In a world where we are able to communicate rapidly, across multiple media and without geographical limitation, there are those who would say we need a common language.
So much of our cultural heritage and specific local knowledge is bound up in the thousands of languages we use, and yet so many of the conflicts and problems we face as humans resulting from misunderstanding and miscommunication.
I’d argue that right now we need our translators more than ever – not just in converting one language to another – but in establishing shared understanding between groups of people with different experiences and knowledge.
We’re all translators
Translators of all kinds are often undervalued by our society as just ‘the messenger’, but so many of us need to be effective translators in our day-to-day to achieve our goals. For example, as both a marketer and an educator I consider a core part of each role to be translation.
I don’t teach languages, and I’m not the person who translates marketing media or messages into other languages for global markets, and yet translation is at the very heart of what I, and many others like me, do…
As a marketer, it is my job to bridge the gap between the customer and the company. I need to be able to communicate with both in terms they understand, get to the heart of each of their needs and work to match them. I also need to work with a variety of specialists, from data analysts to designers and artists, and in each interaction I need to be able to make what I need to achieve clear by ‘speaking their language’. This may mean working in a certain way, using specific techniques or even industry jargon, but the goal remains the same -to make myself understood in any way I can.
This is not always an easy task – I need to know a little bit about a lot of things to make this possible – rather than having an in-depth knowledge about one specific area.
It’s the role of the translator, and this is a set of skills which is often overlooked by a society which values the translator over the specialist.
Communication is as important as knowledge
In Higher Education this under-valuation is often magnified even further. As an educator I see my role as the person whose job it is to take complex ideas and make them simple, to find mutual understanding where there may have been confusion or doubt. There will always be a need for those who conduct complex research and discover or create new knowledge, but for these discoveries to be truly useful, they have to be communicated, and if we can’t share our knowledge in accessible and meaningful ways it becomes worthless.
In Higher Education, there is considerable emphasis placed on depth of knowledge in a specific field – the ultimate symbols of which are a doctoral thesis and a publishing record – and those who gain the highest rewards in the industry are those who achieve these things.
However, research skills do not make a person a good educator – the ability to communicate does.
Long Live the Translator
Our society needs both those with the deepest subject knowledge of a specific field, to push forward discovery of new knowledge or insights, and those with the skill to synthesise and make connections between knowledge areas and translate that into something that is meaningful to students. I know now, that I will never be the former – my passion, drive and training have equipped me far better for the latter, so that’s the path I prefer to take, and why I believe it’s time we valued the translators in our society more highly; they create the bridges that bring us together, and enable us to achieve more by fostering collaboration and co-operation where there was conflict and confusion.
About the Author:
Lucy Griffiths BA(Hons) MBA DipM MCIM PgCPSE PGCE (PCET) FHEA Chartered Marketer
Lucy Griffiths is Director of Communications and lectures in Marketing and Entrepreneurship at Swansea Business School, and also teaches at the Wales Entrepreneurship Academy. She moved into Higher Education after a career in marketing management, focused in the education and training industries, has run her own marketing consultancy since 2008, and is currently starting a social enterprise – We Are Lucky – focused on helping individuals, organisations and communities ‘make their own luck’ (www.wearelucky.org). She is a She is a Chartered Marketer, Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Member of the British Academy of Management and is also editor of the South Wales Business Review, a blogger and columnist for the South Wales Evening Post.
Twitter: @lgsmu and @we_are_lucky
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