London is one of the most linguistically diverse cities in the world. 2011 Census data showed 100 different languages spoken in almost every London borough. London is also a powerhouse for business. In 2018, there were 1,563 businesses in London per 10,000 residents, according to the House of Commons.
When business and diversity meet, that means businesses need to find the best translation and interpretation services in order to fulfill their potential. Between contractors, employees, vendors and customers who may not speak English as their first language, the need for interpretation services can be key to success.
Below, we’ll cover the growth of business in London while looking at the city’s unique linguistic diversity. Then we’ll look at the need for interpretation and translation services and how to find a good interpreter or translator. We’ll also highlight why solid translation services are a must.
Business growth in London and the role of interpretation services
Small businesses are seeing much growth in the UK, according to the Federation of Small Businesses. At the start of 2018, there were 5.6 million small businesses in the UK, while private sector employment increased by 2 percent over the course of that year. Meanwhile, London’s Gross Value Added growth rate is projected to hit 1.9 percent in 2020, according to a forecast by GLA Economics for the Greater London Authority.
In terms of linguistic diversity, the BBC states that over 300 languages are spoken in London schools. Further, 2011 Census data reveals that 300,000 people living in London can’t speak English and only 78 percent claim English as their first language.
Such language diversity within a dynamic business environment means that your company will most likely need to source translation and interpretation services as part of your growth strategy.
The need for translation and interpretation services in London
If you’re conducting business in London, there are quite a few situations where you’ll need translation services or to use an interpreting agency. A few of these situations include:
- Conferences or meetings that include multiple language speakers and delegates
- Multinational company events, such as hosting conventions or product releases
- New ventures where you need to speak to vendors or potential partners who speak a different language
- Networking with entrepreneurs who speak other languages
- Releasing a product into a market or demographic that primarily speaks another language
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to talking to people in other languages in a London business setting. However, it outlines some of the most common situations when you might need to find translation and interpretation services in order to conduct your business smoothly.
Assessing the quality of interpretation services
There’s a current AT&T ad running in the United States that has the tagline “Just OK is not OK.” It details an interpreter in a business negotiation screwing up the Dutch translation with lines like “this man is very bendy” to mean “we’re flexible.” He then tells the Dutch professionals in the meeting that the other party needs a hug, instead of the merger. As a Dutch business professional tentatively offers a hug, the interpreter assumes that the merger must be happening.
While humorous, the ad outlines some of our worst fears in a multilingual business setting: that an interpreter’s lack of quality could sacrifice an important negotiation. Luckily, there are several ways to avoid a poor interpretation service. Here are some tips for vetting a language translator:
- Try to find a professional interpreter by asking your colleagues, rather than Googling “interpreters near me.” In the business world, reputations tend to precede people. If you know someone who had a good experience with a certain interpreting agency, you probably will as well.
- Make sure you check the interpreter’s background. Ask for references from past clients. Check out their professional portfolio. Ask them how they’ve handled situations like yours in the past.
- Try sourcing a professional interpreter from a well-regarded interpreting agency. Many of these agencies can connect you with UK interpreters in London who have the specific skills you need, such as simultaneous interpretation or consecutive interpretation.
- Since you don’t speak the language that you’re trying to find the interpretation service for, it can feel like there is no way to truly know the quality of the professional interpreter’s work. However, if you have the time, you could also source someone who speaks the language the interpreter works in. The native speaker can test how well the interpreter speaks the language.
By being diligent when checking where to hire a professional interpreter, you can avoid mistakes and mishaps, such as some of the real-world interpreter snafus below.
The translation and interpretation imposter
In Tampa, Florida, an imposter sign language interpreter showed up at a police conference. As the police underwent the somber job of announcing a major arrest in a high-profile murder case, a phony sign language interpreter started signing gibberish.
The woman looks serious and performs signs that seem well coordinated and realistic to those who don’t speak sign language. However, a deaf woman in the audience said that many of the signs were invented and she couldn’t understand what the “interpreter” was saying.
Police said that when the imposter showed up, they assumed she was from the contractor they normally use for professional interpreters. The police admitted they should have been more diligent in vetting her; the false interpreter has a history of being arrested for fraud.
Indian language interpreter mishap
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi was in the headlines for making a humorous speech in the Kerala region. The speech wasn’t intended to be funny, but the interpreter made some amusing mistakes.
It was the first time the prime minister had visited the region since he took office. He wanted to express his regret that he had not come sooner.
Instead, the interpreter turned the message into, “I am very happy to arrive here in Kerala. From a long time, I have made regular visits to Kerala. But now the situation here in Kerala is not the same. There are big changes taking places here. I am very happy.”
Poor interpretation certainly isn’t something you want your political career to be associated with!
Such mishaps remind us that if you want a strong business growth strategy, it’s essential to always source the best interpretation services.