Bilingual and Lost in Translation

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.”  T. S. Elliot

Years ago, my then Father-in-Law came to visit. The man was a piece of work with a fabulous personality. Besides English, he had mastered Italian and Japanese languages almost fluently; but…

My wife and I took him to a sushi restaurant where he began immediately conversing and flirting with the female servers in their native tongue. They got a real kick out him.  Now, I know enough of the language to be considered ‘legally stupid’ but got the gist of what he was saying while the ladies thought he was hilarious.

As we were leaving, our server came over to thank me and mentioned that along with my father-in-law’s outgoing and entertaining delivery, the element that provided the biggest laugh was his wording; he spoke in a Japanese dialect more relevant to some long ago, by-gone era.  An example: instead of saying “car”, he used a dated phrase that described “a motorized wagon”; a term that applied in the early 20th century

And, that’s what happens to many of us.  While attempting to forge ahead, we inadvertently migrate to a universe of our own making that actually perverts original aspiration. The outcome: we unwittingly become advocates of retreat rather than agents for our own progress.

Let me explain.

Every day, we hear how our military is being gutted and down-sized.  Many of these veterans have spent most of their adult lives protecting us from harm.

Many vets have specialized skills and, compared to their overseas counterparts, American forces are trained to improvise and ‘think on their feet.’

That’s a gift.  It is also a curse.

Because of cutbacks, many vets are confronted with an unaccustomed and startling challenge; dealing with the private sector workplace.

It’s ironic.  Men and women dedicate their lives to defending the civilian home-front and, by doing so, become detached from the assignment they are empowered to protect.

They don’t know how to speak “civilian-ese.” They are lost in translation. They are not bilingual.  They are unprepared in explaining the codes of military craft into the language of the civilian marketplace.

When confronted by HR and decision makers, their in-person responses founder, giving the appearance of uncertainty and inexperience; a mischaracterization so distant from the actual.

The military life demands completion of duty, whatever the task.   But, in private sector interview situations, where a vet is questioned regarding their service career, job description and accomplishments, the usual reply is “I can do everything.” And, although that’s correct, it’s not real.

Although it is an honest response, it is disregarded because it is misinterpreted.  Unknowingly, the vet has communicated to the interviewer that they are desperate for a job and will accept any available employment opportunity.  Now, that might be true, but that’s not the intent.

Veterans don’t speak Bi-lingual.  The experience is there but the defining mechanism is outdated.

It’s a different take on the old saw from Country comedienne Minnie Pearl who joked: “When they were handing out looks, I thought they said books, so I said, ‘I’ll take a funny one.’”

We are over the age of 50 and it’s easy to rely on yesterday’s descriptions. It got us to where we are.  That’s the good news.  The bad news? It got us to where we are.

Some of us are more Social Media aware than others.  I fall in the latter category.  Sure, I use LinkedIn, too old for Instagram and do little FB (I don’t really care that someone experienced a life-changing moment and felt compelled, for the betterment of mankind, to post a picture of a duck seen on the way to West Covina-call me heartless, I live in shame. Got it).

In the past, I have dismissed its importance, delayed its integration and, most likely and to my detriment, have arrested   the progress of my career.

OK, so I’m slow on the uptake.

That’s why recently, I participated in a webinar dedicated to Social Media marketing.

I really learned a lot.  What I took away from the online course was that not much has changed.  Now, hold on.  Social Media is a dynamic and its influence has surpassed Radio/TV/Cable and print and amazingly, it’s still in its toddler stage.  The delivery reach and measurement conversion are mind-boggling but the objectives remain the same.

What I got out of the webinar was use of language.  I believe in Relationship Selling. I am a people person who enjoys dealing with the people I deal with. In fact, I consider many of my clients, friends.  I keep in touch, send out or email news and trends applicable to their business or personal interests. Some refer to it as Business Retention.

What I learned about Social Media is that it has taken quantum leaps compared to the old way of doing things. Retention is now referred to as Engagement and After Sale and the process is more effective and light years ahead of the way things used to be.

There is so much more to Social Media, but this is not the forum for further comparisons.

The point: I learned to speak Bilingual. A connection was made. It was a crucible moment. I was able to incorporate the known with the newly learned. It now made sense and, the process was no longer lost in translation.

Absorbed in the pursuit of success can create unanticipated complications. A real challenge occurs when, so absorbed in the quest to succeed, we lose sight of original intent. The purpose transforms into something peripheral.

What happens? Investment supplants Creation. Don’t misunderstand.  Of course, it is vitally important to allot time for concepts to evolve, progress and bring to fruition. That’s not the point.

Unfortunately, the mechanics of Investment can neutralize the creative process.

Before long, it becomes easy to question initial aspirations and wonder how and when did things spin so out of control.  Priorities get misplaced in a Bilingual world.

Think that’s ridiculous?  Consider how many 50 Plus Adults are so disenchanted, dissatisfied.  They want a new start.  The numbers are enormous.

And, contrary to urban legend, this upheaval is negatively impacting the Marketplace.  Today, we hear so much about   Millenials.  As smart and savvy as they are, many enterprises are discovering they can’t afford to lose the 50 Plus Adult.

Why?  Experience. Work and Social Skills. Contacts and that’s just for starters. Replacing an experienced worker regardless of previous compensation is a drain on the bottom line.

Research shows that replacing an experienced employee earning- say, $70,000 per annum costs a company 3 times that amount or $210, 000 in replacement costs.

So many executives in the corporate world become so fixated on reducing expenditures, that they actually kill the golden goose that depresses the bottom line.

The Solution: Keep an experienced worker but place them in a different capacity. Hire them as a consultant to their former employer, allowing them to pursue other goals while providing needed input, experience, know-how, contacts and training to the organization.

It is another “take” on Bilingual.  The consultant speaks the language of experience and know-how and acts as corporate cultural bridge.  The consultant gets to pursue their ambitions while the organization benefits with smoother transitions diminishing the likelihood of things getting lost in translation.

It becomes a win-win situation.

And, unlike my ex-father-in-law’s experience, everyone is on the same page.  And, that’s no laughing matter