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Global Voices Adds Corporate Jargon to Its Roster of Languages

Global Voices is renowned for its multi-lingualism. The international citizen media network makes its content available in over 30 languages, including lesser known tongues like Aymara, Malagasy and Bahasa. As of April 1, 2013, however, Global Voices will begin translating its content into its most obscure language yet: Business-speak.

New languages are added to the Global Voices roster via community vote. At the last vote on February 29, 2013, Business-speak received 95% of the votes.

“It was truly astonishing,” said Executive Director Navi Lagis, adding that the result led some in the organization to conclude that vote-rigging had taken place. “But as no incidents of of voter fraud were reported via the Ushahidi-based crowdsourcing tool we used to monitor the election, we had to accept it as the true result.”

Managing Editor Analos Nesral was also surprised at the success of Business-speak, especially in light of the competition. “I honestly thought Klingon, Elvish and Pig Latin would have received more votes,” she said, “and I'm shocked that not a single person voted for my personal favorite, Na'vi.”

Money talks

Money talks! By Kevin Labianco on flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Business-speak's success at the polls may be attributed to the recent influx into the community of unemployed management consultants who grew consciences after the Occupy Wall Street protests and decided to volunteer for Global Voices. The group campaigned tirelessly during the election period on a platform of “Obscure is More”, and even created a Shepard Fairey-Obama-style graphic with the word “HUH?” that supporters ran on their Facebook pages.

Some Business-speak supporters who were campaigning for other causes killed two birds with one stone, producing creative blended slogans such as “Jesus Didn't Weep, He Was Lachrymose!” (from a supporter of the US religious right) and “Facilitate My Same-Sex Parental Units’ Conjugal Rights!” (from a gay-rights advocate).

“The right not to be understood is enshrined in the constitutions of many countries,” said J. Hermeticus, editor of Global Voices in Business-speak and the campaign's leader. “Or if it isn't, it should be. I'm going to get a kick out of translating Global Voices articles written in lively, comprehensible language into leaden, jargon-laden prose.” (Hermeticus uses a pseudonym to avoid being trolled by Plain English advocates).

“Why ‘measure’ when you can ‘benchmark'?” said one of Global Voices in Business-speak's “stakeholders”, as members of of Hermeticus’ translation team have taken to calling themselves. “Why stifle the potential of the word ‘ask’ by limiting it to verb status? And ‘action items’ are sooooo much less boring than plain old ‘tasks'. Meaningless buzzwords and awkward neologisms rock!”

One challenge Hermeticus anticipates is a lack of rigor on the part of his translators. “If people understand what you're saying the first time they hear it, or even or the second or third time, you're not doing it right,” he said. “Not to criticize the quality of my translation team, but Business-speak is one of the most difficult languages in the world to master, even harder than French. I anticipate I'm going to have to do a lot of obfuscating and re-mystifying of the texts I receive even from my best translators.”

Another challenge is abbreviations: “I'm hoping people don't get into the habit of shortening the name of the Business-speak site to ‘Global Voices in BS',” Hermeticus said. “But if they do, we'll just have to go into stealth mode and deploy some serious damage control.”

Happy April Fool's Day, everyone!

  • Ken

    There is no such language as ‘Bahasa’ – ‘bahasa’ is the Indonesian and Malay word for ‘language’. Whatever you call the languages, they’re preferable to jargon any day – ‘capacity building’ is my pet hate.

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