Business, Translation


In the streets of Bengalore.San Francisco’s resident Trados guru concludes his teaching and eating trip to India. BY TUOMAS KOSTIAINEN

The good start I had with the first workshop led to another pleasant surprise: a full Indian lunch buffet! Incredible. We have nice refreshments at NCTA workshops thanks to our Events Director, but this was something else, and we had it at every workshop, showcasing the local cuisine from the milder Delhi affair to certainly much spicier Southern Indian dishes in Bangalore. And although the local power strips and extension cords didn’t completely fulfill my standards for safe electronics, these buffets more than fulfilled my requirements for a lunch. And of course, we had plenty of chai breaks in between.

Apart from the lunch and an occasional power (or AC) outage, teaching my Indian students wasn’t really that different from teaching workshops in the US, even though the surroundings were so different. I vividly remember one day when I stepped out from the workshop location in Bangalore into a back alley on the way back to my hotel. I was lost in my (Trados) thoughts without thinking about where I was and all of a sudden I realized that I was standing on the street with a cow, a bunch of stray dogs and people dressed in kurtas. This was somewhat different from stepping out from the Mechanics’ Institute on to Post Street after a workshop in San Francisco! There were also a couple of cultural differences that I noticed quite quickly. The more obvious was the beautiful combination of dark eyes and the colorful clothing the women wore.

It took me a bit longer to figure out the next cultural issue. It was the complete silence with smiles and this strange head shaking I was met with when I asked my students if they understood what I had just explained. I was puzzled. To me, the smile indicated understanding but the head shake looked somewhat contradictory to that. By afternoon I felt close enough to my students that it seemed appropriate for me to bring the issue up without being too culturally insensitive. As a blunt Finn I told them that I didn’t care which way they shook their heads, and that I was happy to see them smiling so beautifully, but they needed to answer at least yes or no when I asked something. After that there were a lot of head shaking and smiling and enthusiastic yes’s and no’s. However, it still was difficult for me to distinguish between the real “yes, I understand” and the “no, I don’t understand but I’m saying yes just to be polite” answers, and Mr. Ashok actually started giving me these secret signals to indicate when a “yes” actually meant “no”. No wonder cultural training is such a big business!

The workshop content (Introduction to Trados, Advanced Trados, TagEditor and MultiTerm) was the same in each city but new faces and local cuisine made each workshop a new experience. In Bangalore we had a group of beautifully dressed women from Mr. Ashok’s office attending, and I felt they might jump up any minute and start dancing and singing “Trados, Trados, oh my fuzzy match…” like in any Bollywood movie. In Pune, which is one of the hi-tech centers of India, we had several translators who worked for German, Japanese or other international companies. Generally, the languages represented in addition to English and Hindi were German, Japanese, French and some of the other official languages of India, such as Kannada and Urdu. I was expecting to finally meet some of the translators who actually work for those incredible job offers of 3 cents per word that we occasionally get from Indian translation agencies. However, they were not there. Naturally, the professional rates are much lower in India than they are in USA or Europe but nothing like those offers would lead you to believe.

Unfortunately, I only had a few days to play tourist during my trip. I realized this shortcoming as soon as I started reading guide books a few weeks before the trip. In addition to New and Old Delhi, I was able to enjoy a trip to Mysore to see the Maharaja’s palace and the market, a day in Bangalore and a couple of days in Mumbai from where I flew back to US. I was drawn to the markets and bazaars, and one of the most impressive sights was the flower market in Bangalore. The colors and perfumes of the flowers – masses of stemless flowers and garlands sold by volume – the colorful clothing of the people and the constant hustle and bustle of the sellers and shoppers; what a colorful experience.

It would be an understatement to say that I merely liked my time in India. I certainly wouldn’t mind going back as a Trados trainer or just to be a tourist. Who knows, maybe Mr. Ashok will organize a Club “Trad” type Trados-user beach holiday package in Goa, as he mentioned half-jokingly (I believe). So, maybe it will be under the palm trees of Goa, or dancing in a new Bollywood production “Shanti Trados,” or both, but I’m sure I will be back one day. TK