The Commisceo Global Blog - Perfect for Culture Vultures

Whether a press release, a case study of cultural difference, some tips on working abroad or some lessons in cross-communication, we try our best to satiate your inner culture vulture.

Cultural Diversity: How the US Healthcare Act is Lost in Translation

Cultural Diversity: How the US Healthcare Act is Lost in Translation
The new American Affordable Care Act might sound like a great change, but the cultural diversity of the US population is giving rise to a number of difficulties. Translation is one of them.
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Gamification and Cultural Differences

Gamification and Cultural Differences
Playing games at work? From the work floor to education, gamification is becoming more and more common in a lot of areas. But the practice isn’t as straightforward as it seems: cultural differences prevent game developers from distributing one single game for different countries. Want to know what should be done to these games to cross the globe? 
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Cultural tips on Export to Japan and China

Cultural tips on Export to Japan and China

Do you export? AstraZeneca's Stuart Anderson offers some insights into the importance of understanding and adapting to the local culture in order to maximise success.

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Police Translation Costs Soar



A new report has highlighted the fact that the police force across the UK has spent over £82 million over the last three years on translation services. It is thought that the police have had to fork out such a large chunk of their budget so that they can effectively communicate with migrant criminals, victims and witnesses.

In 2004 the EU allowed Poland and other eastern European countries to join its ranks and since then translation costs have been soaring.

It is estimated that the police spend approximately £75,000 a day on translators which could equate to 3,542 extra officers on the beat.

The latest figures have been highly criticised as they come at a time when the police force have had to take officers off the beat as a result of spending cuts. Some forces have had to impose pay freezes but it seems as though the costs of paying for translators is rising at a great rate. .

However, the police are aware that they need to serve all of the community and in areas where a diverse range of languages are spoken it is a must to be able to communicate effectively with the public.

The government are responding to the high spend though by imposing an £18 million cut this year on translation budgets.
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2011 Census Translation Costs



The impending 2011 Census is projected to cost the United Kingdom Government £480 million; a large percentage of this cost is being taken up by the multiple translations of both the Census and its relevant advertisements.

The Census, which will be conducted on March 27th, is a legal requirement for all citizens over the age of 18 and is conducted once every ten years. The last Census was completed in 2001 and cost around £200 million. The significant increase in cost is said to arise from inflation coupled with the biggest ten-year growth in the population the UK has ever seen, which means significantly more Censuses are required than in 2001.

More people also means more censuses in more languages, because two-thirds of the population growth came from migrants who have settled in the UK in the last ten years. Furthermore because immigrant communities are amongst the lowest ‘turn-out’ groups for on-time completion of the Census, the Office for National Statistics (ONS- which organizes the survey) is placing extra money and manpower into ensuring this group completes on time. The Census will be translated into 56 languages, whilst 30,000 people have been employed to help immigrant communities and other low ‘turn-out’ groups to complete their surveys on time.

This expense has subsequently caused many to question the financial viability of the Census just two years from the 2008/9 economic crisis; some have even questioned the validity of continuing the Census at all.

On one hand the Census is important in that it provides a huge amount of practical information for the public services. It helps local councils assess how many primary school places are needed each year and in the future could be vital in planning elderly care for the increasingly aging population. Given the number of immigrants who have set up home since 2001 it is necessary to find out how these ‘extra’ people’s needs has and will affect our public services. Without compulsory surveying we might not be able to systematically gain this information from these communities.

However, despite the Census being labeled ‘compulsory’ almost three million people failed to complete the 2001 edition. Therefore can we really trust the validity of its results when groups such as the immigrant community are under-represented through non-completion? These skewed results might actually worsen our public services if the government subsequently under-estimates the level of care these communities need.

Aside from the practical implications, the Census is a core tool for academics and historians. Researchers can track trends in culture and society since its first implementation in 1801, meaning the Census effectively helps ‘write’ the history of the UK. Without this resource we could not look to the findings of the past in order to predict the possible challenges of the future.

Yet although the majority of people accept these benefits there is still widespread discomfort as to the cost of the Census when the UK has just come out of recession. Some people think that migrants living in the UK should be able to complete the Census in English (or alternatively Welsh) and dislike paying for so translations to be produced. Although it is impossible to know if this is just a Census concern or part of their wider doubts about high immigration levels and its affect on the economy and public services.

With more information available to the us and the government everyday through internet browser cookies and other virtual data storage, perhaps people just feel that it is time that the ONS relied on this existing information instead of spending so much on promoting a survey that many people fail to complete.
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2011 Census Translation Costs



The impending 2011 Census is projected to cost the United Kingdom Government £480 million; a large percentage of this cost is being taken up by the multiple translations of both the Census and its relevant advertisements.

The Census, which will be conducted on March 27th, is a legal requirement for all citizens over the age of 18 and is conducted once every ten years. The last Census was completed in 2001 and cost around £200 million. The significant increase in cost is said to arise from inflation coupled with the biggest ten-year growth in the population the UK has ever seen, which means significantly more Censuses are required than in 2001.

More people also means more censuses in more languages, because two-thirds of the population growth came from migrants who have settled in the UK in the last ten years. Furthermore because immigrant communities are amongst the lowest ‘turn-out’ groups for on-time completion of the Census, the Office for National Statistics (ONS- which organizes the survey) is placing extra money and manpower into ensuring this group completes on time. The Census will be translated into 56 languages, whilst 30,000 people have been employed to help immigrant communities and other low ‘turn-out’ groups to complete their surveys on time.

This expense has subsequently caused many to question the financial viability of the Census just two years from the 2008/9 economic crisis; some have even questioned the validity of continuing the Census at all.

On one hand the Census is important in that it provides a huge amount of practical information for the public services. It helps local councils assess how many primary school places are needed each year and in the future could be vital in planning elderly care for the increasingly aging population. Given the number of immigrants who have set up home since 2001 it is necessary to find out how these ‘extra’ people’s needs has and will affect our public services. Without compulsory surveying we might not be able to systematically gain this information from these communities.

However, despite the Census being labeled ‘compulsory’ almost three million people failed to complete the 2001 edition. Therefore can we really trust the validity of its results when groups such as the immigrant community are under-represented through non-completion? These skewed results might actually worsen our public services if the government subsequently under-estimates the level of care these communities need.

Aside from the practical implications, the Census is a core tool for academics and historians. Researchers can track trends in culture and society since its first implementation in 1801, meaning the Census effectively helps ‘write’ the history of the UK. Without this resource we could not look to the findings of the past in order to predict the possible challenges of the future.

Yet although the majority of people accept these benefits there is still widespread discomfort as to the cost of the Census when the UK has just come out of recession. Some people think that migrants living in the UK should be able to complete the Census in English (or alternatively Welsh) and dislike paying for so translations to be produced. Although it is impossible to know if this is just a Census concern or part of their wider doubts about high immigration levels and its affect on the economy and public services.

With more information available to the us and the government everyday through internet browser cookies and other virtual data storage, perhaps people just feel that it is time that the ONS relied on this existing information instead of spending so much on promoting a survey that many people fail to complete.
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When convenience overtakes competence in translation



A “dialogue of the deaf”, that is the way that the Public Defender of Honchian Lin described the quality of translators provided to his client in Haifa, Israel.

During the initial questioning, trial and appeal of Lin for the brutal murder of his girlfriend, the Haifa police encountered difficulties in providing an adequate simultaneous translator for his interrogations. They initially canvassed a local Chinese stallholder; as the father of a police employee and someone working near to the station ‘Joe’ was the most convenient choice for the police. However it later emerged not only was Joe untrained for the position but was linguistically unsuitable for the role he had been given.

Lin was arrested in 2006 after a passerby discovered the dismembered body of his girlfriend Michelle Jamias in the street. Joe was brought in to act as a simultaneous translator on the first interrogation of Lin by the police. However Lin was not familiar with the Chinese dialect spoken by Joe (being from rural China where dialects vary) and spoke only a few limited sentences of Hebrew. This resulted in the translation of Lin’s statement being vague and disjointed, lacking accuracy in terms of what had been said and by whom. The evaluation of this evidence by the Supreme Court Justice, Yoram Danziger, has produced the verdict that the initial interview was both “degraded and unclear”

On this evidence the Haifa police seem to have failed Lin’s rights to be able to be treated to a fair judicial process. They failed to ascertain the suitability of Joe’s services in advance and when experiencing interview problems failed to find another translator. Although Lin confessed again in a second interview, he later was able to use the lack of fair translation as support for his claim that he had made a coerced compliant confession. This meant that Lin could claim that the pressure of being unable to communicate his story led to a confession that was obtained forcibly under duress. So not only had the suspect’s rights been violated but also the prosecution faced difficulties in convicting Lin of the crime which additional evidence (beyond his confessions) proved he had committed.

This case shows the pitfalls of inviting foreign workers into your country and then not providing for their basic needs. If a foreign worker falls sick, is accused of a crime or is called to witness then they need to be able to accurately receive and provide information. Does this case suggest that Israel, as an example, is unconcerned with such issues or is it simply the fact that funding is not available to provide for these needs? Either way countries have a responsibility to provide for those they invite in, they should not feel that the economic or other advantages of foreign workers outweighs the rights of these people to be treated as any other citizen.

Even after the Supreme Court Justice’s findings Lin was given a Mandarin translator for his appeal against his conviction, again unable to speak his rural dialect. More evidence that the service of translation and all its relevant nuances should not be overlooked, especially if you actively encourage speakers of other languages into your country.
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Portsmouth Police turn to Translation Packs

The police in Portsmouth have taken an interesting approach to communicating with non-English speaking shoppers. As part of an initiative by Plymouth Against Retail Crime (Parc),  translation packs are being given to large stores, with some going to police patrol cars used around the city centre too.

The packs contain 13 cards, each carrying phrases in a foreign language and their English translation. Languages include Turkish, Spanish, Russian, Italian, French and Farsi. The cards can be used in situations where a foreigner needs help or is suspected of a crime in a store.

Although its a shame the cards are being used within the context of criminal activity it does demonstrate the understanding that simple actions such as phrases does make a difference. Wouldn't it be nice if staff could also get translation cards with simple greetings instead though?

Read more > Translation packs
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Portsmouth Police turn to Translation Packs

The police in Portsmouth have taken an interesting approach to communicating with non-English speaking shoppers. As part of an initiative by Plymouth Against Retail Crime (Parc),  translation packs are being given to large stores, with some going to police patrol cars used around the city centre too.

The packs contain 13 cards, each carrying phrases in a foreign language and their English translation. Languages include Turkish, Spanish, Russian, Italian, French and Farsi. The cards can be used in situations where a foreigner needs help or is suspected of a crime in a store.

Although its a shame the cards are being used within the context of criminal activity it does demonstrate the understanding that simple actions such as phrases does make a difference. Wouldn't it be nice if staff could also get translation cards with simple greetings instead though?

Read more > Translation packs
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Working abroad 'requires translation of qualifications'



Professionals who are looking into the possibility of working abroad need to check that their qualifications "translate" into other countries.

According to expatriate and international lifestyle magazine Shelter Offshore, rules and regulations may also be different overseas, so professionals must ensure they do their research before deciding which country they wish to work in.

Rhiannon Davies, co-founder of Shelter Offshore, said professionals must also consider their own needs before making any firm plans.

She said: "If someone has a desire to live in a given country, they need to look at what businesses could work in that environment."

For example, a professional wanting to try working in Germany would need to carry out research into what type of business is successful in the country and where there may be a gap in the market.

Ms Davies was speaking after recent figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that there are almost three million full-time self-employed workers in the UK.

Read more > Shelter
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EC plans Translation & Interpreting Rights



All EU governments will be obliged to provide full interpretation and translation for criminal suspects under European Commission plans.

The idea is to help people "exercise their fair trial rights anywhere in the EU when they cannot understand the language of the case" said a statement.

The Commission cites the examples of an Italian tourist involved in a car crash in Sweden who was not allowed to talk to an Italian-speaking lawyer during his trial, and the Polish suspect denied access to written translations of evidence used against him in a French court.

Such "unexpected barriers" could lead to unfair convictions during legal proceedings in other EU countries.

The proposal - requested three months ago by EU ministers themselves - is the first step under the new Lisbon Treaty towards setting common EU standards in criminal cases.

The Treaty allows the EU to adopt measures "to strengthen the rights of EU citizens, in line with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights", said the statement.

Read more > EU
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MoJ Translation Spend over £20 million



The Ministry of Justice admitted it has spent more than £20 million pounds on interpreters and translators in the last two years, fuelling concerns over the impact immigration is having on the public purse.

The figure included £11.8 million spent in 2007/08 which was higher than MPs had previously been told in a series of parliamentary written answers.

One, to Dominic Grieve, the shadow justice secretary, last year was more than £1 million short of the true figure, while Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, was told spending had been £11.4 million.

Another, in 2008, only had figures for translation services and not interpreters while the fourth suggested more than £28 million had been spent in that year.

Read more > Telegraph
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Councils spend £50m a year translating documents



It is a well-intended initiative which is meant to offer immigrants a helping hand. Yet now an investigation has found that many of the expensively-produced foreign-language leaflets have never been read.

Documents which have failed to attract a single reader include a pamphlet for gipsies translated into Polish, and a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender directory translated into French.

No-one read the Haringey Women's Directory when it was translated into Albanian, Bengali, Kurdish, Somali or Urdu.

All were made available by Haringey council, in north London, on its website, which records the number of times each document is downloaded.

A spokesman for Haringey Council said: “Haringey has some 193 different languages spoken. We generally offer translations where required rather than translate routinely.

"Where translations are produced they will be made available on our website as an additional service.”

Read more > Telegraph
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Translation of food labels

Revere's (Massachusetts, USA) diverse community has given rise to a number of ethnic restaurants and grocery stores brimming with international products from countries such as Cambodia, Lebanon, and Thailand.

revere usa


While these restaurants and stores provide a taste of home for immigrants, they may be confusing for residents who want to try new things but cannot read foreign-language packaging.

This was one of the arguments used by City Councilor George Rotondo when he asked, by way of a council motion, that Revere stores that sell products in a foreign language provide an English translation.

"I embrace diversity. I live it," said Rotondo, whose wife is from Colombia and who can speak or read five languages. "Unfortunately, I believe it's unfair that you go to a store and see something there and don't know what it is, and have to rely on someone telling you what it is."

His colleagues on the council last month approved the motion, which then made its way to Mayor Thomas G. Ambrosino's desk. There it met a speedy death.

"The council passed it and the mayor vetoed it," Rotondo said. "He thought it was 'silly'; he wrote that in a letter to me."

"I just thought it was kind of foolish," Ambrosino said in an interview. "First of all, I don't think we have the authority to have private companies translate their products into English. And I don't think it's an effort in which we ought to be expending our efforts."

Read more > Revere 
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Increased arrests of immigrants puts strain on police translation costs

The increasing number of foreigners in the UK is resulting in police forces strething to "bursting point." This according to leaked memos reported in the press today.  One chief constable commented his force had been "underfunded for years" in its battle to cope with a growing number of immigrants which has left resources strained. Police also note that extra translation and bureaucratic costs are resulting.

Read more > UK Police 
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Movies to help expats settle in Korea

Three Korean films and a cartoon have been translated for immigrant workers and foreigners married to Koreans here. About 10 immigrants from Southeast Asian countries participated in the translation project to help people settle down in Korea more easily.

Three movies, ``Wolf Daddy,'' ``Stand by Me’’ and ``Walking in the Rainy Day’’ and a cartoon cooking guide were translated into four languages, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Chinese and English. The cartoon contains recipes for various Korean dishes and is already popular among foreign workers.

``My Filipino friends asked me to translate a Korean cartoon and movie into Tagalong and I did the job for almost three months from September last year,’’ said Maria Judids Bublacion, 38. Maria is married to a Korean here. ``It is my pleasure to help them. I hope to get more opportunities to do this kind of job for immigrants here,’’ she added.

Cultural Action (CA), a non-profit civic organization, organized the translation project, which it pursued in cooperation with a cartoon company and the Association of Korea Independent Film & Video funded by the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs.


Read more > Korea 
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Understanding the transcultural consumer

Press Release, San Francisco, CA, January 06, 2008 :

“The more than 100 million multicultural consumers in the US, are not just multi-colored or multi-lingual but cross-cultural and transcultural as well. They are rapidly evolving and challenging the definition of “ethnic” or “multicultural” marketing,” says Valerie Romley, Chief Research Officer and author of "Beyond Translation; The Marketer's Field Guide to Understanding Today's Transcultural Consumer".

“What was effective yesterday is no longer relevant and what is effective today may not resonate with tomorrow’s moving targets. It’s time for marketers to go beyond relying on translation and color and language based segmentation and understand the roles that culture and context have in influencing beliefs and attitudes and driving consumer behavior.”

Read more> Beyond Translation 
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88% of clinical professionals encounter non-English speaking patients

More than 88 percent of America clinical research, healthcare, and medical device industry professionals surveyed encounter non-English speaking patients and subjects on a regular basis. The November 2007 survey, which was conducted by Global Language Solutions (GLS), polled the firm's clients and industry contacts on the types of languages spoken by their patients or research subjects, as well as the one(s) used most often.

GLS, which specializes in translation and interpreting services for the medical devices, pharmaceutical, and healthcare industries, was not surprised to find Spanish as the non-English language most commonly cited by respondents; with 90 percent those surveyed who encounter non-English languages listing it as the most common. Other languages listed included French (37 percent), Chinese (25 percent), and Russian (20 percent).

Read more> GLS 
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88% of clinical professionals encounter non-English speaking patients

More than 88 percent of America clinical research, healthcare, and medical device industry professionals surveyed encounter non-English speaking patients and subjects on a regular basis. The November 2007 survey, which was conducted by Global Language Solutions (GLS), polled the firm's clients and industry contacts on the types of languages spoken by their patients or research subjects, as well as the one(s) used most often.

GLS, which specializes in translation and interpreting services for the medical devices, pharmaceutical, and healthcare industries, was not surprised to find Spanish as the non-English language most commonly cited by respondents; with 90 percent those surveyed who encounter non-English languages listing it as the most common. Other languages listed included French (37 percent), Chinese (25 percent), and Russian (20 percent).

Read more> GLS 
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Welsh police call for more interpreting funds

A Welsh police authority yesterday called on the Home Office to provide extra funding to meet the spiralling cost of employing interpreters.

The demand came as it was revealed the amount being spent by some Welsh forces on providing translation services has risen by up to 200% in three years.

An influx of migrant workers from Eastern Europe and the Iberian peninsula has been blamed for the a sharp rise in costs for forces across the country.

Last week the Thames Valley Police Authority said the money it spent on interpreters had risen by more than £920,000 in a decade.

Read more: Wales 
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