How ASCE Overcomes Language Barriers to Plan an Annual Meeting

ASCE's Amanda Rushing has found the meetings and hospitality community in Panama to be friendly, welcoming, and professional - but her team is continuing to struggle with the language barrier.

In addition to relying on its PCO to help out with translation, ASCE is deploying a few tools of its own:

  • Translation website: “It’s spanish-dict.com/translation, ”; Rushing said. “Why I like this over Google Translate or Yahoo or whoever else there is — it gives you the Microsoft Translator version, the [customer-experience firm] SDL translator version, and then the PROMT [online-translator] version. A lot of times they’re very similar, but there are nuances, whether it’s familiar, masculine, or feminine.”
  • Staff assistance: Rushing checked ASCE’s in-house staff database and found seven people in the office who are fluent in Spanish. They don’t work for the meetings department, but Rushing is tapping them to help out with translation for the conference. “We’re going to set up a system of people that can sit in on conference calls with us,” she said. “That way, if we don’t have the English capability, we can get it translated.”
  • Personal instruction: One of ASCE’s employees is an engineer whose wife is Latin American, and is himself fluent in Spanish. Rushing has been talking to him about giving her staff basic lessons in advance of the conference. “He actually helped me when I went on my [last] visit with some courtesies,” Rushing said. “I said, ‘I want to know how to say certain things.’ I came up with a list of phrases. He was very gracious. He helped to translate them, and he and I sat down and worked on the pronunciations.”

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.