A hotel I used recently in Germany was undergoing refurbishment prior to the influx of visitors for this summer’s soccer World Cup, which starts tonight. The staff couldn’t be more friendly and welcoming and are doing a truly fantastic job in the circumstances. (Said circumstances including the ever-present potential for a friendly builder’s face to appear outside your window from the scaffolding surrounding the building – whilst their colleagues dig out a new car park under the hotel).
“We would request provident and courtliest for your appreciation for optical and temporarily acoustical interferences.”
It also sparked thoughts about multi-national proposals, where some contributors are writing in languages other than their mother tongue – or where text is being handled by a professional translator. These situations need real care: not least, to make sure that these contributors don’t feel patronised or insulted when you edit their text. (That’s true, of course, even with contributors working in their native language, many of whom also struggle to express their thoughts in writing correctly and coherently).
Now my own foreign language abilities are pretty limited, and I have huge admiration for anyone who can hold forth in more than one tongue. So I’m not being in any way critical of the often fantastic efforts that come from multi-national teams. But I do think a few recent favourite lines scribbled on my travels might be in order:
• “It is very important so called process owners participate actively during project implementation.” (Proposal from Eastern Europe). OK, so we know they don’t really *own* the processes…
• “In the event of any problems, the concerned project manager would review the situation”. An interesting difference in word order between Indian English and English English: glad to hear that said project manager would be so upset!
• My favourite: a notice outside a proposal team’s office in Belgium, publicising the activities of the company’s “Health & Safety Prevention Committee”. I adore the idea of a committee sitting down to work out how to prevent Health & Safety. (“Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to put a mousetrap on the inside cover of our proposal to illustrate how risky the project could be?”).
Any other favourite examples gratefully received!