavarreta S. Ph.D., “cross-cultural” no se traduce para enfatizar el aspecto comparativo de este. Olavarreta añade que, “el prefijo trans- en español tiene acepciones diversas y no es equivalente” en su articulo titulado, “Aspectos metodológicos en la investigación cross-cultural.”
New technology is not the greatest threat interpreters face today. Most interpreters have accepted that new technologies are here to stay and they are adapting to them. The greatest challenge for interpreters continues to be the fight for professional recognition represented in fair pay, benefits and working conditions. Professional interpreters expect salaries comparable to similar professions.
Most interpreters have slowly adapted to remote interpretation. Video remote interpreting has been praised by end-users–mostly hospitals–and also by conference interpreters.
For those who have refused to join large remote interpreting corporations, new technology and the need for training is not their major concern. They complain that the largest corporations have done very little or nothing to upgrade their professional standards and working conditions. Many interpreters resent these corporations for using new technologies to lower the interpreters’ profile to call centers.
Last year, I interpreted for the Organization of American States-Inter-American Commission on Human Rights‘ week-long strategic planning discussion sessions, hearings and broadcast conference. This was my first experience interpreting for a high-level, international meeting. I met OAS-IACHR’s Secretary, Commissioners and staff, some of whom had been ambassadors and saw first hand their impactul and inspiring work. I was teamed up with a colleague of mine. It was an intense, exciting, and very rewarding experience.
Initially, I was scheduled to work all five days, but because of the betting process interpreting agencies go through in order to reduce costs, a less-expensive interpreter was hired in my place. However, by the end of the first day, I was told that that interpreter was not able to continue and was asked if I was still available. I began on the second day. The “less-expensive” interpreter I was replacing asked me if she could stay to observe me. I told her that I didn’t mind. Thankfully, she left after an hour. She was a California court-certified interpreter, but was unable to work at a high level conference.
Conference or simultaneous interpreting requires a unique set of skills. CETRA’s blog explains, “Simultaneous interpreting is complex and demanding. It requires listening, understanding, sharp memory, accurate structure, inflection, and syntax, as well as a mastery of key terminology. Additionally, a command of two cultures is necessary to interpret idioms and address the audience in the correct register–formal and informal. Because simultaneous interpreting happens in real-time, there is no room for mistakes.”
Most conference interpreters have master’s degrees in interpreting. Others have master’s degrees in a related area plus professional training from a certificate program. The foundation of my training has come from interpreting at community meetings and my degree in intercultural relations. For me, interpreting is a natural way to operate requiring the ability to perceive a message from two different perspectives without changing its meaning. My favorite settings are international conferences, executive and official meetings and business presentations, training sessions, and community events.
For more information about my interpreting services and scheduling, please go to my calendly.
By Mari D. González
I conducted a series of training sessions last year for a company whose employees are close to 50 percent Latinos of which about 30 percent are not fully bilingual. The communication across cultures is as challenging for English-dominants as it is for Spanish-dominants.
Several Asian-American employees also work for this company. Their communication style is different from Americans as well as from Latinos which enriched our training activities and discussions.
At the end of the mixed-group training sessions, I asked participants to brainstorm on what they had learned and what has worked for them in the past that they can apply when communicating with someone outside their primary culture and language.
My question was, based on what you have learned during training and from your own personal experience, what do you recommend when working with people from different cultures?
I wanted the “takeaways” to come from them instead of me. This is what they came up with:
- Have a positive attitude.
- Do not be afraid to ask questions.
- Use “yes or no” questions.
- When unclear, ask again, paraphrase and repeat.
- When something is critical, communicate face-to-face.
- Use non-verbal communication such as hand gestures.
- Ask for help when needed; simply say “I need help.”
- Talk slowly, not necessarily louder.
- Avoid the use of slang.
- Show it instead of telling it.
- Use pictures and visual aids if possible.
- Give a warning upfront if your second language skills are limited.
By Mari D. González
I completed a translation project over the weekend and felt satisfied to deliver my work before the deadline. My client who does not speak Spanish fluently celled immediately to ask me to edit my work because she had found a mistake.
She discovered that in previous translations I have used “1ro” to abbreviate “first,” but this time I used “1.o” instead.
Why the change?
I wanted to follow the Royal Spanish Academy‘s (Real Academia Española-RAE) standard. In doing so, I confused my client and it is very likely that I’d have confused the intended audience who are more familiar with “1ro” too.
While in Mexico the agreed abbreviation for “primero [first]’ is “1o” without the dot or the “r” in between, in the U.S., the most common abbreviation is “1ro” which emulates “1st.” Both deviate from La RAE’s standards to accommodate to national preferences.
Because in intercultural communication as in translation meaning matters more than literal interpretation, I corrected my translation to follow not La RAE’s recommendations, but my client’s suggestion.