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One Digit

12th November 2019

One small mistake can make a world of difference in mulitlingual communication.



A one letter change in your postcode could send you to the other end of the country

A one per cent change in your DNA would make you a chimpanzee

And a one digit error in sub-sea coordinates can result in something being lost for 75 years.

The USS Grayback, a World War Two submarine, sank in February 1944 in the East China Sea. The Japanese ship that sank it kept a record of the action and its location, and when that record was found it should have been a straightforward matter to find the stricken craft and the eighty men onboard who lost their lives. Decades of searching proved fruitless, though. The Lost 52 Project exists to find lost World War Two submarines and give a sense of closure to the families of their lost crews, and in a last throw of the dice, they employed a Japanese systems engineer to analyse the original military documents. Working through the records with a fine toothcomb in the original Japanese language and in their English translation, he found that the US Navy had made a small but important error with the co-ordinates. The English translation was off by one digit, and that meant they’d been looking for the sunken submarine over a hundred miles from where it actually lay. Today an official announcement confirmed that the USS Grayback has been found.

As language service providers we’re often asked if we deliver a quality service. Different people have different definitions of quality. We believe quality means making a promise and keeping it. If you’re a law firm that means delivering translations that offer you certainty in pursuit of a positive legal outcome. If you’re a pharmaceutical company or clinical research organisation it means delivering a message that engages and reassures your patients, helping you achieve success in your clinical trials and give greater longevity and quality of life to those in need. Every word, every nuance, every digit counts. We get it right. We keep our promises so you can keep yours.

Nations make a promise to their armed forces too, of course. They promise to support them and protect them and honour them if they fall. The families of the eighty men who lost their lives on the USS Grayback finally know where they’ve been resting since 1944. Seventy five years is a very long time to wait but better late than never. It was worth getting that one digit right.


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