Re: Bilingualism in TW

Subject: Re: Bilingualism in TW
From: Max Wyss <prodok -at- prodok -dot- ch>
To: "Rowena Hart" <rhart -at- xcert -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 5 May 2000 23:34:08 +0200


it is always good to be able to converse with business partners from
another language area in their language. So, congratulations to your
decision to learn Mandarin.

In technical communications, you stated one advantage, and this is a more
direct flow of information, which will cause fewer errors. However, it does
take quite a long time for someone to become bilingual for _real_ writing.
And even then, you will "write with a heavy accent" (what some of my
translator friends occasionally tell me <g>).

Another advantage is that you can help the translators for your documents,
and you have the ability to do at least some checks of their products. That
means that you (your company) does have a little bit less the feeling of
totally blindly depending on the translators.

Back when I did more tech writing, I was actually working in a multilingual
environment. In fact, the company I worked for before I got independent,
was dealing a lot with a manufacturer in France, and all their material was
in French, as well, of course all the research had to be done in French.
However, our working language was German.

And later too, one of my big first projects as independent tech writer was
for a company in the French speaking parts of Switzerland, and essentially
all developers there were speaking French only ... and the manual had to be
written in German.

I also have written material in English, but this was checked by a native
English speaker familiar with the technical writing style.

So, yes, I think I have quite a bit of experience in a multilingual

One problem I see when that happens is that your writing style gets a bit
distorted, and you start to write in your language, but with a slight

Another thing to always keep in mind: You write best in your native
language. Everything you write in another language would need a thorough
inspection by an experienced editor in that language.

Hope, this can help.

Max Wyss
PRODOK Engineering
Low Paper workflows, Smart documents, PDF forms
CH-8906 Bonstetten, Switzerland

Fax: +41 1 700 20 37
e-mail: mailto:prodok -at- prodok -dot- ch

[ Building Bridges for Information ]


For the past 8 months I've been learning to
speak Mandarin in my spare time. One of the
side benefits is that I have built stronger
working relationships with SMEs from Asia,
who have been more than happy to help me
practice and learn the language.

I'm wondering if there are other benefits to
learning and using another language in the
workplace. In an effort to keep the topic
relevant to tech writing, I am curious to see
if anyone has any opinions/experience with
the following:

- Are there any trends in tech writing toward
hiring bilingual writers, especially those who
are bilingual in an Asian language?

- How many tech writers use two or more
languages in the workplace?

- How many tech writers have moved to another
country in order to learn the language (while still
working in the field)?

- (If you answered yes to the above question,
how fluent were you?)

- How many tech writers do research in another
language but write in English? What are some
of the challenges you face?

These are just a few of the things I'm curious
about. If you have any other information on
the topic (as long as it is relevant to technical
writing, of course), please pass it along.

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