Thursday, 23 April 2015

Hot Topics: Cross-Culture Communication in Western World. Business Culture Similarities and Differences

Differences in Western European business culture

However, even though these countries are located quite close to each other and have a number of commonalities, it is also important to note that their business cultures have some differences. For example, when addressing someone formally in a work setting, location should be born in mind to avoid offence. In Austria, France, Germany and Luxembourg it is common to use the complete title of a person together with his last name to address him or her. However, in Belgium and the Netherlands this is not the case – rather, the title is not necessary, only the name.

Most of the individuals in these countries could speak English as their business language as well as German. However, in France, an effort to speak French is appreciated since it is considered to be a major part of the national culture.
The use of student placement schemes is popular in Germany, France (here it is considered essential), Netherlands and Austria but it is not so popular in Belgium.
Another example of differences can be found in the use of social media networks for business purposes. While LinkedIn is one of the primary professional social networks in Luxemburg and the Netherlands, Germanys’ most used business network is called Xing and in France it is Viadeo. Link to the full article HERE


1. Spending time with a guy without it officially being called a “date”
French men and women can spend some casual time together without any precise and complex rules. If you appreciate each other’s company, you can go for a walk, to the movies, to the museum, try tree climbing or wine tasting, whatever.
So I need to admit that, for me, the complex American “dating” system is a bit of a drag. I still can’t get used to just how rigid it feels. For a French girl, “first date,” “second date,” “third date” and so on, just doesn’t make a lot of sense. I guess we need to keep it simple and natural, and just see how it goes from there.

2. Sweating
Gross, I know, but true. In the USA, the air conditioning is on all the time, everywhere. You get out of your air-conditioned house into your air-conditioned car and then into the air-conditioned mall. And temperatures are usually extremely cold. In France, not all public places are air conditioned, and when they are, it is usually to maintain temperatures that are comfortable yet warm, not just slightly above freezing.
There seems to be a huge gap between what is considered an acceptable room temperature in France and in the USA. At my workplace, this results in a constant war over the air-conditioning remote control.
If you ever see people dressed in their ski outfits during a Texan summer, you’ll know they’re probably a bunch of French expats heading to the movies.

3. Using my feet for something other than pressing a gas pedal
After seven years in Texas, I have almost forgotten what “walking” even means. In France, I used to walk for miles every day, and it was my primary mode of transportation in the city. This has probably been the hardest habit to lose in the USA.
 Here, if you do not have a car, it’s almost like you don’t even exist. And if you sometimes decide to leave your car in the parking lot and use your feet instead, people even pull over to ask you if you need assistance. They would never imagine that walking can be a deliberate choice.

4. Complaining all the time
  Yes, French people complain all the time. We seem to love râler and it is almost a way of life. You don’t even realize it until you leave France and cross the Atlantic. Then, you discover the Americans. And at first, you wonder if you ended up directly in Disney World — it’s the first time that you’ve seen so many happy, shiny people in one place. And so much positivity just can’t be real.
But yes, it is! And this is probably my favorite new habit: switching from negative to positive thinking, and believing that anything is possible. Link to the full article HERE



1. A Swede doesn’t tell someone to “take a hike”… he tells someone to “throw themselves in the wall.” (Släng dig i väggen)

2. A Swede doesn’t “beat around the bush”… he “walks like the cat around hot porridge.” (Gå som katten kring het gröt)

3. A Swede doesn’t tell you to “chill”… he asks you to “tag down.” (Tagga ned)

4. A Swede doesn’t say ”no worries” if everything is alright… he tells you there is “no cow on the ice.” (Ingen ko på isen)

5. Alternatively he tells you there is “no danger on the roof.” (Ingen fara på taket)

6. A Swede is not ”wasted”… he is “round under his feet.” (Rund under fötterna)
Link to the full article HERE



1. Idle chit chat
During my first days of work in Germany, I made sure to be super friendly to all of my coworkers. Whenever anyone passed me in the hallway, I would grin maniacally, wave, and yelp, “Hi! How’s your day going?” The responses ranged from bemused looks to a total lack of reply. Confused but not discouraged, I continued trying to work my charms on my new friends.
One morning, I passed Roger, the department’s statistician. I laser-beamed him with my eyes and yelled out my usual “How are you?!” He paused for a moment, staring at me bewilderedly and scratching his fluffy, mad-professor hairdo.
“Do you really want to know?” he asked, one eyebrow raised.
“Uh, yes,” I stammered, unsure of what to make of this.
Twenty minutes later, he was still going strong on a breathless diatribe about how the students’ inferior grasp of basic stats and unbearably messy datasets were contributing to his ever-increasing workload.
Eventually sensing my discomfort, Roger paused and gave me a blank look. “Well you asked,” he muttered, rolling his eyes before continuing down the hall to his office.

2. Thin skin
Germans don’t like small talk, and they don’t like bullshit. Idle comments and feel-good messages have no place here. German flirting is particularly brutal; “Your big nose looks good on your face” is about the best compliment you can expect to get in Germany.

3. Fear of nudity
Especially in the former East, Freikörperkultur, or free body culture, is an important part of German identity. Decades of oppression led to a particular appreciation for the experience of freedom and nudity without a direct relationship to sexuality.
This can sometimes be difficult for Americans to buy, particularly when your coworkers casually invite you to the office’s nude sauna or suggest a naked swim in a nearby lake. Adjusting to this culture without getting weird took some grit, finesse, and more than a few awkward encounters.
Link to the full article HERE

Friday, 17 April 2015

Hot Topics: Internet, Translation, Localization, Language Industry and Science

Luke Richards (Econsultancy): What are internet consumers most concerned about online?

Recent data published by Statista analysed 1.5bn visits across 20,000 global sites to see how much web traffic was human and what proportion was computer generated.
It might be surprising to some that most of the web traffic they analysed was in fact not generated by real users. 44% came from human site visitors, while the remaining 56% was considered non-human.
Of course, not all non-human traffic is untrustworthy or insecure. According to Statista’s data, however, half of non-human traffic is potentially malicious with a majority of that likely to be impersonators – bots faking sentience and striving to get users to click dodgy links.
What are internet consumers most concerned about online?With more than a quarter of web traffic suspected to be malicious, do the concerns of internet users reflect the actual likelihood that a quarter of web activity comes from the web’s more malicious corners?
Recent US data from Center for the Digital Future looked in great depth at the worries of American internet consumers. When it comes to violations of privacy, corporations are the biggest concern with 53% of users concerned about corporations violating their privacy online.
Presumably this includes big well-known businesses such as Google and companies who are less than trustworthy.
It is perhaps expected, then, that the threat of actual people violating privacy of internet consumers was less of a concern. Still, 39% of users did admit to being concerned about other people violating their privacy online.
Perhaps most interesting was the level of concern US internet users admitted to having in regards to the government. 52% (almost the same percentage who had concerns about corporations) expressed concern about the US state violating... Link to the full article HERE

Gray Matter: Why Save a Language?

“TELL me, why should we care?” he asks.

It’s a question I can expect whenever I do a lecture about the looming extinction of most of the world’s 6,000 languages, a great many of which are spoken by small groups of indigenous people. For some reason the question is almost always posed by a man seated in a row somewhere near the back.

Asked to elaborate, he says that if indigenous people want to give up their ancestral language to join the modern world, why should we consider it a tragedy? Languages have always died as time has passed. What’s so special about a language?

The answer I’m supposed to give is that each language, in the way it applies words to things and in the way its grammar works, is a unique window on the world. In Russian there’s no word just for blue; you have to specify whether you mean dark or light blue. In Chinese, you don’t say next week and last week but the week below and the week above. If a language dies, a fascinating way of thinking dies along with it.

I used to say something like that, but lately I have changed my answer.

Certainly, experiments do show that a language can have a fascinating effect on how its speakers think. Russian speakers are on average 124 milliseconds faster than English speakers at identifying when dark blue shades into light blue. A French person is a tad more likely than an Anglophone to imagine a table as having a high voice if it were a cartoon character, because the word is marked as feminine in his language.

This is cool stuff. But the question is whether such infinitesimal differences, perceptible only in a laboratory, qualify as worldviews — cultural standpoints or ways of thinking that we consider important. I think the answer... Link to the full article HERE



Shahrukh Khan: Towards a Linguistic Singularity. Linguicide. Politics and Economics. Power. Dethroning the King.

A map showing the percentage of English speakers in populations around the world. Light green means less than 20 percent of the population speaks English.

“Speak English! You want to make money, have an education, right?”

Too often today, children and adults alike are discouraged from speaking their native languages in favor of English, because speaking English will supposedly bring economic productivity. But has the world become so materialistic that prosperity is the only thing that matters? It seems that culture has taken a back seat. In the interest of prosperity, languages around the world are beginning to slowly disappear and lose salience in cultures that once revered them.

This shift in attitude is a result of cultural assimilation, something history is all too familiar with. Powerful countries commandeer, through various indirect channels, the use of their own language to influence weaker states. The prevalence of English in world affairs today has, in a sense, forced non-English speaking countries to learn it in order to function in the world economy. This change in linguistic preferences has led cultures to debase the value of their own languages to the extent that they increasingly resemble those of English speaking economic powers, most notably the United Kingdom and United States. It becomes more difficult to conceive of any positive implications of increased English usage, other than assimilation into a more globalized world.


The age of cultural assimilation has yet to be eclipsed by a new global power dynamic. However, language is more complex compared to conventional tools of influence, such as the use of natural resources and military conflict. People around the world have, in a sense, become their own dictators; they are actively debasing their native languages in favor of English. Former colonies, in addition to non-colonized countries, have chosen the language of their former colonizers (most evidently English and French) over their own languages as the “superior” form of communication.

For example, in the former British colonies of India and Pakistan there is growing sentiment against the use of native languages such as Hindi/Urdu, Tamil, and Punjabi. English generally has a higher status, and is considered the language of the educated. Punjabi, especially in Pakistan, has become the target of many semiotic indictments: speakers of Punjabi are considered indecent, uneducated, poor, etc. In Malaysia, also a former British colony, parents are increasingly sending their children across the border to Singapore, where English is commonplace and used in schools, regardless of the financial burdens doing...
 Link to the full article HERE

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Hot Topics: Translation, Localization, Language Industry and Science

Sweden adds gender-neutral pronoun to dictionary

Pronoun ‘hen’ can be used without revealing gender – either because it is unknown, because the person is transgender, or the information is superfluous

The pronoun ‘hen’ caught on in 2000, when the country’s small transgender community latched on to it, and its use has taken off in the past few years.

The official dictionary of the Swedish language will introduce a gender-neutral pronoun in April, editors at the Swedish Academy have announced. “Hen” will be added to “han” (he) and “hon” (she) as one of 13,000 new words in the latest edition of the Swedish Academy’s SAOL.

The pronoun is used to refer to a person without revealing their gender – either because it is unknown, because the person is transgender, or the speaker or writer deems the gender to be superfluous information.

“For those who use the pronoun, it’s obviously a strength that it is now in the dictionary,” one of the editors, Sture Berg, told AFP on Tuesday. The word “hen” was coined in the 1960s when the ubiquitous use of “han” (he) became politically incorrect, and was aimed at simplifying the language and avoiding the clumsy “han/hon” (s/he) construction. Link to the full article HERE

Gary Nunn: Is it time we agreed on a gender-neutral singular pronoun?

 Some argue we need one for socially progressive reasons. Others simply want one to perfect their writing. But so far more than a hundred attempts have failed

One use for a gender neutral singular pronoun could be to refer to androgynous robots and androids. Photograph: Alamy

Language, like life, feels easier to deal with if we arrange it into binaries: Wrong/right; Gay/straight; Labour/Conservative. Terms lurking between the two poles are often unfairly maligned. We’re often wary of anything that is neither one nor the other: Justifiable homicide; Bisexual; The Liberal Democrats.

The same goes for him/her. We seem far more comfortable when people are either men or women. The reality is different. There are people who self­-define as neither, as gender-non­binary. To those who see gender as a construct, this makes perfect sense. But the English language fails to reflect it.

A universal gender­-neutral pronoun – something to capture everything between he and she – would resolve this, and other issues. For non-­atheist progressives, it would give them a gender-neutral God. It could describe androgynous robots. A third­ person pronoun would also help us hacks with our word counts and copy neatness; writing his/hers every time (for those of us who on principle refuse to default to ‘his’) feels untidy and inelegant.

For those now considering commenting to suggest that there’s a perfectly fine existing neutral pronoun – “they” – remember that pronouns must match both gender and number. So in the case of single individuals, it’s grammatically inaccurate.

And for those complaining this is a “PC gone mad” linguistic ambush by the modern trans lobby, this fascinating blog by Dennis Baron charts more than 100 (failed) attempts over 150 years to coin a gender­-neutral singular pronoun. The elusive term – still not agreed upon – has been labelled the ‘hermaphrodite pronoun’, the ‘bi­personal pronoun’ and the ‘unisex pronoun.’ Link to the full article HERE