Working in multilingual social media management (as a moderator or as a community manager) requires more than just language skills.
Our Production Manager for Multilingual Moderation, Richard Simcott, responsible for eModeration’s own Tower of Babel, is a zealot, an evangelist, (Ok, a fanatik, entuzijast, entusiasta and évangéliste) for polyglotism. He himself has studied over 30 languages, and was recently named ‘Ambassador of Multilingualism’ by The Goethe Institute. He manages those moderators who regularly work in languages other than English, and provides advice and practical assistance, including training, on multilingual projects. Some of our projects require ten or more different languages
Update 7 November 2012: We are currently HIRING multilingual moderators. Please see our blog for more details
Do you always need to hire native language speakers?
You don’t so much need native-level speakers as native-level cultural understanding. So you might have someone who’s native-level in Castillian Spanish – but that won’t help you understand cultural nuance in Venezuela or Mexico. For English – well, Brits miss some US references even though we’re inundated with US culture, with US TV shows and so on.
The important thing is having a native level of understanding and contact with a culture and language. If you’ve lived all your adult life in a country that isn’t your native country, you’ll have a deeper understanding of the culture of your adoptive country than your own country of origin. So being a moderator for your native (birth) language wouldn’t necessarily make you a good moderator in that language, as you might be basing your cultural understanding on out-of-date references.
What makes a good moderator, in any language?
To be a good moderator, you need to look at a wide range of things, not just language. We talk to would-be moderators about their cultural awareness, their general knowledge of current issues in the country, and of course their interest in specific subjects which relate to the client project, be that sport, TV, children, pets … alcohol ..(!)
How about a good community manager?
In addition to an excellent passive ability in a given language, a community manager needs to be able to interact with communities on their level. This requires an extra ability to communicate, using appropriate language with the target audience, changing one’s style of writing to fit the genre/readership. So, as well as the understanding of cultural nuances we require from moderators, a community manager needs to be an excellent communicator in his/her languages, with a deep understanding of what makes the people of this country tick – and what would put them off entirely.
How hard is it to keep abreast of new language developments – especially online language and youth language?
New words come onto the scene all the time. You need to be tuned into that. If you’re plugged in to the MTV culture, for example, you’ll get the language. It’s not about age, it’s about exposure.
How do you learn a language?
It’s not about skill, it’s about interest, and time investment. Rome was not built in a day and a language cannot be learnt overnight. That said, everyone can learn a language: we all have learned one, so that’s proof! Psychological barriers are the things that stop us.
How much of language learning is to do with having an ‘ear’ for it – a natural ability?
Some people will naturally be more drawn to learning languages, but it’s amazing how much damage it does when you’re young if you’re told you don’t have an ‘ear for language’ or a ‘musical ear’. It probably does more to create a barrier to learning a language than anything that’s inherent in the person. Refer back to the fact that we all do learn at least one language in our lives. You do have to work at it of course, and some people will have more of a natural aptitude than others, but knocking down those social barriers when you’re young is important.
For you, what has been the main benefit of speaking so many languages?
Language opens up so many worlds. Your outlook is different, and you can enter into and explore so many different cultures. Working with people from so many cultures is also enriching. eModeration has just taken on someone from El Salvador, someone in Mexico, an Argentinian living in the US, a Venezuelan living in Canada, and a Finnish person living in Trinidad & Tobago. There’s a great mix of languages and cultures in our company.
eModeration offers over 50 moderation languages and all major European languages and Chinese for Social Media management in-house and we’re happy to source more on request. If you’d like to speak to Richard about any aspect of our multilingual services, do drop him an email.