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Going back to school

Languages for the next generation

Maira Eckert | 26th October 2015

A talk to students about the importance of learning a second (third, fourth, fifth…) language.


Last Wednesday we had the pleasure of being a part of ‘Language at Work’ day at Wellington College, Crowthorne.

Following an introduction from one of our clients, Canon, we were delighted to present again this year in front of around 150 students - from schools that are members of the Independent State School Partnership (ISSP) - the importance of languages. The students who attended were selected based on their interest for foreign languages as well as the fact that they wanted to learn more about work opportunities where they could use their language skills.

We were delighted to see a genuine interest in languages from students and how ‘switched on’ they were during our session. Some of them already had a bilingual competence and most of them were studying a second and even third language. Spanish, French, German and Japanese were the most popular choices.

After a quick introduction about how and what we do, we went on explaining that there is a variety of jobs in the language industry from translators to project managers, but also a variety of jobs and opportunities that require cultural or linguistic competences. We then presented to them a few of the facts portrayed in our Global Talent Report to emphasize on the massive competitive advantage that knowing a different language is:

To better explain the importance of quality in translations, we shared a video of some marketing faux pas that included an offensive Mountain Dew advert, dubbed 'the most racist commercial in history' and the Parker Pens ad that suggested their pens 'wont leak in your pocket and impregnate you'. Mistakes like these happen regularly if when managing a translation or localisation project the quality procedures that we always recommend to our clients are not followed.

We then shared another example from the set of Homeland TV series, where the producers of the show hired a group of Arab Graffiti artists to add authenticity to the set in a fictional refugee camp only to find that they actually wrote messages that included: 'Homeland is racist'!

To wrap up the session we set a Transcreation task for our pupils.

Having found an advert via the web for FedEx from the US, showing a picture of an American Football Player diving with a FedEx box under the heading ‘Touchdown Overnight’, we asked the students why the advert wouldn’t necessarily work in other parts of the world. They quickly and correctly explained that American Football isn’t as popular around the world as it is in the US, and the term Touchdown may not be understood.

We therefore asked them to choose a country, a sport and a tag line and explained that whilst major advertising agencies would get paid hundreds of thousands of pounds and be given many weeks to transcreate the ad for a new territory ... they had five minutes, and were doing it for nothing!

The responses were fantastic: we had examples using rugby for Wales – ‘getting your parcel through the post’; Table Tennis in China – related to ‘Serving’ your needs; and using the Jamaican Olympic 100m relay team passing the FedEx box for an advert targeting Jamaica. Other sports included Tennis, Football and cycling, but perhaps one of the favourites was using a climbing analogy getting over Mount Everest, which the student even translated into Nepalese for us.

The speed of some of the ideas and creativity shown really did blow us away and it made the whole session worthwhile, particularly when we received some great feedback on how the students enjoyed the activity and how their teachers appreciated the fact we had them working together in teams.

It was a genuine thrill to have had the opportunity to take a day out of the office to spend time with the students and talk to them about the importance of studying languages and encourage them to keep going with their studies.

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