December 2008

Dear Karen,



Sometimes the news throws up both comedy and folly all in one story. Bet they wish they’d got a proofreader first! Take a look at Lost in Translation.


This issue we’re talking about the importance of international communication, the origins of the Japanese language and we are asking you to register your vote for a beauty parade.




Bob Robertson

The Art of the Written Word

“Do Not Disturb signs should be written in the language of the hotel maids”

 Tim Bedore


Isn’t it true that sometimes the written word does not always communicate entirely the message you want the reader to comprehend?


As the barriers between countries continue to fall it would be a shame to put up others in the form of poor communication through bad document translations.


The power of the written word is at its strongest when the reader understands perfectly the message and meaning intended by the writer; whether that’s a personal email of thanks, a business sales letter, legal documents or a written request for a proposal (RFP) as examples, the clarity and specificity of language is key to conveying accuracy or meaning.


You may have seen the episode of Friends, the US sitcom where Joey, the less than intelligent “loveable playboy” character is having trouble writing a recommendation for Monica and Chandler who are seeking to become adoptive parents. His first attempt is not considered good enough and he asks Ross (the brainy paleontologist) to help him out. Ross shows Joey how to use the Thesaurus on his computer. Joey marvels that for any given word he can find a “bigger” word as a substitute thereby making his letter “much more intelligent”.


His second attempt at the letter has made very, very good use of the Thesaurus to the extent that when signing his name he writes - Yours faithfully little baby kangaroo!


Translation is not about word for word substitutions; it is about understanding the nuances, language rhythm, technical jargon and true meaning within documents so that the reader cannot misinterpret anything – that could be costly in both time, money and ongoing relationships.

We Speak Your Language

As more and more businesses seek opportunities to expand their operations overseas, source global partners or deal with non English speaking customers so the need for effective international communication grows.


You want to be seen as a reliable, customer driven business – for all customers. To enable even a basic level of interaction you need a common language with reciprocity of speech and comprehension.


“I have to admit that I don't even try to speak Russian, though I understand it perfectly. I wouldn't want to insult the language by testing out my pronunciations”

 Lana Wood


Assuming people will speak English for you or avoiding another language because you may “get it wrong” is not conducive to good international communications or relations.


You can ease customer, supplier and partner relationships by making sure you and your staff can effectively communicate in the language of your customers when they need you to.


  • Imagine if customers were comfortable that communication was no barrier and they could reliably build solid relationships knowing you “speak the same language”
  • Imagine your people feeling at ease when they are dealing with overseas colleagues or customers because they have a solid understanding of the language they need to communicate in.


The language skills and capabilities you need must be of a standard that crosses cultural and language boundaries with ease rather than building barriers. To achieve successful international communication requires effective training from specialist language trainers who can tailor make programmes that will enable you to feel confident to speak the languages you need and to be able to comprehend what is being said at a level appropriate to the kind of conversations and communication you are or will be involved in.


Communication across cultures and languages creates an opportunity for you to improve the language skills of the people that work with you and for you so that you are able to effectively converse with those key people who you do business with. Successful international and cross cultural communication serves a vital role in that it can prevent miscommunication and misunderstandings, avert mistakes and make doing business with you a joy.

Did You Know?

What are the origins of the Japanese Language Scripts?


Innovation and tradition are the backbones of the Japanese writing system which uses a combination of 3 different types of scripts; Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana.


Kanji uses modified Chinese characters and both Hiragana and Katakana are syllabic scripts. Syllabic scripts are made up of symbols which typically represent an optional consonant sound followed by a vowel sound.


Hiragana and katakana are both kana systems, in which each symbol represents one sound. Each kana is either a vowel, a consonant followed by a vowel, a nasal sound which, depending on the context, sounds either like English m, n, or ng.

Hiragana is used to write native Japanese words. Its origin lies in the early literary works which used Chinese characters completely for their phonetic values at the 8th century CE. At first, hiragana was scorned by literate men as Chinese was the "cultured" language. Women, on the other hand, use hiragana primarily since they were not allowed to learn the Chinese characters. Over time the volume and complexity of this system was reduced giving rise to the current Hiragana system

Katakana, which has its origin as a pronunciation aid for Chinese Buddhist scriptures has evolved to become used for suffixes, particles, postpositions, etc. along with kanji used for word roots.

Between 5,000 and 10,000 Chinese characters, or kanji, are used in written Japanese. In 1981 in an effort to make it easier to read and write Japanese, the Japanese government introduced the jōyō kanji hyō (List of Chinese Characters for General Use), which includes 1,945 regular characters, plus 166 special characters used only for people's names. All government documents, newspapers, textbooks and other publications for non-specialists use only these. Writers of other material are free to use whatever kanji they want.


By the way if you are thinking of getting a tattoo for your trip to Japan the most popular script is Kanji!


For more information about this, get in touch with us.

What’s the Most Beautiful Script? Register Your Vote

Language is a wonderful thing! To demonstrate this have a look at those that we think are some of the most beautiful scripts from a variety of languages. To see more and vote for your favourite click here to visit our website.