Managing foreign staff — using Google Translate

Note: This blog post also ran in the Society of Professional Journalism’s “Journalism and the World” blog. Click here to see the original post (and comments).

Today a writer who speaks no English sent me an email in Chinese. I read it using Google Translate and sent him a reply — using Google Translate to translate my answer into Chinese. He had pitched a story about the labor problems McDonald’s has been having lately (they were recently cleared of paying too little to their part-time student employees).

I am potentially interested in the story, if he can add a second-day lead to it, and get people to talk on some very specific topics (I sent him a list of questions).

The email is part of a long email conversation I’ve had with him. So far, I’ve understood what he was telling me — and he seems to understand what I’m telling him. At least, he’s been responding very appropriately to my requests.

My business manager tells me that the translation that Google does into Chinese sounds like a foreigner wrote it, but is understandable. Whoo hoo! That’s exactly the effect I’m going for, anyway. 🙂

Is anybody else doing this?

Signing off in Shanghai,