Language Barrier

Language Barrier

I have great admiration for people who can speak multiple languages, a skill that had eluded me despite two fairly serious efforts to learn a second language. Recently the opportunity arose to go overseas and do some teaching about gears and gear manufacturing; I felt compelled to decline because of the language barrier. It is possible to function in a foreign land with limited communication skills, but something as important as gears needs full comprehension to respond to questions.

Non-gear people may think we are already speaking in tongues when they overhear an intense discussion between gear guys and gals. I have a copy of the six-page nomenclature translator someone at ISO put together years ago; the effort stalled because even just six pages in five languages gets cumbersome. And that was only terminology, not explanations of methods or theories.

Gear Technology is published in English and has a worldwide audience. One of the challenges for the editors is vetting the translations of technical papers; presenters submit their works to peer review in English but not all the quirks of our very complex language are caught at that level. This is not meant as a criticism of those authors, merely a comment on how difficult it can be to accurately communicate in a second language.

Our wired world expects to just grab a block of text and run it through an Internet-based translator. This might work on a 140-character tweet but it seldom captures the full meaning of a work of literature or technology. This brings me back to my original challenge: How do I assist my client in getting his supplier properly trained to make simple gears? It is not as simple as running Gear Design Simplified or The Gear Handbook through Babblefish. Anyone know how other countries handle basic gear training?

Categories: Gear Talk With Chuck

About Author

Charles D. Schultz

Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

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