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The Warsaw Voice » Business » March 18, 2009
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Good English Matters
March 18, 2009   
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Be honest: in your time in Poland, how often have you seen an English advertisement with glaring errors? How many English websites have you gone to only to discover that the English text is literally translated from Polish? Like most people, you'll have lost count of the number of times this has happened... and like many people, you will wonder why nothing is being done about it.

Now meet Michelle Smith, President of WordSmith Promotion - she is on a one-woman mission to help Polish companies show their best (English-speaking) faces to the world.

Michelle Smith is a familiar presence on the Warsaw publishing scene: she has worked for over six years at a variety of publications which focus on both business and lifestyle content. These include the Warsaw Business Journal (where she was the Editor of the 'Special Interest Supplements' and 'Country Focus Supplements') and the Warsaw Insider, where she held the title of Editor-in-Chief for over three years. She is also known in the UK, where she acted as Editor-in-Chief of Discover Poland magazine, a monthly title in English which aims to attract English-speaking tourists to Poland by promoting the country's sights, culture and investment possibilities. In her years of creating and editing magazines, Michelle has written numerous articles, reviews, promotional materials and advertorial/sponsored pieces; she has also worked one-on-one with clients requiring internal magazines or materials to meet their individual needs.

The fruits of frustration In her years in publishing, she has also read more than her fair share of poorly-written English promotional materials. As she says, "As odd as it may be for me to say this, WordSmith Promotion was born out of a strange combination of frustration and a desire to help improve the situation.

Over the course of my years in media, I was constantly amazed at the quality of some of the English material being used to promote Poland and Polish businesses." She says that as a magazine editor, she pored over English websites and English PR materials from high-end hotels, spas, restaurants and medical centers; she received paid-for advertisements in English from travel agencies aimed at tourists and schools aimed at foreigners' children. She jokes, "90% of this material made me want to take three APAPs and lie down."

She explains that this was because, "the English used was so full of grammatical, spelling and consistency errors that I couldn't fully understand what was written. I kept saying to myself, 'I'm reading this website because I have to write an article, but if I had a choice, I'd click the 'close page' icon and never come back here again. Why don't businesses take more care with English when they're trying to attract foreigners as tourists, clients and partners?'" Driven by curiosity, she started talking to Polish business owners and discovered they were aware that their English materials needed improvement, but they simply accepted the poor translation provided since no other option had ever really presented itself. Michelle says, "So, that really got me thinking: why didn't I offer them an option? These businesses, and their customers, deserve better." She smiles. "And from all the frustration came a business idea."

It was then that she decided to pack in her safe career in publishing and enter the risky world of entrepreneurship. She dug into her extensive list of publishing contacts and gathered what she calls, "an amazing staff of native- English-speaking writers and copy editors - many of whom also speak Polish, so they are excellent translators - as well as Englishspeaking Poles who are outstanding writers in their native tongue. I also have a team of very experienced and creative website and advertisement designers." And so WordSmith Promotion was born in December 2008 - and it is already thriving. Its portfolio of clients include seven Magda Gessler establishments (among them AleGloria, Gar, Polka and the Embassy of Good Taste), Warsaw Destination Alliance and the InterContinental Hotel.

English promotion -and no excuses

So what does WordSmith Promotion do? In a nutshell, they specialize in high-quality English-language materials to promote Poland-based businesses. The range of services includes (but is not limited to) translating, correcting, editing and re-writing a business' existing materials, creating websites from scratch, designing ads and producing completely original texts as requested by clients. Michelle explains that her company helps Polish companies present themselves in English in a way that is both effective and profitable.

This is important to the credibility of Polish businesses, because, as Michelle says, "Good English is becoming more of an issue all the time, and as Poland prepares for Euro 2012, it will be crucial. Ten years ago, people were willing to accept lessthan-great English in Poland, but the grace period is over. It's now expected that businesses focusing on foreigners as any part of their target market will strive to do so in a way that is clear and comprehensible. When poor English represents a business, a negative impression is created... and while the impact may not be measurable or tangible, it is still very real." She smiles and adds, "And with WordSmith Promotion's team of experienced writers, translators and editors on the scene, there are no excuses for bad English - not anymore!"
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