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Our April 2022 Event: Misconceptions about the language industry

This month, we connected language professionals in a way we’d never done before. We didn’t organise an ‘event’ in the classic sense of the word. We didn’t meet online or face to face. Instead, we created a special opportunity to connect with each other in a different way we called link building networking.

We invited language professionals to submit their written thoughts on common misconceptions about their field of work in the language services industry.

We thought it was time to bust myths and vent our frustrations a bit.

Here are the submissions we received which we’re excited to publish.

All “legal” interpreters have some sort of legal background

There is a misconception by the public that all “legal” interpreters have some sort of legal background. They don’t!

Legal translation is obviously a very specialised field where staying updated is crucial. Regular CPD is essential in this area. Bear in mind this is also a very litigious area … one wrong word or phrase in a text might be fatal for the client … or for us the translators.

Sue Leschen
Legal Translator and Interpreter
Connect with Sue via LinkedIn

Native-speaking language teachers are always the best (regardless of the student’s needs and goals, but also regardless of the teacher’s qualifications and specialization).

As a non-native speaker teacher of English, my expertise has always been under scrutiny: from school managers refusing to hire me, to other managers forcing me to pretend to be bilingual, to parents and students refusing to have me as their teacher because they only wanted a native speaker. It often happened to have those same students come back to me after figuring out that they actually needed someone who could explain topics – especially grammar topics – in Italian.

Since I used to be a student of English, I understand my students’ mistakes and difficulties much better than a native speaker can; since I’m very familiar with the Italian school system and with Italian grammar too, I can help younger students navigate the school system better. I think all teachers should be evaluated based on their qualifications and experience, not on their passports!

Luna Checchini
Online Coach of English and Italian
Website (Italian):
Connect with Luna via LinkedIn
Luna’s linktree with further links:

Translators are walking dictionaries.

A good translator should be fast.

We don’t need a translator, we can all speak English. The same goes for learning a foreign language other than English.

We don’t need a translator because our colleague is native in that language.

Ana Ilievska Zavrsnik
Chartered Slovenian and Macedonian Language Consultant, Translator
Connect with Ana on LinkedIn

Learning a foreign language is way too time-consuming. It’s just not worth it.

In my own tutoring experience, I have seen too many GCSE and adult learners give up way too easily. They feel daunted by the work they need to put in and unlike any other subject, language learning is a lot of rinse and repeat. Often it is not being able to grasp the grammatical concepts and frustration at not being able to speak fluently after 3 months! There are too many false advertisements and products out there making claims that it is easy but they underestimate the work you need to put in. It is like any other activity, you need 10,000 hours to master the habit!

Louisa Robinson
French tutor
Louisa’s language learning blog:
Connect with Louisa on LinkedIn

Computational Linguists are not language professionals

As a computational linguist working in Natural Language Processing (NLP), I come across many misconceptions, coming from tech people, language professionals, or general public.

Most people don’t know what NLP is, or think it is something very niche and irrelevant to them. That’s not true: web search, automatic spelling corrections and suggestions of next word when you are typing, virtual assistants – all that is powered by NLP. Just try to spot how technologies help you with language use or how you interact with a device using human language – that’s NLP! We come across it nearly every day.

When I speak to other language professionals, it often feels like the language industry is all about translation and teaching languages, while computational linguistics is somehow left out. Yes, a lot of our work is programming. But to model natural language in a way that would allow a computer to “understand” it, we first need a decent “language model” in our head. That requires linguistic knowledge of all levels, from phonetics, to semantics and pragmatics, to language typology. We are language professionals, too!

Tech people often look down at linguists, thinking we are only good for data annotation (generally considered a low-level, boring task). Yes, we did not spend 4-6 years studying maths, stats, data structures and algorithms. But we spent them studying all about how languages work (and also a bit of maths and stats). We can write code, train machine learning models, and additionally have an aptitude for language data analysis. That helps us understand not only what that code or model does – but, most importantly, when and why it fails. And maybe even how to fix it. We bring to the table a different, but valuable, type of knowledge.

Anna Koroleva
Computational Linguist
Connect with Anna on LinkedIn

An app can teach you a language

When I say I help people learn Spanish, people often vent about how they’ve tried one of the popular apps and decided that learning a new language just isn’t possible for them. This notion that any one tool or resource can “teach you” a language is a misconception that I think hurts learners. It keeps learners from feeling responsible for their own learning. They are lead to believe that if they just listen, tap, & repeat, they’ll be chatting away in a few short weeks. Those apps and tools can be good supplements, but they’re not the full picture. To make lasting progress, learners need to feel some control in their learning process.

Connor Kane
Spanish Coach

Language Coaching is better than language teaching

There is a widespread misconception around the discipline of language coaching confusing this activity with either of 4 things, namely a. specialised, tailored language training or b. Life coaching or c. therapy for language learners or d. mentoring/counselling. There is a wide spectrum of activities that support language learning, and language coaching, once defined, can offer language learners strategic, systematic thinking, help them tap into resources and work towards goals through increased performance. Is language coaching meant to be “better” than teaching? No – a myth to be smashed also.

Gabriella Kovács MA, PCC
Co-founder, International Language Coaching Association
Language coach, Corporate communication coach, Teacher trainer and Author of A Comprehensive Language Coaching Handbook

Join the paradigm shift and gain clarity, deepen skills with the International Language Coaching Association – attend our conference this July:

Follow ILCA’s work on LinkedIn

Learning a foreign language is too time-consuming.

If you’re like most people, you probably think that learning a foreign language is a huge time commitment. After all, it takes years to become fluent, right? Wrong. In fact, you can start seeing results in just a few short weeks. And no, you don’t have to dedicate hours upon hours to studying. Just a few minutes each day can make a big difference. So if you’re looking for a way to improve your career prospects, connect with other cultures, or simply boost your brainpower, there’s no excuse not to learn a new language.

Dr Geralde Vincent-Bancroft
Foreign Language Coach/ Linguist

Everyone should learn a foreign language.

Listen, matey. There are two languages in the world – English and Foreign. Stick with the former. Far superior. Easy. No genders, no cases, no adjectival agreements, no complicated conjugations of verbs, no pronouncing C like TH. Everyone can see it’s a C but not the Spanish. Just remember to put an S on the 3rd person present singular of all but modal verbs. What could be simpler?

But you’ll be surprised how many speakers of Foreign can’t do this little courtesy. Why should we bother to learn all their silly conjugations when they don’t even care to add a simple S. And as for Hungarian, well how many damned cases does it have? And it’s not even like the other Foreigns, which at least have the decency to be somewhat similar.  

OK, OK.  So English has awkward phrasal verbs to master, masses with get, put and take. And the pronunciation of the spelling leaves something to be desired. But think on it. With so little grammar, you’ve got to have something to exercise the little grey cells. What could be more fun than sorting out how to pronounce bough, cough, ought, rough, though, through? Or read, wind.

So up with English, especially the Queen’s, and down with the rest.

Carole Shaw

Queen Enterprises

And when not playing the fool:
Teacher, Translator, Interpreter, Proof-reader. 
Business Language Services

The submission deadline for this link building event was 30th April 2022, but we’ve received countless submissions since, which is why we decided to host another round of this special edition event.

See details under Next Event and do submit your thoughts. Make your voice heard in our May 2022 post.

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