Language services are indispensable to the growth of businesses. Yes, we have all heard this a lot by now. But did you know that they also play an important role in as niche a field as Intellectual Property and Innovation?
For the last issue of this year, BnP ventured into Bengaluru for an interesting tête-à -tête with Mr. Anil Kumar Jagalur who very recently set foot into retirement. But that doesn’t keep the former Head of Intellectual Property at Phillips India, from embarking on a new voyage, this time, as a professional translator. An engineer by profession with a penchant for art and languages, Mr. Jagalur gives us an interesting and unique perspective on the need for language services in the world of innovations.
Congratulations on a successful career, Sir! We could start the interview with you telling our readers what kind of work you did at Phillips.
Thank you so much. To answer your question, I was the Head of the Intellectual Property group. This basically deals with patents, designs, trademarks, copyrights, etc., of the company and takes care of inventions and innovations. It is 500-man team all around the world and I headed a team of 30 here in Bangalore.
So how do translation services feature in the scheme of things in the field of intellectual property?
Phillips, as you know, is an international company. We mainly deal with inventions that will be converted to patents. We receive the inventions and have to further work on them. Now more often than not, these inventions used to be written in foreign languages like German and Dutch and we need to get these translated professionally to make them comprehensible to our teams in India or even overseas. Secondly, novelty searches require translation services extensively.
What is a novelty search?
It is a very common term in the field of intellectual property. When there is a supposedly new invention, we need to check that it hasn’t already been done by anyone before us. If it has been, we cannot get a patent for it. So the process of checking this is called a novelty search wherein we enter our invention extract, which is usually in English, and get results in various languages. These are usually very intricate documents about similar inventions from various countries. These documents, therefore, need to be translated professionally to ensure quality.
As a client of translation services, what expectations do you have when you outsource work of this kind?
Accuracy is of paramount importance, obviously. But more than accuracy, we always seek a good flow of language. It sounds a little weird that the flow of language and sentence structure is more important for us than accuracy, but think of it this way, our team has sound technical knowledge and experience to spot if a fact or figure is amiss. So a perfect translation for us would be the one that not only is accurate but is also in sync with the required register of language.
Have you ever used any other language services like interpretation or transcription?
We haven’t had to yet, to be honest. Most of the people higher up in the hierarchy speak English. Most of them will have worked overseas and today, in my opinion, international business is difficult without English. In fact, throughout my career, I have come across top leaders who speak English as well as a few more languages because it helps them professionally.
So would you say that English is the language of globalization?
I wouldn’t want to make an elitist statement like that, but English is extremely important for international business and collaborations today. But that doesn’t rule out the importance of other languages in any way.
What languages do you speak, sir?
I speak Kannada since it’s my mother tongue. I speak English and Hindi. I can read German but not speak as there is no one to talk to! Other than that, I can manage to read, and speak a few other languages but at a very basic level – Telugu, because the script is very similar to that of Kannada, very basic Tamil, quite a bit of Bengali and Hindi. But I picked up Hindi much later in life when I moved to Ranchi on my first job.
What was the experience like to not know Hindi while living in a North Indian city like Ranchi?
It was terrible initially. And more so back then when nobody spoke even the most broken form of English like they do today. I didn’t even know how to tell the cycle rickshaw driver to take me to my destination when I first stepped into Ranchi (laughs). But I picked up the language pretty easily and it made my life a lot easier in the city.
So did you learn German as a professional requirement?
I started learning it for professional reasons. We had collaborations with German companies and needed people in-house who could understand basic German to read the technical documents. It also helped us understand their texts and drawings better. But I continued to pursue the language because I have always had a passion for languages. That is also why I learnt Bengali and would love to learn more foreign languages.
As a parting shot, tell us how knowing multiple languages has helped you professionally and personally.
It helps when you meet new people. Even if you just begin the conversation in his language, it immediately breaks the ice and helps you connect better. My knowledge and passion for languages is also helping me greatly now that I have embarked on the journey of translating professionally. It is helping me remain active and get back the excitement in this new, post-retirement life!