Multilingual Systems Engineering

Stephen John Powley, Simon Perry, Richard Powley

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    When engineering operates on a global scale, collaboration should be encouraged by removing language barriers. Requiring stakeholders to work in a language that is not one of habitual use is at best a compromise and at worst a costly source of unmanaged risk. Established practice and the restrictions of the tools we use mean that many systems engineering activities require various stakeholders to capture written information in a single human language. At the same time it is almost inevitable that there will be project members who are not fully conversant in the single language chosen. Model-based approaches help reduce the burden of language difficulties, but descriptions continue to include a text component. In most projects, certain stakeholders will interact mainly via the written word. There are many hidden costs associated with the lack of an integrated translation activity in an organisation's workflows. People working in a language that is not their mother tongue work more slowly, struggle with the nuances of linguistic choices, and make more errors. Where translation is part of the workflow, it often happens outside of the controlled engineering environment, introducing unknown and unmanaged risks. Organisations will benefit by adopting a multilingual approach as an integral, quality-controlled part of their everyday workflows. “Left shifting” multilingual capability and translation effort to early phases of a lifecycle can reduce risk and increase quality. This paper proposes a flexible, multilingual engineering environment that allows stakeholders to create and access the same information, but in their language of choice. Examples are provided of how a multilingual approach can be incorporated alongside existing tools and practices. More advanced techniques that make multilingual information a fundamental part of systems engineering are also explored. Both traditional and model-based systems engineering environments are considered.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2016
    EventASEC 2016 - , United Kingdom
    Duration: 15 Nov 201616 Nov 2016


    ConferenceASEC 2016
    Abbreviated titleASEC 2016
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


    • multilingualism
    • Systems Engineering
    • Translation
    • Systems integration
    • Business Process Management
    • continuous improvement

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
    • Control and Systems Engineering
    • Building and Construction
    • Language and Linguistics
    • Information Systems


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