Author Archives: Katie Botkin

About Katie Botkin

Katie Botkin, Editor-in-Chief at MultiLingual, has a background in linguistics and journalism. She began publishing "multilingual" newsletters at the age of 15, and went on to invest her college and post-graduate career in language learning, teaching and writing. She has extensive experience with niche American microcultures across the political spectrum.

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Newly-Founded Entertainment Globalization Association Shares Strategy

Multimedia Translation

The newly-minted Entertainment Globalization Association (EGA), just created last week, has set its sights on publicizing the role of localization in the entertainment industry.

The goal is to create “better awareness that this industry even exists,” with people who are “creating the original IP,” said Chris Fetner, who is heading up the organization as managing director. For example, writers and directors may know that translation and globalization happen; that movies get dubbed in some markets, but for the most part, said Fetner, the effect is like a duck seeming to glide effortlessly over the surface of the water. Nobody sees the legs kicking furiously under the surface to propel the duck forward. Fetner said he thinks directors would likely be shocked if they knew how little time voice actors in dubbing studios were given with scripts, for instance.

“For a long time, [localization has] been treated like a utility, and it’s done it a disservice as an art form,” said Fetner. EGA’s goal is to ensure faithful representation in whatever language a film is translated into — and this might mean a little more time than the localization providers are currently given.

EGA has already gathered 70 member companies, having added ten since its inception a few days ago. When Fetner asks people what they’d like to see from EGA, “what they ask for more than anything is having another week, having a better opportunity to provide good quality,” said Fetner. “It really is an industry of people who love what they do,” and above all, they want to create good output.

EGA has ten founding members: Audiomaster Candiani, Deluxe, Hiventy, Iyuno Media Group, Plint, SDI Media, Visual Data Media Services, VSI, ZOO Digital, and Keywords Studios. With the exception of video games specialist Keywords Studios, all the founding companies participate in entertainment localization.

Fetner himself has worked in the entertainment industry for 25 years on the client side. His foray into localization began at Discovery, when he was involved in localizing content from US English into UK English. Then, at BBC Studios, he worked on projects localized into Latin American Spanish. But it wasn’t until he joined Netflix and headed up their localization vendor strategy that he understood the full breadth of the industry, he said.

When Fetner left Netflix this fall, he reached out to the vendors he’d worked with, and they expressed regret they would no longer be working together. Some asked if he’d do consulting. Fetner said he told them, “if you feel like there’s work to be, let’s all work together with everybody,” and from these conversations, the EGA was conceived. It was “spearheaded by the founding companies,” who were asking “what would it look like if everyone worked together in the industry,” said Fetner. Additionally, with Fetner available, they had a managing director who was willing to work on the issues.

Fetner has plans to reach out to writer’s and director’s guilds, as well as similar organizations, in an effort to “add value” by inviting them to work more directly with localization.

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Katie Botkin, Editor-in-Chief at MultiLingual, has a background in linguistics and journalism. She began publishing "multilingual" newsletters at the age of 15, and went on to invest her college and post-graduate career in language learning, teaching and writing. She has extensive experience with niche American microcultures across the political spectrum.

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Straker Wins Major Contract with IBM

AI, Business News, Localization

Shares of New-Zealand based Straker Translations (ASX.STG) jumped almost 45% today — November 11 in New Zealand — on the announcement of a strategic two-year agreement with IBM starting in January 2021.

Straker’s AI-based RAY platform runs on IBM Cloud, and integrates seamlessly with IBM’s technology platforms. It outperformed other technologies that were considered in the selection process. Of particular note is the ability to take on IBM’s global media localization to provide multimedia content in 30 languages.

The localization company already provided localization services into Spanish, and will now expand its portfolio to 55 languages in support of IBM cloud services, IBM adaptive translations, and IBM global media localization. Volumes have not been disclosed, but Straker expects significant growth in revenue and a 30% increase in headcount to handle the new languages.

“This agreement is a recognition of the outstanding capabilities of our technology to handle a large volume of translation that is currently managed internally at IBM. Our talented team will be able to achieve major productivity gains with AI-powered RAY platform,” Straker CEO and co-founder Grant Straker told MultiLingual.

After IBM announced last month that it was restructuring by spinning out its infrastructure services business, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna made it clear that his focus is going to be on transforming the organization into a hybrid cloud management vendor. This is certainly a good sign for Straker and its shareholders.

 

 

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Katie Botkin, Editor-in-Chief at MultiLingual, has a background in linguistics and journalism. She began publishing "multilingual" newsletters at the age of 15, and went on to invest her college and post-graduate career in language learning, teaching and writing. She has extensive experience with niche American microcultures across the political spectrum.

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Top 10 Worst Localization Influencers

Uncategorized

Nimdzi’s top localization influencers list has garnered a lot of online debate and commentary over the past few weeks. Who’s on it? Who’s not on it? Nimdzi has just released an updated version, so MultiLingual is following suit with the list that everyone will be relieved to be excluded from: the worst localization influencers. All of these are real in a purely abstract way, and some are even real in a real-world way.

1. Voldemort. The attempt to localize Hogwarts for serpent culture, through language and changing his own facial structure, didn’t win this guy any popularity points.

2. Dracula. He never really bothered to adapt to centuries or locales that weren’t Medieval Romania. Plus the eating people thing.

3. Fans of Esperanto who think everyone should learn Esperanto to communicate across cultures. Localization? More like nope-alization.

4. The true villain: the Bad Manager. Most notably, the “seagull” project manager who flies in every few weeks, makes a lot of noise, craps all over your work, and then flies out.

5. Donald Trump. Under his astute global-businessman leadership, in which he has blamed his competitors (Democrats, other countries) for his own performance, all but a handful of countries have closed their borders to Americans. Not great for international exchange.

6. Stalin. That guy was really opposed to people keeping their native languages. Two thumbs down.

7. Regarding the prohibiting-native-language thing, see also: Franco (Franscisco, not James), Andrew Jackson, and most other dictators and/or genocide enthusiasts.

8. Saruman The White. His rebrand did not cater to most of the peoples of Middle Earth, and his thirst for innovation was expressed in new, improved Orcs. Very culturally insensitive — and environmentally destructive.

9. Scammers who steal translator resumes, clog your inbox, and even drain your bank account.

10. That one guy. Don’t be that one guy.

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Katie Botkin, Editor-in-Chief at MultiLingual, has a background in linguistics and journalism. She began publishing "multilingual" newsletters at the age of 15, and went on to invest her college and post-graduate career in language learning, teaching and writing. She has extensive experience with niche American microcultures across the political spectrum.

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Federal police presence in Portland highlights fragmented American cultures

Travel and Culture

Portland, Oregon, is known for its bicycle culture, its book culture, and its general funkiness. It has a reputation among many of its residents and visitors as a safe city — and indeed, its violent crime rate (5.27 per 1,000 residents) is lower than Dallas, Texas (7.76 per 1,000) and less than half that of Anchorage, Alaska (13.13 per 1,000).

The city is often painted differently in right-leaning media, however — Fox News, for example, recently described the city in terms of “violent protest” that is “destroying businesses, infrastructure and quality of life in Portland.”

This doesn’t sit well with many residents of the city. “I am consistently confused by the Fox News narrative every time they talk about my city because it’s literally never unsafe here. I could walk my kids down every single street in downtown at any time,” said longtime Portland resident Tori Douglass of the protests.

On Monday, President Trump claimed that Portland had become so violent that he’d had to send federal forces to quell protests. However, nationally-shown videos of “riots” are localized to a small portion of the downtown, according to Portland residents like singer-songwriter Asher Nathan Weinbaum.

The impact of protest on businesses has been virtually nil, said Weinbaum — Portland looks like any other US city in the middle of a pandemic. Many businesses had been working from home for months, given the situation with COVID-19. Localization company Welocalize has a substantial workforce in Portland, for example. The company had already moved to working from home, and is currently operating as business as usual.

Although Portland protests have been ongoing since May, the oft-overbearing local police tactics did not contain them. Residents said the protests, which encompassed tens of thousands of people, were largely peaceful until unbadged federal forces showed up in fatigues, started beating people, deploying teargas, and even grabbing protestors off the streets — and then, said residents, Portland started fighting back for real. On Sunday, the state’s attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, announced that she had filed a lawsuit against the federal agencies that had descended on Portland. Rosenblum said the tactics of this ad hoc occupying police force infringe on the civil rights of protesters.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has additionally requested that the federal forces vacate the city, but the White House ignored that request. “What they are doing is sharply escalating the situation,” Wheeler told CNN. “We want them to leave.”

Protests have indeed escalated since federal agents started fighting civilians. Some protesters lit the Portland Police union headquarters on fire, and the protests grew to 2,000 people Monday night. “As a Monday tradition, we are all waiting to be assaulted by federal agents,” conflict journalist Robert Evans, who covered the war in Iraq, quipped on Twitter.

The question remains: if the city was relatively safe, why did President Trump choose Portland as a testing ground for the deployment of federal troops against civilians?

The long history of protest in Portland

Quite separate from its crime scene, Portland has a long history of protest, and specifically, protesting Republican policy. In the 1990s, it earned the nickname “Little Beruit” for the protests against the First Gulf War that greeted George Bush Sr. upon his visit to the city. The city gentrified extensively in the following decades, trading punk music venues for whacky donuts and swank coffeeshops. But an underlying leftist streak remained. In the national mind, the city still represented an upstart, anti-authoritarian ethos that had been blunted in other coastal cities like Seattle and San Francisco when the tech giants moved in. Where Portlandia celebrated the weirdness of Portland, Frasier toasted the intelligentsia of Seattle.

And importantly to Republican leadership, anarchy, as a belief system, was alive and well in Portland. Anarchists believe that society should ultimately be free from the rule of any government, and for Portland, that took the form of shared housing, activism for the houseless, and resistance to neo-Nazi presence. Evans, a gun-rights activist and journalist who has trained federal agents, has written about how cozy far-right groups are with Portland police, and how this has led to clashes between police and Portland residents.

A small riot in 1993 helped set the stage for what is currently happening in Portland. Protesters from the scene described tactics that have become familiar in many viral videos in recent months: police in riot gear surrounding a crowd they deemed suspicious — in the 1993 case, concert-goers who had exited the once-famous X-Ray Cafe music venue — refusing to let them leave, and then arresting them en masse when chaos ensued. Many of the concert-goers were self-described anarchists. Five were charged with felony riot.

Oregon law states that “A person commits the crime of riot if while participating with five or more other persons the person engages in tumultuous and violent conduct and thereby intentionally or recklessly creates a grave risk of causing public alarm.”

The riot case was dismissed in 1994 because the judge deemed the statute to be overbroad — “a grave risk of causing public alarm” could mean just about anything, including the current actions of police themselves. However, the decision was reversed on appeal, and the statute is still in place in Oregon.

Being charged with rioting does not necessitate that participants engaged in otherwise illegal activity. Merely being in the vicinity of other people who vandalize property, for example, is enough for a riot charge, legally speaking. In Portland, protesters snatched off the street by federal police describe not knowing why they were being held, and not even necessarily being charged with anything.

The language of political opinion

The presence of federal agents in Portland cuts to the heart of a growing divide in America — a divide so deep, the factions speak different languages. For example, the claim that “Portland is full of anarchists” is true in one sense, and untrue in another. Language does not exist outside of historical precedent, and historically, worldwide, anarchists of various persuasions have been committed to fighting fascists — perhaps most notably during the Spanish Civil War, when they fought against dictator Francisco Franco. Most anarchists define their propensity for violence in the same terms that the average American would define it: fighting is only appropriate if it’s against tyranny or in defense of the vulnerable.

If you define anarchism as a belief system protected by the First Amendment, Portland is indeed full of anarchists. But if you mean that Portland has committed itself to crime, lawlessness and burning down businesses, this is untrue. The challenge lies in the different cultural meanings of “anarchy,” and the way language such as this is used to justify political policy.

“Our city has not been decimated by anarchy and violent upheaval. And for those of you outside Portland that believe that it has, you are being fed a repulsive and profoundly dangerous false narrative,” said Portland resident Johnna Wells. “My city is under siege by a federal ‘army’ that the President of the United States has unleashed. A fascist move that I fear will carry forth into other cities as well.”

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Katie Botkin, Editor-in-Chief at MultiLingual, has a background in linguistics and journalism. She began publishing "multilingual" newsletters at the age of 15, and went on to invest her college and post-graduate career in language learning, teaching and writing. She has extensive experience with niche American microcultures across the political spectrum.

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Featuring translators into the new year

Marketing, Translation

Heading into the new decade of 2020, we can be sure of one thing: translation as an industry is on the rise, and is projected to increase further.

Translation, of course, is the life blood of global commerce and what we do. We acknowledge it, but don’t always actually feature translators when we talk about globalization. However, a coffee table book featuring translators called Move the World with Words is out from Smartling, and I like that Smartling has chosen to showcase these linguists in their brand strategy both online and offline.

For example, when you land on their Move the World with Words webpage, the company features freelance translator Oana — only her first name is given — who lives in Southern France. Like many other freelancers, she’s chosen to travel; she’s learning Spanish during trips to Spain, she says. She’s interviewed and beautifully photographed in the Pyrenees. Between the style of the prose — the first-person essay interview style popular with high-end celebrity profiles — and her first name (not Beyonce or Sia or Cher, but Oana), as well as her photos, I could imagine her being some kind of celebrity. And I don’t think this is accidental.

I had a couple of questions, and Adrian Cohn, director of brand strategy and communications at Smartling, answered them for me.

How did Smartling choose which translators to feature in the book?

We have built relationships with so many amazing translators worldwide — the people featured in the book were selected based on their experience, their customer base and their location. We wanted to showcase the way people live in different parts of the world, and with different lifestyles (urban and rural, single and family and so on).

Why is it important to feature the lives of translators?

Translators are the heroes behind global commerce. For too long, they have gone unrecognized for their part in making global businesses successful. It also helps to show there are real people behind the solution. Especially for those unfamiliar with translation, we wanted to demonstrate that while the translation process is automated, there’s still a person that we depend on to get the message right. Machine translation is certainly on the rise and a big part of how we think about scaling content for the enterprise, but humans will always play a big role.

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Katie Botkin, Editor-in-Chief at MultiLingual, has a background in linguistics and journalism. She began publishing "multilingual" newsletters at the age of 15, and went on to invest her college and post-graduate career in language learning, teaching and writing. She has extensive experience with niche American microcultures across the political spectrum.

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Localizing for holidays in a changing world

Localization Culture

Localizing holidays thanksgivingSomething we don’t talk a lot about when we talk about localization is keeping up with changing cultural ideology. Thanksgiving is a prime example. Held the fourth Thursday of November every year in the United States, this year the holiday is celebrated tomorrow, and the days surrounding it are often treated as holidays as well.

If you’re marketing products for the US market, Thanksgiving could mean any number of things. For ecommerce, it might mean Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, and getting a jump on competitors by starting deep online discounts the evening of Thanksgiving. But that comes with its own set of complications: a subsegment of the US population dislikes commercializing a holiday built around sharing the simple pleasures of family and gratitude for what you have. Homemade apple pie from Grandma. Watching little Jane take her first bite of cranberry sauce, make a face, and decide she hates it. The uncles sharing a jug of hard cider made in the basement. Single auntie Fran trying to sleep on an air mattress in the TV room while Jane jumps off the couch and tackles her. Commercializing Thanksgiving leaves a bad taste in some people’s mouths.

And then, there is the question of whether to celebrate the holiday at all. Some argue that it represents the pilgrims taking the hospitality of Native Americans and repaying it with centuries of genocide, thievery and broken promises, and prefer to commemorate a National Day of Mourning or Unthanksgiving Day instead.

Others remember keenly during the holidays that they’re estranged from their families for any myriad of reasons. That they can’t go home because their parents have rejected them, or maybe because they just can’t handle Uncle Jim’s political rants anymore.

Thus, saying “if you want to localize for the US market in late November, be sure to acknowledge Thanksgiving and have a nice turkey theme” would be overly simplistic. And this goes for other celebrations around the world as well. Just because you figured out the best way to portray a multicultural holiday celebration last year, that doesn’t mean it will be the same this year or the year after. Traditions change. Cultural ideology shifts over time.

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Katie Botkin, Editor-in-Chief at MultiLingual, has a background in linguistics and journalism. She began publishing "multilingual" newsletters at the age of 15, and went on to invest her college and post-graduate career in language learning, teaching and writing. She has extensive experience with niche American microcultures across the political spectrum.

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Nyepi and global internet

Travel and Culture

The entire island of Bali, Indonesia, grinds to a halt one day a year. No planes may arrive or depart from the airport, and all commerce ceases. Even checking in and out of hotels is forbidden. The streets are deserted aside from patrols ensuring that everyone stays inside. The holiday takes place in March and sometimes April, depending on the lunar calendar. It is Nyepi, the Balinese New Year, a Hindu holiday and the national day of silence and self-reflection.

Inside their homes, people nap, pray and sometimes fast, resting from the festivities of the night before. On the eve of Nyepi, villagers parade ominous paper mâché giants through the streets, carried by grids of young men holding bamboo poles.

The giants are called Ogoh Ogoh, and often represent characters from Hindu mythology, particularly demons. However, each team of locals has their own take, collaborating together to produce creatures that can easily reach over 30 feet. One Ogoh Ogoh in a small village not far from the picturesque Tegallalang rice terraces is a giant “monkey king,” according to its creators, with prominent muscles and fur made from plant fibers. A tattered tarp protects it from the rain while the villagers wait for the festivities to begin.

Oogh Oogh nyepi
Villagers direct traffic around an Oogh Oogh north of Ubud, Bali.

In the town of Tampaksiring, known for producing intricate bone carvings, local artists have gone all-out, elaborate creations on every corner. One Ogoh Ogoh gives the crowd a gilded middle finger, snarl fixed on its painted face. In Ubud, a cartoonish topless woman careens out of control on her yellow moped — a different kind of monster.

The Ogoh Ogoh are believed to represent the evil spirits and malevolent forces plaguing human beings. Building them, ceremoniously presenting them throughout the town and finally burning them is thought to purify the natural environment in preparation for the new year. As the villagers carry Ogoh Ogoh through the streets, musicians play percussion and gongs in a traditional gamelan Baleganjur style, the same eerie cadence across all the villages in the region.

The parade is a community affair, often requiring careful navigation of power lines, which villagers prop up with long forked poles. Locals follow the Ogoh Ogoh or watch from the sidelines dressed for the occasion in sarongs, with long-sleeved lace shirts for the women and white head wraps for the men. Girls may carry torches in twin lines behind the paper mache creations. Officials direct traffic, waving lone mopeds through the crowd or stopping cars on the main road for long periods of time — roads with parades may be closed to traffic, and for some villages, this can be a significant portion of the town.

Girls pause during a Nyepi parade in Ubud, Bali.
Girls pause during a Nyepi parade in Ubud, Bali.

The actual date of Nyepi changes every year, being based on the Balinese lunar calendar. This year, it fell on March 8, ending at 6 am March 9. Next year, it will fall on March 25 and similarly continue throughout the night.

On Nyepi itself, tourists hole up in their homestays and resorts. Some resorts offer food services, and otherwise guests will (hopefully) have been warned in advance to stock up on snacks.

The air is clean, free from the smog of traffic. Because lights are also forbidden, when night falls, the sky is resplendent with stars — unless, like this year, the sky is cloudy.

Internet outages around the world

There are few instances when the internet of an entire island, region or country is deliberately shut down. Most of the time, the action is taken to silence dissent, or potentially even to stop cheating on tests. But limited, slow internet in certain locales has similar effects — one reason John Yunker, in our upcoming issue of MultiLingual magazine, advises global websites to slim down so pages can load quickly during times or places of poor connectivity.

Whatever the reason they’re happening, internet delays and outages can become a localization issue. Much of what we talk about in our industry is internet-dependent, with the underlying assumption that in this day and age, the internet is available to everyone all the time. I had been in the industry for a decade before I learned that one day a year, on the regular, the internet disappears in Bali. And I didn’t learn that until the actual day the internet was shutting down, as I was trying to send work email and getting a mysterious message in Indonesian.

At the least, Indonesia, in the interest of localization, maybe consider translating this message into English for the poor tourists text time — maybe even give them a heads-up the day before the outage so they can send any imperative emails.

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Katie Botkin, Editor-in-Chief at MultiLingual, has a background in linguistics and journalism. She began publishing "multilingual" newsletters at the age of 15, and went on to invest her college and post-graduate career in language learning, teaching and writing. She has extensive experience with niche American microcultures across the political spectrum.

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