The Problem with Tenerife is that there’s a Lack of TQM.

Posted: August 30, 2010 in Life, Spain, Tenerife
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

What is TQM? TQM is a business practice recognised and adhered to by the most professional and efficient organisations – it means Total Quality Management.  It’s something that is utilised to ensure that business practices always meet or exceed customer expectations and requirements.

It might sound like a boring business tool, but it’s something that can affect and transform how you are dealt with, or how you deal with others. It was standard practice in the organisations that Andy and I worked for in the UK, but since we moved here we haven’t seen a lot of evidence of it being utilised.

That doesn’t mean we haven’t dealt with some professional, efficient businesses on Tenerife, it just means that we haven’t seen a lot of evidence of modern standard business practices being applied here.

Shortly after we moved to Tenerife we went to a business planning meeting. When we asked who was taking the minutes, the people we were meeting with looked at us as though we had just said ‘let’s do this naked’.

Taking minutes might sound like overdosing on bureaucracy, but when you’re planning something it helps to have a reminder of who’s going to be doing what and when – it cuts down on potential misunderstandings and mistakes.  No minutes were taken at that meeting and as sure as night follows day, the following week one of the people at the meeting phoned us up to ask if we’d done something that hadn’t even been discussed.

A perfect example of a lack of TQM happened last week when we were staying at the Hotel Isabel in Costa Adeje. The lack of TQM wasn’t anything to do with the hotel which was very professional, it was to do with two glossy, Cabildo (Tenerife Government) produced books that were in the apartment.

These two books were promos for Tenerife; one was about the island and another about food and top restaurants. I’d never seen either before, but they were beautiful publications; creatively designed with stunning, sexy photographs. Both books were clearly expensive to publish and the text was in English, Spanish and German. However, on Tenerife there is almost always an ‘and yet’.

And yet, despite obviously pouring money and care into both books they hadn’t utilised TQM. I can’t read German, so I can’t speak for that, but the text in English was absolutely appalling and translated by someone who’s grasp of English wasn’t great. Here are a couple of examples:

‘The south of Tenerife has two water parks, Aqualand and Siam Park, where the Tenerife of our emotions can be wished up.’

‘The beauty of our shoreline is known in all.’

‘Alvaro has passed through projects of national projection.’

‘Support of the traditional cuisine artistically brought up to date.’

And finally this gem aimed at gay visitors.

‘It is based, in a cultivated way, on the same forms of treatment made equally to all our citizens.’

Answers about what any of the above mean on a postcard to…

I don’t mean to mock someone’s attempts at writing in another language. I know only too well how difficult that is. However, when you pay a lot of money to produce a high quality book aimed at visitors to your island, it would only have cost a fraction of the budget to pay someone who speaks English as a first language to translate the English text into something more digestible. Same with the German. It’s not as though it would be difficult to do that here.

To take that one little step would have demonstrated a grasp of Total Quality Management.

Because whoever was responsible for both book projects kept it in-house and didn’t utilise TQM they completely ruined what should have been two very high quality publications.

  1. Leslie says:

    There’s an interesting little gravy train with these Cabildo books. You should take a closer look at it because you are sitting on just the right content.

  2. dragojac says:

    Very good point Leslie. A stroke of the chin and a ponder is in order.

  3. Pamela says:

    Been there, done that … I started offering my services in the early 90’s. The answer – if anybody bothers to give you one – is that they *must* employ a local Canarian for the job.

    Honestly, I don’t know how many times I’ve offered my services, but nobody has ever shown any interest in the argument that it looks better – and the resultant success might even create more jobs long-term for more local Canarians – if they were to get native English / German, whatever speakers to check these translations.

    Oh, BTW, I was sent on TQM seminars / courses when I worked at A. Anderson. You’re right, it’s like is not something you see in Tenerife. 🙂

  4. Nikki says:

    But any professional qualified translator should know these are not good sentences. This is so sad.

    I got involved in a translation like this for a small town in northern Spain when an ex-college knew she was out of her depth.

  5. dragojac says:

    It’s ironic that Tenerife probably had more of an open society regarding work opportunities a few centuries ago than it does now.

    The idea of a meritocracy seems alien…or does it? I wonder whether like Pamela says, a deliberate policy of only employing Canarians is simply one of protectionism. If you open it up to possibly better qualified extranjeros with a wider experience what are the consequences?

    They might seem negative in the short term, but in the long term you raise the level all round. It would be a bit like the effects of introducing foreign footballers to the premiership.

    As Nikki points out, any translator should be able to recognise these are just terrible sentences. What I didn’t mention was that they were, to be fair, almost word for word direct translations, so the original text was nonsense in the first place.

    For me a good translation is one that puts the meaning into another language, not the words.

  6. islandmomma says:

    Couldn’t agree more. I had a laugh over the booklet which I picked up at MAGMA a few weeks back. I find it extraordinary in their case because they are looking for business from foreign companies (exhibitions etc) not just Spanish ones, and in other ways they seem very modern. But then, I remember how many times I haven’t been able to understand the instructions for my video machine or toaster because it has been badly translated from Japanese or Chinese!!! So I suppose it happens everywhere at higher levels!!

    • dragojac says:

      I have trouble understanding instruction leaflets that are in perfect English.

      I don’t know where the Spanish translators find some of the English words. There have been lots of times where I’ve come across words that I have never, ever heard anybody (English speaking) use.

  7. Richard says:

    Spot on with this one J. Your examples of Spanglish had me chuckling and reminded me of some ‘translation’ I did for a hotel here in Medano. The job was taking the ‘English’ version of their in-room info, which had been translated verbatim from German and turning it into something that Brits could read without thinking of John Cleese. The text had some classic gems of Germitish – their convoluted ideas of word order are enough to get most Brits silently mouthing “the war, about it think not” 🙂

  8. Leslie says:

    Pamela you did EVEYTHING before any of us lol. But I still think its worth a look, you know. Timing is the important thing because the budget gets blown almost as soon as it comes in. I still have faith that we can break the closed shops if we just keep knocking on the doors.

    • dragojac says:

      Thanks to social media I think even the powers that be on Tenerife are waking up to the fact that it’s a different world out there – even a snail moves forward, if at a frustratingly slow pace. So maybe you’re right Leslie – think we’ll need thick skin on those knuckles though.

      Another worry I have is that old chestnut of balancing integrity with trying to make a living. My concerns would be that the cabildo, for example, might think they’ve got a say in everything you write. Possibly I’ve developed a paranoia…

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