Tips to make LEGO® Serious Play® successful in multilingual (English & Japanese)

※ 日本語の記事は こちら

With the predicted population decline in Japan, various Japanese companies are stepping towards globalization.

Therefore, the hiring of foreigners, or the engagement of knowledgeable individuals from overseas, will increase in the future.

In these global companies, it is necessary to conduct corporate training for both Japanese and foreign employees simultaneously.

Otherwise, it could lead to insufficient results or equality-related issues.

In such cases, multilingual (English & Japanese) training is effective. In addition to the instructors conducting the training in Japanese as usual, the content is communicated in English through simultaneous interpretation.

This allows individuals from any country who understand English to participate, making it suitable for companies with employees from various countries.

In this article, Rina Eguchi, who is in charge of English interpretation at LSP×Coaching, will explain the tricks and actual examples of multilingual (English & Japanese) correspondence.

※ 日本語の記事は こちら

Three points to make LEGO® Serious Play® successful in multilingual (English & Japanese)

Excellent interpreter (not just being able to speak English)

To effectively conduct multilingual (English & Japanese) training, the presence of an “excellent interpreter,” not just someone who can speak English, is necessary. The skills required for an interpreter are more than just English speaking ability. They need to understand what the instructor wants to convey and the nuances included and can translate them into sentences that the listener can easily understand. For this, it is necessary to understand not only the lecture content but also the characteristics, background, business context, and participant features of the client company. Deepening understanding in these areas allows for more concrete and appropriate communication of the training content, maximizing the effect.

Collaboration between instructor and interpreter

To smoothly conduct multilingual (English & Japanese) training, cooperation between the instructor and the interpreter is essential. If they do not work well together, there could be significant time extensions or misalignment of understanding among participants. In our LEGO® Serious Play® training, the instructor and interpreter thoroughly share the content and progress of the training in advance to ensure smooth progress, just like normal training. On the training day, they work together to create laughter and insights without any time lag while aligning their breathing and pace. As they need to grasp not only the participants in front of them but also each other’s situations, the instructor’s and interpreter’s skills are greatly tested. During the discussion and question time using LEGO, vital in LEGO® Serious Play® training, the instructor and interpreter check around the venue to see if anyone or any group is having trouble and provide support as needed.

Utilization of device equipment (Zoom)

In our multilingual (English & Japanese) training, we propose the optimal device equipment and methods to ensure foreign participants can understand the training content without delay. For example, even if foreign participants participate locally, they are asked to bring a smartphone and earphones and access the Zoom link. By simultaneously interpreting what the instructor said in Japanese and delivering it in English within Zoom, we can conduct training in multiple languages (English & Japanese) without losing the live feeling of the training. We also use special microphones for broadcasting to deliver the interpreter’s voice clearly, and are working on innovative ways to utilize the equipment.

Features of LSP×coaching Multilingual (English & Japanese) Training

Our multilingual (English & Japanese) training program includes professional interpreters. There is no need for companies to arrange interpreters. Another feature of our program is that it accommodates English speakers of various nationalities, not just from the US and the UK. For instance, in a recent LEGO® Serious Play® workshop conducted at a global corporation, about a third of the approximately 45 participants were from or living abroad, many from Singapore and Australia. Since English pronunciation and accents vary by country and speaker, we use simple expressions and slow-speed English to provide a simultaneous interpretation that anyone can easily understand. We often receive feedback from participants that they were satisfied with the training content and this aspect.

My experience of speaking English with people from various countries in online English conversations and short-term study abroad programs has been essential. Since I was born and raised in Japan and learned English as a foreign language, I cannot speak perfect English like a native speaker, but on the contrary, I have gained the strength to cope with English from many nationalities.

Flow of LEGO® Serious Play® Training in Multilingual (English & Japanese)

Preparation for the day (understanding training content, translating materials, etc.)

In our LSP×coaching, the interpreter experiences the LEGO® Serious Play® training to understand participants' feelings. Furthermore, as each company’s training objectives, content, flow, and participants' nationalities vary, we always coordinate with the instructor in advance. In multilingual (English & Japanese) training, we also provide translated English versions of the handouts distributed in the training. While it is essential to perform 100% on the training day, we also ensure that thorough preparations are made beforehand.

On the day (using simultaneous and consecutive interpretation)

Next, let me introduce the flow of the day. The training includes parts where the instructor lectures to everyone, participants actually move their hands to create LEGO works, group discussions, and a group representative presents to everyone. In the lecture part, we provide simultaneous interpretation using Zoom so that foreign participants can feel the instructor’s speech while listening to the interpreter’s voice. After interpreting the instructor’s explanation about the rules and time in the scene of creating LEGO works, we roam the venue and provide support if some groups or individuals need help understanding the rules. When a group representative presents to everyone, we provide consecutive interpretations from Japanese to English and vice versa so that all participants can understand other teams' presentations.

Points of difficulty/notes

Based on past experiences, there are several points we take care of in multilingual (English & Japanese) training compared to Japanese-only training. For instance, the instructor carefully speaks in short sentences and adjusts the pace according to the interpreter’s pace and situation while lecturing with a microphone in mind for simultaneous interpretation. Foreign participants also need to bring their smartphones and earphones on the day. As the training time may exceed 5 hours, it is also essential to coordinate with the training organizers and staff to prepare charging facilities at the venue.

Customer Feedback

After the training, I take photos of the foreign participants, express gratitude for their participation, and actively communicate. We always communicate thoroughly until the end so that everyone can leave the venue with a bright expression. As a result, we receive comments such as “It was fascinating, and I feel good” and “I have attended various sessions, but this training was the best,” which encourages us.

Column: Points of Interpretation

When you hear the term “interpreter,” what kind of image comes to mind? You might imagine someone who speaks multiple languages fluently. However, the skills necessary for interpretation go beyond just speaking the language (in my case, English). Throughout my experience as an interpreter, I’ve realized that numerous hidden skills are required to master this profession.

Japanese and English, for example, have significantly different grammar rules and word order. Thus, it’s more complex than directly translating each word. Sometimes, the entire structure of the sentence needs to be swiftly changed for effective communication. When interpreting, I always pay attention to how to translate words that could be hard to understand, if directly translated, into a sentence that listeners can easily understand. Given this, the first necessary skills are judgment and reflexes.

Another vital element is concentration and stamina. On the days I work as an interpreter, I always feel my brain is quite tired afterward. It makes sense, considering the process of switching between two languages and thinking in both simultaneously is far more demanding than speaking in just one language. Also, losing focus even for a moment could lead to missing critical information, requiring constant concentration. Besides language skills, it’s also necessary to train this “mental endurance.”

In order to successfully conduct the training on the day, maintaining one’s health is of utmost importance. Thinkings shifting between languages with different grammar and structure, the brain is working almost to the point of overheating. With a clear mind, one can fulfill their role. Additionally, research shows that the brain accounts for 20-25% of the body’s basic calorie consumption, and a professional chess player can burn an average of 6000 kcal a day during a match. While interpreting might not require as much, the brain still uses up a significant amount of calories and sugars due to the intensive mental work. Thus, it’s essential to intake an adequate amount of sugar during breaks in the training to maintain performance. (If you see me eating chocolate during training, that’s a sign of professionalism.)