Follow Mayo Takeuchi on Quora

Monday, May 30, 2011

Part 2 of Cross-cultural communication conundrums (conundra)

Thank you for your patience, dear readers: here's the awaited English interpretation of the Hiberno-English example I gave in my earlier post, for those who didn't try going to places like the Irish slang dictionary site to look things up:

"Oh be the hokie: my laptop was banjaxed. I felt so knackered after trying to fix it that when I met yer wan on the footpath by Mssrs., I could barely say how'ya."
"For goodness' sake: my laptop was severely damaged. I felt so exhausted after trying to fix it that when I met that human female (of any age) whose name I've forgotten on the sidewalk by my local pub (you know where it is), I could barely greet her." 

Actually, the interjection (which could also be interpreted as "for crying out loud" etc.) wasn't something heard frequently, and is from a prior generation. As well, footpath is arguably UK in origin. I noticed also from the dictionary site I found, that UK English slang is sometimes identified as such in that list, but some have, such as the adjectival sanguine references used for emphasis in negative contexts (by which I mean "bloody/bleeding") or "sodding" been fully integrated into daily language. 

"Your man" (pronounced "yer man") is the male equivalent of "your one". Dubliners all gave street directions in relation to the nearest pub, which speaks to how culturally important they were, with the implication that everyone knew pubs better than street names.

In any case, aside from idioms, slangs, and colloquial expressions, I would recommend keeping the following in mind to facilitate comprehension in both spoken and written communiqués:

  • Sentences should only consist of just one subject, one object, and one verb. Heaven knows how much trouble I used to have when translating Latin sentences: many were as long as paragraphs in themselves.
  • Use active voice and avoid negation, either singular or double (an example to avoid: "The web content should be crafted carefully, not unlike a short press release where the visitor is presented with a concise, not excessively detailed description of the topic.")
  • Commence and end topic coverage each time with the main point: this is a sound organic SEO technique as well, which must certainly have originated from the writing best practice.
  • Clearly indicate when the subject is changing, especially when there are several disparate topics that require covering during a single session (or document).
  • If there is a natural progression of topics, such as in educational deliverables, ensure that you optimize the topic sequence. In other words, plan the talk or documentation such that foundational concepts are covered thoroughly and confirmed as understood before proceeding to content that builds upon the earlier material.

Sunday, May 29, 2011




とにかく、「使わなければ無くす」ため、(英語だと"use it or lose it"ですね)定期的に日本語でツィッターやブログを書いて行こうと心がけしてますが、どうぞよろしくお願いします。コメントもいつでも日本語でお気軽に書き込んでください。

Friday, May 27, 2011

To Americanize or not: the orthography (spelling) question

I'd alluded to the fact that I'm an ex-pat. Astute readers of prior posts would have noticed that I wrote "flavour" with the u included. This correctly indicates that my English retains UK influences - and indeed, I was born and raised in Canada, a Commonwealth member (although I understand that environmentalists asked the country to be suspended in status in 2009) .

However, I do work for an American multinational. And my undergraduate studies were also undertaken near Boston, where I vividly recall being penalized (not "penalised") for any slip-ups I made for non-American spelling.

For those asking "but is there such a thing as "Canadian" spelling?", my good friend Rosemary has this example: "Canadian Tire Centre". In UK spelling it would be Tyre, and in the US, it would be Center: in Canada, the full example is the only correct way to write it.

So, dear readers, please expect - and hopefully respect - my decision to "go Canadian".

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Part 1 of Cross-cultural communication conundrums ("It's a slam dunk!")

A US-based colleague of mine whom I'd had the recent pleasure to meet, spoke to my immediate team about working effectively across various cultures. The basketball expression "it's a slam dunk!" was, in his experience, as bewildering to his overseas colleagues as what we might consider to be less esoteric expressions, like "no kidding".

This prompted me to consider what lessons I'd learned in my position as a thrice ex-patriated person with a working knowledge of Japanese and French (and now challenged with Austrian German).

In Ireland, it took me a surprisingly long time to truly understand Hiberno-English. Never mind the phonetic shifts (aka "accent"); even transcribed, common interjections and vocabulary can quickly mystify the non-initiated.

Take this example sentence which artificially conflates a lot of native (Dublin centric) expressions:

"Oh be the hokie: my laptop was banjaxed. I felt so knackered after trying to fix it that when I met yer wan on the footpath by Mssrs., I barely said how'ya."

I'll post a translation if there's enough interest from the non-Dub readers!

In any case, my example serves the purpose of reminding us that just because everyone speaks a flavour of English, 100% communication is far from a "sure thing" (see, another expression that may baffle a non-native speaker).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tips for Teleconferences and Telephone based communication

I, like many others in the globalized business world, spend much of my time on the phone. In particular, chairing and minuting teleconferences, often with a mixture of native and non-native English speakers. Here are my top 5 tips for effective telephone-based communication:
  1. Summarize discussions succinctly and simply at the end of every topic and confirm that key participants understand the agreement(s).
  2. Be conscious of posture and speak from the diaphragm. Standing up also helps with voice projection: a thespian approach to enunciating assists with getting your message across.
  3. Smile as you speak! A friendly tone of voice puts everyone at ease, and we can discern when someone is smiling even without any visual cues.
  4. Further to point 2, speak more slowly and clearly than in a face to face situation. This allows for noise and lag from VOIP connections and transatlantic (or further!) distances.
  5. Don't be afraid to confirm what you understand by paraphrasing someone else, and asking if you're on the same proverbial page.

I'll have more tips on cross-cultural communication in a later post.

About Mayo

My photo

Professional: As "Senior Enterprise SEO Strategist" in IBM's Digital Marketing division, I provide consulting and training services for both internal and external clients. Formerly I was involved in Natural Language Processing, software localization, quality assurance and documentation authoring.
Personal: INTJ Nikkei Nisei ex-patriated Canadian who takes photographs and enjoys Baroque through late Classical music. The G+ page shares some of the "best of" photos.