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By Monique Cuvelier
Many years ago, I embarked on what in retrospect seems like a clearly
fruitless and somewhat pathetic pursuit. I decided to learn Esperanto.
It seemed like such a tidy language, with a consistent, perfectly
phonetic alphabet accessible to everyone.
I started as any first year student would, by referring to the things
around me in my new tongue. I would sit at the 'tablo' and eat with my
'forko'. I'd take the 'hundo' for a walk before talking with friends
on the 'telefono'.
I felt that if I could demonstrate to my friends and family that it
was possible to learn this language easily, soon we'd all be
communicating with people across the globe, creating a more empathetic
What I overlooked were the facts that A) Esperanto sounds sort of
stupid, and B) if we were to pull off this whole global Esperanto
thing, everyone in the world would have to learn a foreign language.
It's an experiment I felt embarrassed about for years, but nowadays
I'm wondering if the idea has merit. A more unified Europe is not only
bringing more people with more languages closer together, but it's
also opening up heaps of multi-lingual information that we information
professionals must sift through.
But, as more people probably speak Klingon than Esperanto these days,
we must find other means for coping. Adrian Janes helps with his
report on performing research on the EU - part of our FUMSI Regional
Research Series. And Anja Chemnitz Thygesen provides a helpful guide
to conducting research in a foreign language. Check out Barbara
Verble's Tipples for translation sites. Also, Mandy Webster reviews
Sheila Pantry's book "Managing Stress and Conflict in Libraries".
And who knows? We might all be speaking Esperanto soon. Looks like
it's taking hold in Ukraine <http://digbig.com/4tqjq>.
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By Barbara Verble
The need for language translation has increased significantly as a
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spent several years translating a variety of materials from English
into German. She also researches international business information.
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Plain text | PDF | Contents
"Doing Research in a Foreign Language Market:
Tips and Techniques"
By Anja Chemnitz Thygesen
Conducting research in another language can be tricky, especially if
you speak only your mother tongue. Being a native Danish speaker with
knowledge of English, French, German and Portuguese, I have the
advantage of understanding written information in Italian, Spanish,
Dutch, Swedish and Norwegian. Still, I often struggle when it comes to
specialised topics in which I may only know the business terms in
either Danish or English. This article outlines some of the lessons I
have learned from researching in foreign language markets.
Know the business in your own language
To understand and translate into another language, you have to know
and understand what you are researching in your own language. Start
out by gaining an understanding of the market structure and how the
market is functioning. Are the competitors usually working in exactly
the same field or is there an overlap? What does the value chain look
I recently worked on a competitor analysis for a company that provided
direct mail and letter shop services. In my research, I discovered
that the main competitors were actually the distribution companies
(postal services) because they were moving into the market with heavy
capital and systematically taking over the competitors. This kind of
information about the wider market and what happens in it can help
you, even if you're looking at another country with other competitors.
Translate key terms
One of the first things to do once you understand the business in your
own language is to translate the key terms you are going to use in
your research into the foreign language. Often you can do this by
finding a homepage about the topic that is available in both English
and in the foreign language. By going through the English version in
detail and later the foreign language version, you may be able to get
a good idea of key terms. Remember always to cross-check the
information by looking up the word in a foreign language dictionary
and checking more than one source.
Get a good dictionary or try automatic translation
If you have problems defining your key terms you may use dictionaries
to help. There are many free Internet-based dictionaries that can help
in your initial search. However, I often find that they offer little
or no explanation about the terms and are completely lacking in
context. This makes it difficult for you to verify if the word you
find is the right one. In other words, you get what you pay for. If
you want a good dictionary, it will probably not be free of charge.
That said, here are some of the better free-of-charge dictionaries:
Use a local search engine
Once you start searching for information you'll run into problems if
you limit your search to just international search engines. A local
search engine can help you define your terms and also find relevant
websites. Often you will also be able to browse through such search
engines and find pertinent information.
You can find local European search engines at Network Technologies'
European Search Engines, Directories and Lists
Another place to look is Search Engine Colossus
<http://searchenginecolossus.com/>, which offers links to more
countries, but is of a poorer quality.
Always remember to use advanced search features in the global search
engines (such as Google). In some cases it may be useful to limit your
search either by language or by geography to get exactly the sites
that are relevant to your research work. Although these search
features may not always work that well, it definitely does limit the
breadth of your search.
English-only searching limits
It can be tempting to click on the English flag on a website and get
information in a language that you understand. Company websites and
websites of public services often have a portion of their site
translated into English. Unfortunately the English pages often contain
just a part and not the most recent information available. To get the
most valuable and detailed information you will have to screen the
pages in the local language and try to navigate through to the
information you are looking for.
One of the big Web surfing paradoxes is that you often find
information in English far down in the hierarchy of Web pages, and
only after surfing through numerous pages in a local language. This
makes it even more valuable to have at least some understanding of the
key terms you are looking for in the local language.
Use languages you know as a gateway
As mentioned at the beginning, understanding two Latin-derived
languages has been a gateway for me to understand other Latin
languages as well. You often come across homepages where the English
version is very slim compared to the pages available in the native
language. This makes it necessary to be creative and try your luck
with the pages in the local language (as long as the alphabet is more
or less the same as the one you know). By guessing and trying to read
with an open mind you will often be able to understand more than you
may have thought.
However these lucky guesses should always be double-checked, either by
finding the same information in a language you know or by getting a
local language expert to confirm your assumptions.
Leverage your network
Perhaps you know someone who speaks the language in which you are
researching ? Often they can help you and review what you have done to
see if it is in line with their interpretation. I often get help from
my colleagues, professional network, friends and family.
Make it a habit to ask people about their language skills even when
you go out to dinner parties - it may be of great help to you later.
Untrained researchers may not have your methodology skills but if you
take your time and explain why you need the information, you can often
get them to spend hours searching for you. A Polish friend once helped
me find Polish companies within the telecom industry and actually
continued sending me updates months after I had completed the
research. In this way I managed to get very detailed and valuable
Remember the EU
The EU has a lot of material which has been translated into English.
Often you can find it in local European languages as well. European
Union A To Z Index is a gateway to the EU
Eurostat <http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu> collects statistics from
all the national statistical offices and you may be able to find quite
a lot of updated information through this source.
Grab your phone
It may be quite useful to email or phone people even though it may be
difficult to understand them. Quite often local specialists can guide
you to the right information about the topic you are researching. One
of our best examples is the national statistics offices, which are
often helpful in translating key terms or guiding you to the right
information on their website (which may actually be in English). You
can find the country profiles with national statistics offices at
And accept limitations
Sometimes you may misinterpret things based on your limited
understanding of a foreign language. So, accept that there are things
that you CANNOT do in a completely foreign language. You may be able
to get an annual report and understand parts of it, but do not start
to translate entire articles. It will be a waste of your time and can
be dangerous to your client, who may get an incorrect picture of
things. If you start translating articles and longer texts, you must
have a good knowledge of the language and may even double check your
information through an English source to make sure that the direction
of the translation is not totally wrong. I once attempted to translate
an article from German into Danish, and reached the conclusion that
the market was declining, only later to find in English language
sources that it was increasing.
If you have problems or need professional help, always turn to the
ones that know the market - the local information professionals:
AIIP, the Association of Independent Information Professionals
<http://www.aiip.org/AboutAIIP/directory_home.asp>. Use their
directory to find contacts in specific geographic locations or about
You may also contact your embassy in the location you are researching
and get their assistance.
Or you may even create your own network of researchers in which you
can exchange services. This is a good way of learning from each other
and avoiding wasted time on research that you suspect will end up
giving a poor result anyway.
All in all you can do a lot of research in a foreign language if you
use the right approach, use your creativity, your network and the
tools available. However you should always double check critical
information or get a person with local language skills to confirm your
Anja Thygesen is research manager with the Danish management
consulting company Quartz Strategy Consultants. She and her team of
researchers provide company and market information to internal
consultants as well as external clients. She has 8 years experience in
business research in management consulting. Anja has formerly held
positions in information research and knowledge management in A.T.
Kearney. She holds master degrees in economics and in communication
and is a member of AIIP. You can reach her at <email@example.com>.
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"Managing Stress and Conflict in Libraries"
Written by Sheila Pantry
While libraries are stereotyped as calm, quiet places they can also be
particularly vulnerable to aggression and conflict. Dealing with
members of the public, working with students experiencing stressful
situations in their own lives and keeping late opening hours with
reduced numbers of staff can put a strain on employees who still
firmly believe in the ethos of trying to help their users. "Managing
Stress and Conflict in Libraries" provides managers and staff with
practical advice on what behaviours should be tolerated given the
current health and safety legislation, reporting procedures, conflict
resolution skills and risk assessments.
Sheila Pantry's style is eminently practical. Each chapter starts with
a few bullet points indicating what it will cover and ends with a
recap of the main points or, where appropriate, reflective questions
to consider about the reader's own workplace environment. Helpful
checklists are included throughout the text, and time-saving sample
documents that could easily be adapted, such as the ratings system for
reported incidents to help to identify triggers and solutions, are
perfect for a practical guide.
The book's greatest strengths are its practicality and the author's
obvious experience passed on in realistic advice, such as designing
counters to protect staff and queue management to avoid aggression
from queue jumpers. The bibliography is an extensive resource offering
a good assortment of further reading. In contrast Appendix B, which
lists recommended websites, feels lightweight and would have benefited
greatly from brief annotations about what the site covers. For
instance, the Carole Spiers Group may be unfamiliar to most readers.
Appendix C reverts to a more useful format of an annotated list of
advice centres, including contact details and opening hours.
The book is very up to date; URLs work as expected of a book written
in 2007 and the statistics used are mostly from that year. Some
concerns may be raised about the author's reliance on the Office of
Public Sector Information (OPSI) as the recommended source of
legislation throughout the book, without a disclaimer that the site
only provides legislation as published. It means that there may have
been amendments that were overlooked, such as the Human Rights Act of
1998, which was amended after the OPSI version was published.
As for target readership, managerial employees will be most interested
in this book, but it would be a worthwhile read for all staff. The
shocking instances of bullying and stress in case studies in chapter
10 are particularly compelling; managers will want to read this
section and reflect on their own services. There are plenty of books
about stress and bullying in the workplace but few specifically
covering the library sector. Even fewer are so readable and full of
Mandy Webster is Library & Information Services Manager at Browne
Jacobson and co-author of BIALL Handbook of Legal Information
Management and Knowledge Management: Social, cultural and theoretical
perspectives, along with many articles and reviews.
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"FUMSI Report: European Research Resources"
By Adrian Janes
[Editor's note: A new report from the FUMSI Regional Research Series
aims to sketch some of the background to the EU's development, point
out the functions of some of the key institutions and above all
indicate useful sources of information, both on the EU and on Europe
considered more broadly.
Below is an excerpt, but you can order the report in its entirety at
Researching Europe can be undertaken on several levels. Starting with
the national, one finds significant government, mass media and
academic sources. The UK perspective to this report should therefore
be seen as representative of a pattern that can be found to a greater
or lesser extent throughout all of the EU Member States, once an entry
point for a country has been found.
At the national level it is less likely that one will find English
language versions of the information given. (The website of the
Swedish Parliament's EU information service
<http://www.eu-upplysningen.se> is a partial exception to this rule;
they will furthermore supply printed versions of additional
information like fact sheets in English.) Also, at the current level
of development, translation websites and tools are not capable of
dealing with language of any great complexity or ambiguity. It would
therefore be best to be fluent in the language of a non-English
speaking country in order to get the best from the information sources
available for it. To help locate such sources, there are specialised
search engines for various European countries gathered together at
Netmasters <http://www.netmasters.co.uk/european_search_engines> and
Aniota <http://www.aniota.com/europa.html>. Phil Bradley
<http://www.philb.com> (click on Country Search Engines tab for
alphabetical groupings) and The Big Search Engine Index
<http://www.search-engine-index.co.uk> are especially comprehensive,
not just for European but worldwide coverage.
With the latter site, ignore the categorised section which produces
basically sponsored results and scroll down to Pick A Country for the
search engines. A good way into resources for a particular country is
to see if its embassy has a Web presence. Many embassies now
understand that part of their mission to present information on their
country needs to be undertaken on the Web. Check Embassy World
<http://www.embassyworld.com> for an extensive list. If the country or
countries you wish to research have a physical presence, the chances
are they will have a virtual one too, with information and links (eg
official investment contacts) tailored to citizens of your country.
Another way to locate sources for a specific country is to incorporate
its Internet suffix into your search terms when using a general search
engine such as Google or Yahoo. A list of these suffixes (eg fr =
France, es = Spain, etc) is provided by the Internet Assigned Names
Beyond this level there is the regional (for example Western, Central
or Eastern Europe) and organisations like the EU or the Council of
Europe, which aspire to be more or less pan-European. With the
regional and pan- European levels, awareness and public interest as
reflected in the media seem lower, and sources that come into their
own are university departments or faculties, think tanks (often with
some sort of ideological slant to their work), and specialised
commercial research organisations. It should also be observed that to
some extent this division into levels is always artificial, so for
example the EU's anticipated enlargement will take it further into the
Balkans, and its developing economic and political power will
inevitably have growing implications for Russia. Therefore research on
an individual country often cannot remain restricted to that country
because of the interdependence that is increasingly apparent in
General sources of information
The quality of information obtainable from and about the EU and its
Member States matches its vastness. There has been a conscious
movement by the EU in recent years to place much more online, as well
as developing information networks to deal with enquiries from
citizens and businesses. For pamphlets and books, including online
versions, the EU Bookshop <http://digbig.com/4tqjs> and the EU
Publications Office <http://publications.europa.eu/index_en.htm> are
the best places to start. The Publications Office home page also
serves as an immediate gateway to important publications like the
Official Journal and EU Whoiswho.
Europa <http://europa.eu/index_en.htm> is the preeminent official
gateway. All the main areas of activity are covered, from Agriculture
to Transport, with links rapidly leading from the broad to the very
Eurojargon <http://europa.eu/abc/eurojargon/index_en.htm> attempts to
put into plain, concise language many of the activities and concepts
that underlie the EU. This is a good quick reference.
Europe Direct <http://ec.europa.eu/europedirect/index_en.htm> has a
clickable map to indicate centres for EU information in each of the
member states. They are intended to be able to answer enquiries on all
aspects of the EU, whether it is a question of policy or the practical
exercise of rights.
In Britain, the European Information Network
<http://www.europe.org.uk/info/> not only provides links to Europe
Direct centres, but also includes networks aimed at specific
European Union Delegation of the European Commission to the USA
<http://eurunion.org/infores/euindex.htm> maintains an extremely
thorough collection providing links to many important EU sites. They
are organised as Essential EU Sites, Essential Sites in Business,
Education and Law, and sites for EU institutions and agencies. Since
the workings of the EU are probably as mysterious to many Europeans as
they are to Americans, it's also worth knowing about the PDF
publication, 'The European Union: a guide for Americans' (included
under Publications), which is a good introduction.
Even more comprehensive is the superb set of links maintained by the
office of the European Commission in the UK
<http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/links/index_en.h tm>. Some of the
individual sites it collects will be referred to in the course of this
report, but this is an essential jumping-off point. It includes such
subject areas as European Institutions and Agencies; Consumers/Health;
The Euro; EC Delegations around the World; and Business Advice. There
are also particular links to UK Government departments which have a
The Library of Congress has a series of Portals to the World. The
European one is at
<http://www.loc.gov/rr/international/european/euro.html>. This brings
together categorised links by country (although there is also a set of
links for the European Union) in such areas as Business, Commerce,
Economy; Education; Recreation and Travel. Search engines for each
nation are a further category. The British Library takes a national
approach for Western Europe, and a somewhat more regional one for
Eastern Europe. For example, resources related to France are at
<http://www.bl.uk/collections/westeuropean/france.html>, but many
links for Central and Eastern Europe are at
(especially useful is the section Information sources on Central and
Eastern Europe). There is a further layer of links to resources for
individual countries such as Bulgaria or Poland. Typically these
gather together official, academic and news sites.
Berkeley University's European Union Internet Resources
<http://digbig.com/4tqjw> is particularly well-organised and
comprehensive. Each of its broad subject areas - EU Institutions and
Bodies, EU by Subject, EU Documents by Type, and Other Items of
Interest - is in turn logically broken down, enabling a researcher to
quickly find potentially relevant sites for an enquiry. Indeed all of
the library collections noted here share these qualities. There is
also an inevitable degree of overlap between them, but being aware of
these various gateways maximises the chances of finding useful sites.
Academia is an important source of European information, not least
because the study of the EU, an organisation unique in terms of
political science, is a burgeoning field. The British Library gateway
noted above includes an extensive list of academic links.
This academic interest has produced valuable Open Access material.
Some indicative examples are:
One of the best of these is Tim Bale's European Politics Guide
<http://www.palgrave.com/politics/bale/guide.htm> which has chapter by
chapter links for his book 'European Politics: a comparative
introduction'. These relate to chapters on issues like 'Federalism,
devolution and the European Union' and 'The Media: player and
recorder', so are good for keeping informed on important issues. More
broadly, the same site's EU Resource Area
<http://www.palgrave.com/politics/eu> has contributions from other
authoritative writers, producing features such as guides to 'The
European Union on the Web' and 'European Union Environmental
Legislation', along with a chronology of European Union integration.
Most of the websites in this chapter are pan- European in scope
(although quite often providing the opportunity to drill down to
national-level sources). However there are some which take a more
regional view. WESSWEB, <http://wess.lib.byu.edu/index.php/Main_Page>
maintained by the Association of College and Research Libraries in the
US, is a clearly laid-out site concentrating on Western Europe. Some
countries have their own section (eg Dutch Studies), others are
grouped into regions (eg Iberian Studies). In each case they lead on
to Subject Resources, a Reference Shelf (dictionaries, guides and
directories) and Newspaper and Other News Sources.
A good equivalent for Central and Eastern Europe is Slavophilia
<http://www.slavophilia.com> whose range extends from the Czech
Republic up to and including Russia. Entry is either through broad
subject areas (Computers and Internet, News and Media, Science, etc)
or through the Country Focus section. Coverage of some countries is
significantly better in some cases than others, but this is probably
as much to do with the relative underdevelopment of the Internet in
those places as any other factor. Slavophilia does at least provide a
starting point for researchers which, given the nature of the
Internet, inevitably leads to further links.
Taken altogether, the above resources should give useful information
on many areas of life for just about every European country, whether
or not it is an EU Member State or a candidate country, or not in the
EU at all. The following chapters in this report will concentrate on
resources for more specific areas of interest. However the general
sources should always be kept in mind, as they constitute an enormous
and well-organised treasury of information.
After several years as a musician and songwriter, Adrian Janes began
his career in information in academic libraries. Subsequently he moved
into public libraries with the London Borough of Havering (UK). He
currently works as an Information Services Librarian in the borough's
main library, where he has particular responsibility for European
Union information and British Official Publications. He is also
closely involved in the continuing development of a "Recommended
Websites" page, and trains library staff and members of the public in
the use of electronic reference resources. He has contributed a number
of book reviews and articles to FreePint. This is his first research
report for Free Pint Limited. He is married with two sons, and enjoys
sharing his continuing passion for music with these young Beatles,
Monkees and Ramones fans.
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