In global companies, language can be a problem. TÜVtranslate, a company internal translation app, produced by an internal innovation team, overcomes communication issues.
Whoever invented time zones should pay me for the hours I have waited for Germany to finally wake up so I can dial their phone number and actually reach somebody – not to forget the hours I got up early to still reach Peruvian or Brazilian colleagues in their office.
Language is another issue. While the TÜV Rheinland Group’s common language is English, not many speak English as a first language. We do not keep any statistics on our employees’ native languages, but my personal estimation is that only 2% of my colleagues work in countries that use English as a de facto official language. If we include countries where English is de jure an official language, we reach 10% – which is still a tiny number.
Different Terms, Same Meaning
In almost all cases, when TÜV employees communicate with each other, we use English. But neither of us uses his or her native language. There are people like Giang Nguyen, a Vietnamese colleague in Singapore or the Spanish colleague in Germany with a Finnish spouse who both speak impeccable English, but not everybody has a perfect command of the lingua franca.
I ended my last article saying we often talk about the same thing using different words. Having worked with surely more than hundred colleagues around the world, I have often experienced that one person said e.g. elevator, and the other said lift, while they really meant the same thing.
To the client, it does not matter whether we offer lift testing or elevator testing – but asking people in Cologne responsible for marketing material or corporate communications, it took time to settle issues like these once and for all.
By the way, we offer Elevator Testing and Inspection Services.
Innovation to Solve Language Problems
When, back in autumn 2017, I read about a company-wide innovation project, I immediately applied with something I always had wanted to use myself:
I proposed a project with a glossary for TUV specific terms. In that glossary every colleague can always look up any word – whether a word for an internal position or a technical term from a standard.
I applied for this innovation project together with the above mentioned like Giang Nguyen and over three months we verified our concept – do our colleagues really need such a term database?
The Result: A Translation-App
The answer was: Yes. With the help of a fantastic mentor, we decided to also add a translation function to an app offered on our intranet. And when we pitched the idea to a group consisting of board members and the innovation manager, we received a budget to start developing.
For the last year, I have been working very hard with a fantastic team in Cologne to make this app come to life. Soon, TÜV Rheinland colleagues all over the world will be able to look up how to translate “kompatybilność elektromagnetyczna” into English or German and what that “Hauptuntersuchung” mentioned in a mail from Cologne means at all.
Ever wondered what it is like to work in an innovation project? Stay tuned, my colleague will tell you all about that in another blog entry.