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HomeNewsLocal
Published: 11/14/2000

Local companies widen communications by translating from English

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Knowing that just half of its 86,000 or so employees knew English, Toledo's largest company last year started translating its glossy Dana Communications Newsletter into Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese.

Dana Corp. is among a number of multinational companies with local headquarters or operations boosting efforts to let more employees, and even families, in on internal company news.

The $13.2 billion auto supplier changed its format this year so that eight to 10 newsletter stories are translated into other languages, said Dana spokesman Denise LaFleur.Most of the 16 pages in the newsletter are in English, however.

“The purpose is to keep all Dana people informed with what's going on in the company,” said Ms. LaFleur, who said translating all articles would be too time consuming. “What we do is publish translated articles with the most global appeal.”

Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. translated its corporate magazine, Knightline, into seven languages this year as the Findlay tire maker and auto supplier essentially doubled in size through acquisitions. Knightline, with a name that partially reflects Cooper Tire's logo, was started five years ago and has been especially helpful in bringing employees from acquired plants worldwide into the fold this year, said spokesman Debra Crow.

“For the new folks, it really gave them a sense of belonging,” she said.

Companies with local ties vary in the way they present their newsletters, and they sometimes refine their approaches.

For example, although Dana uses an outside translating firm and hands out its newsletter in workplaces, Cooper Tire e-mails text to managers at different locations to translate them into the correct dialects before publication and it sends Knightline to employees' homes.

Britain's Pilkington Plc. is another company especially picky about languages and dialects. The 28,000-employee glassmaker, whose North American operations are based in Toledo, publishes its newsletter in 13 languages, including two types of English.

“We do British English and American English,” said Amber Macksey, spokesman for Pilkington North America. “We really do need to do that because there are different spellings ... and different phrases they use.”

For that very reason, some U.S. companies may be better off sticking with American English for their employee newsletters because even well-intentioned translations can miss their marks with different dialects, said Catherine Bolton, chief public relations officer for the Public Relations Society of America in New York City.

“It's amazing how simple nuance in certain cultures is very different,” she said.

Toledo's 36,000-employee Owens-Illinois, Inc., publishes a quarterly newsletter only for U.S. employees, but it does post information from it on its internal Web site and it e-mails select stories.

Many foreign affiliates within the decentralized company have their own publications, said O-I spokesman John Hoff.

Owens Corning, meanwhile, stopped publishing its translated company-wide magazine a couple of years ago to cut costs but this month revived an abbreviated newsletter in English, French Canadian, and Spanish mailed to the Toledo company's 15,000 North American employees.

“I think we realized we lost out a little bit,” said Kristin Kelley, a spokesman for 20,000-employee OC. The company also has an electronic newsletter that reaches 15,000 employees by e-mail three days a week.



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