Cultural differences cause big issues!

What is in a word?  A British engineer finds out the hard way.

The man who cannot be named, has been accused of insulting Islam after he made the comment “when are we going to finish the damn mosques” during a municipality meeting in 2011. The accused was reported after a colleague took offence to his expression and was subsequently sentenced to one month imprisonment, with his punishment being reduced to a fine after his second appeal.  The engineer has since been cleared of all charges after the Appeals Court ruled that the language he had chosen had not meant offence as he maintained, and that the expression was “common in the environment he comes from”.

In British contemporary usage “damn” has moved away from its historical meaning of damnation and cursing and is often used in everyday speech, not necessarily to describe a noun (the “damn mosques” as in the mosques are literally “damned”), but to express frustration or annoyance. This is in line with the engineer’s claim that he was worried and concerned about the length of time the project was taking and did not mean literally mean to insult the mosques or Islam in general.  The court eventually acknowledged the linguistic breadth of the word, and concluded that “damn” had many differing connotations in English.  

This case is a clear example of how a lack of awareness of linguistic knowledge and context, alongside cultural and religious sensitivities can cause misunderstanding and misinterpretation. It is predicted that on average there are at least 14 different nationalities on UAE business and work teams. Such multiculturalism can be a double edged sword; the mix of different types of people with different backgrounds, cultures and experiences can enhance innovation, creative thinking and brings valued and varied viewpoints on business matters. On the other hand, the multitude of different traditions and practices can create a whole set of unique problems.

As experts in culture and language, Creative Word is unique in its capacity to provide solutions for your multicultural and multinational teams and workforces through cultural training, professional translation services  and both consecutive and simultaneous interpreting.



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