Interpretation in politics

In our present era of globalism, politics has also become a multifaceted domain that tries to overcome the language and political barriers between countries (e.g. the United Nations or the European Union) while, at the same time, it is constantly hindered by this. Therefore, language mediation is an intricate and delicate issue that covers many forms of communication, from private meetings to international conferences.

While political translation can also pose some challenges, it is interpretation where these abovementioned features are more immediate – mostly because, as the interpreter does not have the necessary timeframe to consider the cultural and contextual differences, the mediation has to happen promptly. As a consequence, an interpreter who wishes to work in the field of politics has to have many skills.

First of all, they have to be familiar with not just the subject matter of the event, but also its reception and appreciation in the political atmosphere of both the source and the target. They have to be aware of all the cultural issues that might surround the subject matter and the narrower and broader vocabulary that this entails. In addition, linguistic sensitivity is required. Figures of speech – like euphemisms, metaphors or intertextuality – are often used, and while one can prepare for such instances, e.g. if they receive the text of a speech or the outline of a presentation, comments and observations often arrive from out of the blue. Another situation to consider is the recognition of non-verbal codes where such simple gestures as nodding can have opposite meanings. The interpreter should also be knowledgeable about the diverse forms of interpretation (e.g. simultaneous, consecutive or chuchotage), as different settings and situations – maybe even at the same event – require different techniques. The final skill that is necessary – and I think it is among the most difficult aspects – is to interpret impartially. While of course, in theory, interpretation is perfectly devoid of personal matters, in a real situation it is quite a feat to continuously override one’s own bias and opinion.

A politician who speaks reliably and confidently in a given foreign language might deem their language knowledge solid enough to decide against using an interpreter. This might be a proper solution in events with an informal atmosphere or in smaller-scale discussions where the topic, the language used, and possibly the interlocutors, are familiar to the politician. However, in the case of larger conventions and symposia, an interpreter can support a politician in many ways. On the one hand to express him/herself without bearing the burden of the language barrier that is present even when someone is close to native level speaker; and, on the other hand, to understand the point of view of others without decoding the text by their own.

To sum up, interpretation in the political field is an area where the skilful nuances of the profession are amplified and emphasised, which requires endurance and a high level of cultural and linguistic sensitivity. On the other hand, a skilled interpreter can facilitate the exchange of ideas and can also overcome even the most demanding linguistic difficulties.

Written by Zsolt Beke

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Chemical footprint: the next level in sustainability

Since 2012, when the concept of ecological footprints was born, we have been accustomed to hearing about our carbon emissions. However, the footprint family incorporates more than that, with the chemical footprint also being a part of it. What is that, and why should we care?

The chemical footprint is an indicator of how much “chemicals of high concern” (COHC) a company is using during production or is selling as a retailer. There are over 10,000 different chemicals used every day in the world, and by now, the connection between some of these and environmental or health damage is apparent.

So benchmarking and measurements, such as the Chemical Footprint Project, gives an overview of the efforts businesses make to commit to a more sustainable way of chemical use. The project evaluates companies in four areas: management strategy, chemical inventory, footprint measurement (as reduction goals), and public disclosure and verification.

Producers of chemicals are obvious targets for such expectations. On the other hand, businesses in different industries are also responsible for unwanted emissions. Manufacturers of clothing, including the likes of Adidas, C&A, Levi’s, or Puma, have already joined the voluntary initiative, the ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme, and committed to the zero discharge of dangerous substances. Production of building materials and furniture, cleaning supplies, medical devices, hardware, or toys are also called out. They should take part in monitoring their supply chains and help to minimise damage from chemicals — and do it all transparently.

Going downstream, non-industrial players such as smaller retailers and service providers can also put their two cents in. A hairdressing salon that sources products with only safe chemicals. A food delivery service that uses paper products instead of plastic. A school that cleans with green supplies. It is a new field to explore and being proactive in finding sustainable ways of doing business is crucial.

There are also measures you can take in your own household to reduce chemical damage. Using less of everything is the first step and one where a little goes a long way. From washing to cleaning and grooming, make educated choices about the products you use. There are guidelines to follow when reading product labels and looking for possibly harmful ingredients. You can also try and make products at home that contain only additives you trust. Cleaning promises especially good returns on your efforts if you make use of lemon, vinegar, and washing soda.

Individual efforts add up to a healthier environment, but country policies increasingly back this up. For example, chemical regulatory landscapes have been changing in national economies and even on a broader scale. In Europe, the emission of potentially hazardous chemicals amounts to 200 million tonnes a year with associated health damage, and 120 million tonnes that is possibly harming the environment. So, the EU is working on new measures to calculate the chemical footprint of products and businesses in its Member States. It uses data from REACH and EFSA, and communicates the findings to help consumers navigate the risks. Chemical management at all levels of the society is moving up the agenda and is triggering a set of measures that will, hopefully, make life healthier for generations to come.

Written by Anikó Jóri-Molnár

We are family ⁠— but are we business?

Families are the smallest units in our societies, but, if they engage in business, these units provide stable economic power based on personal relations. Let’s see whether this is a recipe for success!

Families that made business history

When mum and dad decide to open a little corner shop or cousins embark on a startup adventure developing software in a garage, they share this journey with many ventures. Family businesses are the backbone of the global economy, with two-thirds generating around 70-90% of global GDP, according to 2017 data from the Family Firm Institute.

Some of the newcomers will also share the humble beginnings with many top global enterprises of today. US discount chain Walmart, a steady leader of all business lists, was founded by the Walton brothers in 1945 and now has a revenue of USD 514bn. Europe is not far behind with Germany’s Volkswagen, of the Porsche and Piech families, with a revenue of EUR 235bn. Other well-known brands like Novartis, Dell or Aldi, also trace their origins back to families like Sandoz, Dell and Albrecht.

Some essential advice

When it comes to founding a new business, doing so with family members seems like a safe bet to ensure a high level of trust and commitment and achieve a lower level of costs. Some are even fascinated by the idea that their family name might someday become famous and make history.

That hasn’t changed with the coming of the startup age. Meanwhile, a family venture has always come with its specific challenges. But how do you avoid the pitfalls and make the venture a success?

  • Business is business: Set clear limits about where family life ends and business begins. Determine roles, communication, and pay according to market standards and not personal feelings. The best thing is to put everything in writing. Seeking outside advice might help in more problematic cases.
  • Define your family values and stick to them: PwC’s Family Business Survey says that clear values are the best way to overcome today’s challenges of digital disruption. A commitment to your values helps to focus your activities, navigate complex decision-making situations and wins the trust of your customers.
  • Plan for succession: If you have a vision of growth, you must plan for the times when decisions will not be made by you and your first partner(s) alone. Very few family businesses make it through the third generation, and the main reason for that is poor planning, according to EY and University of St. Gallen’s Family Business Index. A governance framework established early is a tool to prevent the breakdown of relationships and secure a stable background for future generations.

If you and your family members have equal understanding of your goals and how you want to achieve them, starting a business with family can be a good idea and the beginning of a rewarding journey.

Written by Anikó Jóri-Molnár