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Google Translate enhances diversity in the workplace

One click of this free, readily-available translation software lets you turn the Polish dobre into the Africaans goeie.Another click and you can change to the Zulu okuhle, or several other languages in between.  It’s all good.

At that same time, Google Translate has clear limitations. It is nowhere near the fantasy translator of Star Trek Next Generation. And English teachers aren’t losing any sleep over it. Their jobs are secure for the foreseeable future.

But, consider that Google Translate can be a tool for enhancing diversity. It can allow people who speak English as an additional language to use their own language as a starting point to find the right words. Google Translate allows readers to get a strong gist for the meaning, usually richer and deeper than an English-only scenario would allow.

Alisa Choi Darcy likes what Google Translate can offer. She is the president of Quote EndQuote Cross-Cultural Strategy, an omniculture strategy company that assists Lower Mainland organizations to better reach and include customers from a range of ethnicities. She recently participated in a MAPLE 2.0 diversity event. Her team of 20 has opportunities to use Google Translate as one of many tools to provide clear, meaningful research reports and marketing information for their clients.

Gwen: How do you use Google Translate?

Alisa: We use it when we have team members who have a challenge with English. We allow them to write their notes and communicate feedback to us in their own mother tongue. Then we use Google Translate to get the essence as to what they are trying to tell us. They can obviously speak clearer in their own mother tongue and be more in depth and more insightful. It’s those things that are most valuable. We don’t want to be superficial, especially when they are doing competitive shopping for our clients. We really want to understand their feelings and experience.

Gwen: How do you use Google Translate in other ways, beyond competitive shopping reports?

Alisa: We also have Chinese bloggers. It’s very time consuming for us to do a back translation for clients. Often we’ll just cut and paste a Google Translation of a Chinese blog so that they get the gist of what we are trying to say. Often, clients will give us their English version or what they would use for their English targets. We transcreate it by dissecting it to see what pieces we could use and add other pieces that will resonate with the target audience, keeping the tone in-line with the client’s brand. We then use Google Translate for the back-translation into English for the client’s review….If there’s anything that’s not clear, we could always clarify.

Gwen: It sounds like you know Google Translate pretty well: its good points and its weak points. Tell me about those.

Alisa: When you are speaking in English and then speaking in French, the position of verbs and adjectives are in different positions. In many other languages, it’s similar to that. Although the order of the words might be wrong, the general gist of what you’re trying to say is there. We are able to use Google Translate for the gist, but not for specifics. Google also does not always find the right word for words that have multiple meanings. (See our blog post http://quoteendquote.ca/america-is-dead/). Google Translate cannot do Punjabi; in BC, over 15% of non-English/French speakers have Punjabi as a mother tongue.

Gwen: What’s the potential for Google Translate to improve diversity for Canadian employers?

Alisa: We have a very multicultural team, even our interns have been learning English for a short time. One thing we do, when we have staff meetings, we ask our team members and interns to contribute. If there is a time when they don’t understand an English word or cannot find the English word they want to say to us, they just check Google Translate (on their phones, immediately) for the right word. It’s very insightful; we definitely want that contribution. They have so much experience from different parts of the world that we would love to leverage for the benefit of our clients.

Gwen: So Google Translate helps to provide insightful, meaningful contributions?

Alisa: Yes, it breaks down the language barriers that can be apparent for people who don’t have English as a first language. That should not be an obstruction to their productivity or their contribution to the organization.


Gwen PawlikowskiAbout the Author:
Gwen Pawlikowski is a freelance writer and entrepreneur who has also worked as an ISSofBC employment counsellor with newcomers. She lives in New Westminster and loves the diversity of the Lower Mainland. Please click here for information on ISSofBC’s career services.

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