“Lost in translation” fairly sums up my daily dealings with various work counterparts across the region. I’ve found the best way to converse with my colleagues is not over the phone, but over instant messenger – mainly because they don’t ignore me (or maybe they can’t refuse to answer because my question mark sparkles?). IM is a handy tool for instant communication, but also for instant universal translation of pretty much any concept. If I don’t understand some email from a colleague, I can IM him and he’ll respond to my question in a mixture of text and emoticons. My Korean counterparts are very good in communicating in Emoji (a Japanese term for picture icons or emoticons). At first it’s strange to read pictures and text, but it’s easy to grasp and these little emoticons have made my work life easier with fewer “Lost in Translation” moments.
On that point, here’s an interesting project – Fred Benenson wants to translate public domain novel Moby Dick into Emoji, and has set up a site asking for donations to fund this project. He plans to have each sentence translated three times by different Amazon Mechanical Turk workers, with a different set of workers then voting on which sentence is best. Those who pledge will either receive a PDF or hardcopy of the book, depending on how generous they are. Based on the provided samples, Emoji Dick will be a difficult read for most, except my Korean colleagues.