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Monday, April 27, 2015

MultiLingual is the leading source of information for the language industry and businesses with global communications needs. Published eight times a year plus an annual index/resource directory, it is read by more than 12,000 people in 67 countries. Information and current news are also provided by and the free electronic newsletter, MultiLingual News.

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Current Issue

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April/May, 2015


Columns and Commentary

Post Editing: Taglines and target demographics

Sometimes I think that the lessons we learn in localization management should be applied in just about every aspect of business — namely, learning the shortest, most efficient route to connecting with customers in a way they can understand....

Localization Business School: Accounting for better translation quality

Buyers of localization services know this phenomenon: the quality of your translations suddenly deteriorates even though the translation vendor appears to manage quality well. No matter how hard the vendor seems to be working on improvements, nothing changes. What happened?...

Macro/Micro: Manufacturing associations

This disconnect between what manufacturing is and what young professionals believe it to be is interesting enough on its own. Translators no longer sit around with French-English dictionaries and typewriters and haven’t for quite some time. Nor do “translators” sit in booths at the United Nations with headphones over their ears. Every profession has its incorrect stereotypes, its misperceptions in the public eye. Nurses are not all female, many lawyers are underpaid and schoolteachers often do not get summers off....

World Savvy: Bonjour tout le monde

Even though we Americans love French culture, the French countryside, French wines and fashion, the love of the French language has fallen to the wayside. But its “fading” does create an interesting linguistic conundrum.

The practice goes back for centuries, but if you intersperse your American English with a few French words you tend to sound sophisticated: art nouveau, carte blanche, blasé, au jus, voilà. About 28% of the English we speak is of French origin, much of it dating back to the Norman conquest of England in 1066. Interestingly enough, however, if you as an American actually speak French and use it consistently, you may be considered stuck-up and potentially even unpatriotic....

Off the map: Culture and censorship

Censorship — it’s considered such a strong, polarizing word in the English language and particularly in the United States where the concept of “freedom of speech” is one of the highest held principles and is enshrined in the nation’s Constitution. Censorship is typically defined as the suppression of information that could be perceived as offensive, sensitive, politically incorrect or potentially harmful. This determination is most often made by the institutions that govern a particular locale, such as governments, media and other local institutions such as the faith system or citizens’ groups.

Most of us clearly understand the notion of censorship and would likely all agree that it’s an unwelcome part of any society, especially in today’s plethora of virtual spaces where the flow of information is not only expected but is being perceived as a fundamental human right....

Perspectives: Translation and transcreation for the Arabic-speaking marketplace

Multinational companies regard the Arab world, teeming with emerging socioeconomies such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, as a vast region of untapped potential; accordingly, corporations as diverse as Ford Motor Company and TGI Friday’s Inc. devote considerable effort and resources toward localizing campaigns and products for the Arab marketplace. In order to reach these consumers, however, experts in the local sociolinguistic culture are clearly needed; for instance, as The Economist article “Surfing the Shabaka” found last year, “the proportion of Arabs online grew 30-fold between 2000 and 2012,” even though “fewer than 1% of all web pages are in Arabic.”...

Industry Focus

Business metrics and KPIs for localization

Making a business case for localization is a lot easier today than it may have been in the past. The advantages of winning new customers or satisfying existing ones with products and content provided in their native language are obvious. That so many successful enterprises use localization to generate more than 50% of their revenues internationally is an argument that is hard to beat. However, many localization managers may still struggle in supporting their case with concrete numbers and metrics that would stand as solid proof as they present their plans and budgets internally.

That is not say that there is a shortage of metrics being used. But many of these are, understandably, operational, focusing on the efficiency of localization operations and measuring the various aspects of the age-old trifecta of quality, time and cost. Measuring the return on investment (ROI) of globalization efforts is notoriously difficult, especially the return part of the equation. But it is not impossible, so having a good set of practical business metrics that can serve as key performance indicators (KPIs) is useful. Sound business metrics can also go a long way toward changing the perception of localization from cost center to revenue enabler....

Project collaboration, context and coordination

With one manager driving the team and ensuring plan execution from start to finish, a business can steer around the pitfalls of poor project management, which include repetitive work and unnecessary frustration, and maximize the international business opportunity localization can create. After all, according to research by Common Sense Advisory, 72% of consumers worldwide say they prefer to purchase products in their native tongue....

Secure localization management

The year 2014 was branded by some as the “year of the hack,” when some significant breaches of cyber security and web vulnerabilities resulted in high profile international headlines. Not a week went by without a tale of woe befalling some household name, causing us all to sit up and take notice of the state of security in this internet age — even if it was only to change our social media passwords. Which got me thinking: as guardians of customer data, in the form of translation content, reference materials, translation memories and the like, how effective is the language industry when it comes to cyber security? How well do we serve our customers’ security needs?...

Why translation management is broken, and how to fix it

Some of the more enlightened companies, especially those that are serious about growing international revenue, see that what they need is “more than just translation,” so they end up calling it “localization.” That’s a bit closer to the truth, but still not exactly right. Those of us who are practitioners know that these two processes differ, and we know exactly how. But when buyers new to translation use this term, they are often trying to distinguish between a literal, bad translation (which they call “translation”), and a translation that truly resonates with the target audience and sounds local (which they call “localization”).

Still, no matter what they end up calling it, when management looks for a place for translation to “live,” they often relegate it to middle management on the product or engineering team, or occasionally marketing. Once in the silo, translation unfortunately tends to stay there, neglected at worst, deprioritized at best....

Language Focus

Convincing subject matter experts to use CAT tools

The story begins in 2013, when a global automotive/aerospace engineering company changed its translation provider because of quality issues.

The problem came from a fragmented workflow: the engineering company employed in-house SMEs who worked separately from translators hired by the LSP the enterprise was using at the time. Experts referred to Microsoft Office apps, which they knew well, while translators used computer-aided translation (CAT) tools. Because of the different ways of working, project managers were supposed to import changes manually. However, it was often the case that the managers didn’t import the changes. Under pressure to deliver on deadline, the LSP often added corrections to the final product only. They forgot or simply did not have the time to update translation memory (TM) and term bases....



If you didn’t know any better, a cursory examination of the translation technology landscape, particularly in regard to translation environment tools (CAT tools), might easily convey the impression that there’s already plenty to choose from. You might even think that the market is flooded with tools.

After a second, closer look, however, it would become apparent that there is always room for new solutions.

Why? Well, compared to ten or 15 years ago, the market is a lot less homogenous....


Red, white and blue with emotion

In 1969, the linguistic community comprised of Brent Berlin and Paul Kay believed it wasn’t fair to argue that there was a striking difference between the color idioms of various languages, or that one could conclude that every language had worked out its own system in a totally arbitrary way....


Advancing science by overcoming language barriers

Scientific discoveries are often restrained by language. The English language may be thought of as the “universal language” in the global scientific community, but only a fraction of scientists actually speak the language, continuing to publish information in their native languages and in non-English databases. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of publications from China in peer-reviewed, non-English journals increased from 3% to 11% of the total world output. In this decade, China will surpass the United States as the most prolific publisher of scientific journal articles. These non-English publications are submerged in what is known as the Deep Web. They aren’t likely to be found in places that search engines such as Google or Bing crawl, meaning they will not be easily accessible to English-speaking researchers....

Advances in machine translation

The great advances in MT over the past decade resulted from the timely coming together of four main technologies: First, Big Data, in the form of the availability of very large parallel multilingual corpora. Second, the alignment of bilingual corpora at the sentence/segment level. Third, the application of Bayesian probabilities to work out the word and phrase alignments for each segment in the form of Hidden Markov Models (HMM). Fourth, the use of the word and phrase alignments to “decode” new text.

This statistical machine translation (SMT) approach originated, like so much good work in this field, from IBM research and was first presented as a concept at the 1996 COLING conference in Copenhagen. These ideas were taken up by the European Union (EU) funded Moses project and have been seminal in breaking down the language barrier on the Internet....


The great rates debate

How much to charge: the perennial thorn in the side of freelance translators. What’s everyone else doing? What’s normal? What’s too much? What’s not enough? You might be forgiven for closing your eyes and picking a number out of a bag. But although calculating rates can be one of the most challenging parts of freelancing, it’s also at the core of any viable business. However uncomfortable the topic, particularly if you’re from a culture where talk of money or pricing your skills is a sensitive issue, it’s one that deserves your time....