Re: Bilingualism in TW

Subject: Re: Bilingualism in TW
From: "Curtis Brautigam" <curtisb -at- nurserysupplies -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L digest" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 9 May 2000 08:55:14 -0400

My attitude is--if you have an opportunity to learn another language, do it.
My foreign languages are listed in a very prominent place on my resume, and
I list localization and translation as part of my writing skills. In many
companies that produce software and documentation for foreign markets,
knowledge of a foreign language is useful. In addition, knowledge of a
foreign language also helps when it comes to writing documentation in
English, for you will have the problems of translation in mind when you
write the material. There are some situations where knowledge of a foreign
language can be the difference in getting the job or not getting the job. In
my situation, we do not manufacture hardware and software for foreign
markets, but we have a large Latino population that operates the machinery
whose command of English is often limited. Thus, it makes sense to produce
documentation in Spanish for these workers. After I translate materials into
Spanish (Spanish is not my mother tongue), I have them examined by a native
Spanish speaker who is fluent in English so that the machine operator can
use the materials. Of course, the rule in translation is--have the material
translated by someone whose mother tongue is the target language, but if you
can't, do the translation yourself if you know the language, and then have a
native speaker of the target language examine the translation.

IMHO, foreign language skills will become an increasingly important part of
the technical writing profession as globalization and internationalization
progresses. The simple fact is--the majority of the world's population does
not speak English, even though English is becoming the global lingua franca,
for better or for worse. Having software and documentation in non-English
languages will become an increasingly important task.

Curtis R. Brautigam
Technical Writer
Nursery Supplies, Inc.
Chambersburg, PA.

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