The multilingual challenge
As a multilingual company that caters services to its clients in more than 40 languages, A Data Pro’s family consists of diverse and talented individuals, many of whom speak multiple languages. Despite their linguistic abilities and their devoted and professional nature, tackling great amounts of content on a daily basis can sometimes be overwhelming. That is because their tasks such as monitoring mainstream and social media, for example, require both thorough research and in-depth understanding of the target culture and language to deliver precise, timely, and actionable information.
As part of our cross-cultural knowledge exchange program that aims to bring our A Data Pro family members even closer together, we wanted to learn about the challenges that our analysts face when working with a language that we do not know much about. We wanted them to open up about the difficulties they face daily and tell us about how they overcome them and manage to always deliver quality results.
What it is like to be a Japanese analyst?
For our first article in the “Confessions Series”, we thought it was appropriate to begin with the language of the Land of the Rising Sun – Japan. We virtually sat down with four of our Japanese analysts and had a little chat. Here is what they had to say:
(Celebrating 10 years in A Data Pro in November 2020)
A true A Data Pro veteran, Deyvid has a long history with Japan. He says that “at some point in my youth, I became fascinated with Japan, the culture, traditions, the mind of this nation and of course I fell in love with the language as well, as it is an essential part of learning about how Japanese society functions. Back then it was hard to find private Japanese lessons, but quite randomly, I discovered that a cousin of mine was studying in Japan and she provided me with sufficient info that helped me make my choice. A few months later I was in Japan, transitioning into a new life. I spent 3 years there, studying sociology and Japanese. I did not manage to graduate mainly due to financial barriers, but this experience changed my life profoundly. After that, I continued my Japanese studies back in Bulgaria in an Applied Linguistics course. Of course, Anime, Manga, video games and Japanese drums were also involved somewhere in this mix (:”
Fascinated with his knowledge and experience, we wondered, what could Deyvid view as a challenge when working with Japanese. He said: “When it comes to translation, I think the most challenging thing is that the Japanese language is very contextual. A single word can mean a variety of things depending on the context of the sentence and sometimes I find it challenging to find the right “shade” of meaning. Other than that, it is a language like any other I guess, so as long as you keep increasing your vocabulary everything should be fine.”
His solution? Constant learning and cooperation. “As with every other language, expanding your vocabulary and knowledge on various topics will make you adept in understanding and handling anything. Of course, I am using different online tools when I need to find and understand more technical terms and keep up with the evolution of the language. Exchanging knowledge with my Japanese language colleagues is essential as well, sometimes we discuss the translation of different phrases or share our experience and the different tools that we usually use in order to make our lives easier.
All in all, teamwork and devotion to always keep up with the language are the best remedy for the challenges that being a media analyst with Japanese presents.”
We wanted to know what was about A Data Pro that kept him for almost a decade. “A Data Pro is a company filled with a lot of motivated and passionate people, and I guess one of the things that I like most about working for it is exactly that – the people. Another reason is acquiring knowledge. Working with information for diverse clients and industries is putting each one of us in the centre of things, and having the ability to distinguish the genuine information from the not-so-reliable one is a great skill to have now more than ever. Last but not least, I like the “digital nomad” lifestyle that the company allows me to have. I am kind of a chaotic person when it comes to moving around and having the ability to work from literally anywhere is something that I greatly appreciate. I have been working for A Data Pro for quite some time and seeing how the company has evolved is in itself a beautiful thing.”
What is Deyvid like outside of his role as a Japanese analyst, you ask? Well… “Recently I have been interested in philosophy, and general concepts around which society revolves and how they govern the ideologies of people.
We are living in times of an almost overwhelming abundance of information, and this in itself has a very curious effect on how people perceive reality, which is kind of fascinating for me to explore.
I am also a huge geek when it comes to video games. I also like the majority of creative forms of expression like music, books, movies, comic books, extreme sports, etc. I enjoy exploring different cultures and meet people from all over the world, as I believe the best way to open your mind and enrich your reality is by getting to know the reality of others, especially when they come from a variety of backgrounds. As I already mentioned, I like moving around, I try to stay away from big cities and prefer the comfort of cosier places (preferably in the southern hemisphere).”
(Part of ADP for 2.5 years)
Currently residing in South Korea, Iliyana got acquainted with Japanese in university where she was a Japanese study major. She says that one of the biggest challenges about working with Japanese is that “the language that Japanese people use on social media is very specific in terms of abbreviations and new terms, which are created by blending two or more words. Keeping up with such vocabulary, which emerges almost every day, can be quite hard.”
For Iliyana, multifaceted research is key for overcoming these challenges. “Google is my best friend. I mostly refer to forums where there are explanations. As a last resort, I would ask a Japanese friend of mine to help. Sometimes dissecting the word and guessing which English word it originated from could also help, although that can be more time-consuming. Another way to tackle such challenges is to search for the particular word/hashtag on the platform you are working with (Twitter/Instagram) and see what posts you will get
– sometimes context can help you understand.”
What does she like about working at A Data Pro? Iliyana says: “First of all – my teammates. Although we have only met virtually, they keep up the team spirit nevertheless, which does not fail to amaze me every time. Also,
I am very grateful that I can put into practice new skills that I have acquired in the company – anywhere from translation and analysis to workflow optimization.”
Another thing you should know about Iliyana? “I have always been passionate about creating and I have tried most of the arts – painting, dancing, acting, photography… And I still enjoy doing all of those but for the past few years, I have been trying to learn more about photo/video editing and video creation with the idea to post regularly on YouTube (which is a bit hard to execute, having a full-time job). Nevertheless, I’ll keep learning, one can never go wrong with that! ;)”
(Part of ADP for 1.5 years)
Mirya’s interest in the Japanese language and culture was sparked by a high-school themed Japanese movie she watched in middle school. She then proceeded to learn the language in university, where she gained more in-depth knowledge.
For Mirya, one of the biggest challenges about working with Japanese is the “additional research done when certain terms or words are foreign. Despite learning it for four years in university, there is still a lot of vocabulary I am unfamiliar with (like finance terms for example) and
I need to do extra research or study in order to make the translation as good as possible.”
She overcomes any challenges she might face “by asking someone more experienced in the language. We have a group chat with people who work with Japanese and we are always helping each other when someone struggles to grasp the meaning of a slang phrase or the correct Bulgarian/English meaning of a more complicated term. After all, Google does not know everything. Another example is by checking trustworthy websites which either my teachers or colleagues have recommended. For instance, when I needed to translate a person’s name, and was not sure how it is read, my colleagues shared a few sites for reading Japanese names and explained how they operate.”
Mirya says that the best thing about working at A Data Pro is the opportunity to “continue to expand my knowledge of my target language, Japanese, in all aspects – finance, slang, everyday phrases and words.
By being able to participate in different projects, I can also stay on-track on the latest news about different subjects.”
Outside of A Data Pro, Mirya has hobbies that are both creative and stimulating. “Apart from the usual reading and watching shows/movies I do on a daily basis, I like to write short stories whenever I have the time and inspiration. You could say that’s a small hobby of mine since middle school. I am always in my little world thinking of different scenarios and stories (original and fanfiction), and sometimes when I get a good idea of how I want the events to take place, I write it either in Word or in my notebook. Oh, and also, I listen to music when doing this – really helps to envision the story, like a little background soundtrack or OST! Another hobby of mine is solving jigsaw puzzles (with my boyfriend). So far, the largest one we did is 2000 pieces, but I want to try 3000 pieces sometime soon. For me, it’s really entertaining and relaxing even when the puzzle is a hard one.”
(Part of ADP for 3 months)
Kristina is a newer addition to our Japanese team at A Data Pro, and her story with the Japanese language deepened during her university days. She told us: “I studied Japanology at Sofia University and during that period I went to Japan twice as an exchange student at Tokai University and Osaka University.”
When we asked her about the challenges of working as an analyst with Japanese, she said that “Japanese as an Asian language is a lot different from European languages (word order, script, etc.) which brings some challenges when translating.
For me, being a new worker at the company, conveying the criminal terminology and laws from Japanese to English was quite difficult at first.”
Just like her other colleagues, Kristina prioritizes research and communication to overcome any challenges she faces when she works with her target language: “I do some additional reading in Japanese or English about the terms I am dealing with and I check dictionaries and sentence examples to find out how a specific word or law is translated into English. I also –
consult with my more experienced co-workers who are extremely helpful.”
Kristina says that the best thing about being part of the A Data Pro family is the opportunity to “always learn new things while working”. In her free time, Kristina is a writer. She said: “I like writing short stories in Bulgarian when I have the time and inspiration to do so. I used to write poems when I was younger but now, I prefer writing prose.”
That wraps up our virtual conversation with some of our Japanese analysts. We definitely can learn a lot from their problem-solving techniques as well as appreciate how they cooperate to help each other learn, move forward, and deliver. In our next post, we will be talking to analysts who are masters in another Asian language. Can you guess which one that is? No?