The new language in international business

Towards simplification

There are roughly 6,000 languages in the world, without counting dialects. In addition to common usage terms, technicians and scientists have developed an extensive technical and scientific vocabulary of their own. So it is no surprise that the situation has led to misunderstanding, misinterpretations and sometimes calamities.

During the 20th Century, as business exchanges grew, the complexity of products and processes grew too. In this context, clear and effective communication and documentation became more important than ever before. Unfortunately, technical malfunctions and disasters with fatal results also increased.

The necessity for a clear and unambiguous language became increasingly obvious.

Therefore, linguists and manufacturers decided to build a single, internationally applicable, controlled language to support a truly “global technical language”.

This process started in 1930s and still continues to the present day. Today, a very reliable and basic language called “Simplified English” exists and is used successfully by manufacturers throughout the world for technical documentation. Simplified English (SE) facilitates global communication—especially when the text written in Simplified English will be translated into many languages because it removes ambiguity. SE helps users throughout the world to understand English technical documentation. Although this particularly applies to non-native speakers, it also benefits native speakers.

If we were to simplify a language to make it easy to read, write and understand, why choose English? The reason is that English is the most widely spoken language in the world and it has grown to become the most used language for writing technical documentation.

But English like all languages has many words with multiple meanings thus leading to ambiguity. However, since the goal is to ensure the absence of misunderstanding and misinterpretation, an unambiguous language should be used for technical writing.

With this in mind, the basic principles for this unambiguous language include:

  • Each word has only one meaning.
  • Each word is only one part of speech.
  • Each word must be functional.
  • The meaning of a word should no longer be derived from the context.

As a language services provider, we recommend the use of the above rules when writing technical documentation and operating procedures. In addition to following these rules, we suggest the development and usage of a “controlled language” that will contribute better understanding. A “controlled language” may initially be a simple glossary in which the meanings of the terms used in a particular business are clearly defined. Later on, the “controlled language” may include syntax rules. With regards to translation projects, these practices prevent re-work, speed the turn-around and improve the accuracy of the translated content.

MTM LinguaSoft can work with your organization to develop a glossary by extracting the relevant terms from previous translations. Contact us for a consultation.

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