Why You Need Native Writers: ICBC China’s Embarrassing Recruitment Page

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Here’s a good lesson demonstrating why you need native speakers to help you write your materials when working abroad, especially in non-Western languages. The illustration comes from the other way around, the world’s largest bank.

This is ICBC China’s attempt at English in an official recruiting site:

Our leading enterprise needs excellent talent, and excellent talent also looks forward to joining a leading team…. Detailed enrollment information, please refer to our website: www.icbc.com.cn. ICBC would like to be hand in hand with you, to develop our business and also help to achieve your personal value.

Yes, this seems to be real. You can’t make this stuff up.

This is so bad that I wonder if non-native speakers could properly parse its meaning.

Language mangling like this occurs all the time when people use computer translators, like Babel Fish or Google Translate. It should not be so obvious when they use human translators.

ICBC China would have done better to have used a two-step translation process, where the first pass is done by a real translator, and the second by a native-speaking professional writer to ensure that it makes sense in International English. As it is, it just makes them look like they aren’t even trying. Perhaps there are not that many proficient English speakers in Chinese banking, unlike their Hong Kong counterparts. It makes the ICBC look as provincial as many US-based banks, whose staff often speak nothing more than English.

Writers are paid because they understand how to use language more effectively than you do. (Disclosure: I have been a professional writer.) Skimping on language is much like having your IT support being done by your office manager: it can work, but it is usually less robust than having dedicated staff, especially in larger organizations.

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