Web and digital media form the roots of the globalization age. They facilitate real-time contact and information sharing, access and transmission among multiple users trespassing time and geographic boundaries. Does this really mean that communication has become easier, quicker and more effective? Which roles do language and translation play in this virtual and globalized world?
Translation and languages should obviously be playing a key role in this scenario, where cutting-edge media and channels offer endless possibilities to communicate around the world in our daily lives as well as for business purposes. Moreover, the weight of communication in the corporate environment is rapidly increasing in all business sectors and spheres. Why then do translation and language continue to be the invisible unattended little children in the big corporate world?
In a world steered by global communication where relations with collaborators, customers, providers and end users are crucial, the trend is still to refrain from investing in translation. If legally possible many companies will bypass translation. English is undoubtedly the king language of the virtual realm, paired with a kind of universal web language that uses icons, smileys, etc. So, if the message is ‘understandable’ world-wide, why incur in additional costs? The problem is that human language itself is not a simple mental tool with fixed uni-vocal meanings.
We envision global society as a unified and generalized whole populated by huge information networks that keep us connected, but something is wrong with this picture. Communication is a complex process, and translation multiplies this complexity. Translation reveals and highlights cultural and linguistic differences. Idiomatic turns or words that characterize the life, culture or history of a certain community do not always have exact equivalents in other languages.
Companies need to understand that translation is not a mere transparent interface to convey a message in different languages. It is a complex process that requires deep awareness and knowledge of the specific cultural and linguistic values in both the source and target language. If they want their internal communications to be effective and forward a strategically consistent message to consumers in different target markets all around the globe, they need to realize that it will not be possible to leave language and translation unacknowledged. At least not until there is one single universal language and world view, but this would mean that there is not anything to communicate anymore.