How many minutes are there in a while?

Some months ago I bought myself a motorcycle. As you may know, it’s sensible for riders to lube the chain of their bikes from time to time. So, having read some “user generated content” in specialised blogs about which are the best products and how to do it, I bought what seemed to be the best chain cleaner and lubricant.

First you have to apply the chain cleaner in order to get rid of all the dirt and residues.

Wondering how long I would have to let it dry before removing the dirt with a non-abrasive brush, I thought it wise to check the instructions on the can … or rather first identify which of the languages I understood as the instructions came in no fewer 29 (!) languages.

Spanish, English … all fine … but let’s check if there is also a German version (there is nothing like your mother tongue when it gets down to the real nitty-gritty like checking instructions, descriptions, etc.)… And there it is!

“Auf die Kette sprühen und kurz einwirken lassen.” (Spray on the chain and let it work for a short time) …

But how long is a “short time”?! This is the first time I´m doing it and I don’t want to screw it up by leaving the product too long on the chain (which may damage the seal – who knows!) or leave it for too short a time (which may leave residues on the chain, again causing an issue).

20 seconds, maybe a minute, maybe two?

“Short time” …  a very relative expression …

So I started to see what the other languages said. ALL the other 28 languages state that you have to let it dry for 5 minutes. Except German …

In my opinion there was no need to be creative in translating such a detail.

That’s something the proof reader should have spotted!

And if the producer (a multinational company selling products across the globe) had integrated a quick internal language quality check into their translation process, I´m pretty sure they would have spotted the issue as well.

To be honest, in this case, this little detail may not be a matter of life or death. But when it comes to translating instructions on the correct use of a product the development of which has cost you millions, you had better ensure you take the time to get it right!

The best thing about face-to-face meetings…

As I board my plane back to Barcelona after visiting TJX’s Distribution Centre in Wroclaw, Poland, I can’t stop thinking how useful and beneficial this experience has been. It was great to finally meet everyone in person. We’ve been working together for several years and exchanged hundreds of emails and calls over the course of the relationship. It felt as if we’ve known each other for ages, but nothing really beats a true face-to-face meeting.

The objective of this visit was for us to have a better understanding of the processes within the centre, and how our translations supported the training programmes that are given to the new associates at the centre. Part of the objective was also to better understand TJX’s internal language and jargon, which needs to be applied consistently across the board.

Together with Tomasz Fortuna, one of our TJX Polish team leaders, we were received by Marta Dyjach, TJX’s QMS Specialist who gave us a 4-hour tour of the distribution centre facilities that covered many key areas and stations. Marta was incredibly helpful and explained to us how it all works behind the scenes at the distribution process. It was incredibly powerful to see first-hand how their products are processed once at the centre, which allowed us to have a much better understanding of the challenges being faced from a language perspective.

Next we will continue with the improvement process by capturing all of the knowledge gained during our visit and updating and adapting our style guides and terminology databases, so that the Polish teams working on TJX projects going forward will be able to maintain the same level of consistency, both terminological and stylistic. I really can’t wait to hear TJX’s feedback once we complete the first series of training materials under this new approach.