Language Services Mean Access and Justice


We spoke with Karina Rodríguez about working as a language services provider in veterinary medicine, renters’ rights, and childhood learning in California.

The language services industry contains a multitude of entry points, many of which lead down their own surprising and frequently intersecting paths. Language may provide an anchor in this journey, but each new project can demand niche concerns that the language services provider (LSP) must account for.

With innovative technologies, LSPs have access to a variety of tools to expedite their services. However, these tools can only streamline so much, especially in fields like law, medicine, and childhood development, which often require technical knowledge to ensure accurate communications across languages. Ultimately, the work falls to the individual translator or interpreter.

We interviewed Karina Rodríguez, who has worked for several years as a freelance translator and interpreter for organizations in Oakland/San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego, California. With translation and interpretation experience in fields like veterinary medicine, renters’ rights, and childhood learning, Karina has relished the opportunity to provide language access and justice to ESL and non-English speaking communities across the state.

Can you tell our readers a little about yourself?

I am 29 years old, and I am currently a coding bootcamp student doing a full-stack web development program. I have worked in veterinary medicine for the last four years, and I have done translation work in between vet medicine jobs.

Which languages do you translate and interpret?

I translate and interpret from English to Spanish and vice versa.

Your first position as a freelance translator was with Oakland Community Land Trust. What drew you to translation work? What was your first year like?

I worked at a veterinary clinic for about two years and was very disappointed by the work environment and the actual work in veterinary medicine. The doctors were pretty burned out most of the time and so were the support staff (including myself). The one thing I really enjoyed and loved about working there was being thrown into interpreting during medical exams/procedures and more. I learned a lot by just being thrown into that role.

After I quit that job, I decided I wanted to explore doing translation and interpreting a bit more. I had a very hard time landing that first translation gig! I started trying to break into translation work through, where I was able to land some translation gigs. Most of the work I did that year was part-time, but eventually I did land a gig through a college friend whom I met through political organizing at UC Berkeley. He connected me with an organization that was doing awesome work in making renters owners of their homes in Oakland, the Oakland Community Land Trust. That gig allowed me to do both interpreting (to current tenants) and translation of materials for conferences and other documents.

During that time I was also taking online computer science courses and exploring that career path. I eventually decided to go back to working at a veterinary clinic in a shelter setting because I didn’t want to give up so easily on working in vet med, based off one bad experience. Through that job, I also practiced/used my interpreting skills in a medical setting.

Has your experience in computer science and software engineering led you into any projects related to localizing content?

I have not had the opportunity to work on anything related to localizing content, but I am very interested! I hope I can merge those two skills and form part of a project that does that type of work.

Most recently, you have done freelance translation and subtitling educational videos for the San Diego-based company Sports for Learning. Can you speak more to any projects currently in progress?

I was able to land that job through my network because I have always advertised that I am looking for translation work. In this role, I subtitle videos using, which actually does some preliminary translation. I correct the grammar and wording of the subtitles. The work there is very consistent, and I translate/edit three videos a week. I subtitle educational videos that help children learn about mental health, physical health and emotional maturity.

Has your work consisted of in-person work? Remote?

The work is remote. We communicate through Slack and occasionally have video conferences.

Do you have a notable moment? Proud accomplishment?

I am mostly proud of being an important part of their project. I like that they value my work and that they are able to help Spanish-speaking children better learn the material through subtitles in Spanish.

You said in your first work with interpreting and translation, you were thrown into medical exams and procedures at the veterinary clinic. What was that like?

It was challenging at first, because it was my first professional experience doing interpreting in a medical setting. Doing medical interpreting is a challenge because it requires a decent amount of knowledge of medical terminology in English and Spanish. It was also my first professional experience doing interpreting in general, so I had to learn on the spot how to best interpret for clients accurately and in a professional manner. I was asked to interpret during medical exams and to clients in reception.

What communities does Sports for Learning serve? Along with the Spanish translations, do you know of any other non-English services included in the subtitling project?

Sports for Learning serves San Diego area schools, but I believe the videos have become popular enough that it includes schools beyond San Diego. I know that the students are predominantly Spanish-speaking. At this time, they don’t subtitle into any other languages.

Can you say more about your experience with video subtitling? You mention there is a focus on content about mental health, physical health and emotional maturity for children. Have you had tricky translation struggles with any of this subject matter? What are some of the difficult concepts to translate?

Subtitling videos for Sports for Learning has been okay so far. I would say that the biggest challenge has been figuring out what are the appropriate words to use given the audience. Our manager has done a good job of creating a list of words with the preferred translation to Spanish. We make sure to cater to the Latino Spanish dialect in order to better help the communities we are serving.

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CITLoB Elects 2020-2022 National Governing Body

Language Industry News and Events

In a statement, CITLoB president Sandeep Nulkar outlined the new body’s mission to meet the unprecedented demand for Indic language services and cultivate global partnerships.

The Indian association of language services companies, Confederation of Interpreting, Translation and Localization Businesses (CITLoB) recently elected its new National Governing Body for the 2020-2022 term.

The newly elected body will begin the term during a time of unprecedented demand for content in Indian languages and proactive government policies to build and nurture a progressive Indic language and language technology ecosystem. We asked president of CITLoB Sandeep Nulkar how the association will address the shifting landscape.

“Our top priority right now is to bring global best practice to India so that the industry can mature quickly and become capable of meeting the unprecedented demand,” said Nulkar.


The new governing body at CITLoB.

The new body aims to work toward consolidating what has, thus far, been a largely fragmented and unorganized industry. CITLoB has already been rolling out events and initiatives to get language professionals and language services companies ready to meet the demands of an increasingly inclusive and vernacular internet for every Indian. This week, CITLoB will hold a free webinar called “Data Science – What’s in it for LSPs and language technology companies,” which you can sign up for here.

Flyer for the webinar to be held on Nov. 12 at 9AM EST

CITLoB has been receiving increasing attention in the global community and has already signed a partnership agreement with the European’s Union’s official language industry body, the European Union’s Associations of Translation Companies (EUATC) and has a partner arrangement with the US-based global association Globalization and Localization Association (GALA).

“We want to ensure global and national partnerships with like-minded bodies to enhance the visibility of the Indian market, while also facilitating the market entry of members of partner bodies in an environment of trust,” said Nulkar.

CITLoB’s National Governing Body for 2020-2022:

Sandeep Nulkar (President)
BITS Private Limited

M. Sudheen (Zonal Vice President – North)
Crystal Hues Limited

Senthil Nathan (Zonal Vice President – South)
Langscape Language Solutions

Binod Ringania (Zonal Vice President – East)

Sunil Kulkarni (Zonal Vice President – West)
Fidel Softech Private Limited

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Lionbridge AI Unit Acquired by Canadian Telecom

Language Industry News and Events, Mergers and Acquisitions

TELUS International, a digital customer experience division of Canadian telecom giant TELUS, agreed to acquire Lionbridge AI, the crowd-based training data and annotation platform used to power machine learning. The acquisition will be at a purchase price of approximately C$1.2 billion (approximately US$935 million) and should be completed by the end of December 2020.

Lionbridge AI and Appen are the two largest training data and data annotation services providers in the world. Lionbridge AI annotates data in text, images, videos, and audio in more than 300 languages and dialects for some of the world’s largest technology companies in social media, search, retail, and mobile. Based in Waltham, Massachusetts, Lionbridge AI has more than 750 employees working from countries around the world, including in the US, Ireland, Finland, India, UK, Japan, Denmark, Costa Rica, and South Korea. Lionbridge AI works with a community of 30,000-50,000 global crowd contributors deployed at any one point in time.

Lionbridge AI has demonstrated strong financial growth, reporting 2019 revenue of approximately US$ 200 million. According to our sources, the company reported US$ 175 million in revenue in the first three quarters of 2020, showing growth even with the effects of the COVID pandemic.

This transaction highlights the continuous M&A activity in the translation and localization industry, and will affect the rankings of translation companies by bringing the overall revenue for Lionbridge to the half-billion US dollar range.

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GALA Announces Candidates for Upcoming Board Election

Language Industry News and Events

The election features 18 candidates from several corners of the industry all making their case to fill the four open positions to the GALA board of directors.

The election season continues, but this time for the members of the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA). The global, non-profit trade association for the language industry issued a call for candidates in September, and the election will begin on November 18 and close on December 3.

The elections are held annually, and terms last for two years, from January 1 of the first year to December 31 the following year. Members of the board may serve no more than two consecutive terms.

The Board of Directors at GALA consists of seven individuals. Directors are elected in alternating years — with three directors elected one year and four the following year. This year, they will choose four candidates from a pool of 18.

The Board includes four required officers: Chairperson, Vice Chairperson, Secretary, and Treasurer. The Directors vote amongst themselves in January to determine the three remaining positions, according to the association’s needs at that time.

Last year’s Board included Pedro Gomez at Chairperson (Microsoft principal program manager), Marie Flacassier at Vice Chairperson (Beatbabel CEO), Patrick Nunes at Secretary (director of Global Communications & Design at Rotary International), Kåre Lindahl at Treasurer (CEO of Venga Global), María Jesús de Arriba Díaz at Program Committee Liaison (director of strategic accounts at Vistatec), Alessandra Binazzi at Marketing (localization management consultant at Alessandra Binazzi Consulting), Balázs Kis at TAPICC Liason (co-founder and chairman of the board at memoQ Translation Technologies).

Three current Board Members — Alessandra Binazzi, Marie Flacassier, and Balázs Kis — are seeking re-election, while Pedro Gomez will complete his second term next month. Among the remaining candidates for the Board, there is a broad representation of individuals with years of experience around the localization industry and academia.

All candidates were asked to respond to the following prompts to state their cases for one of the open positions on the board: describe how you are qualified to address strategy for GALA; and what skills, resources, connections, and expertise will you bring to GALA?

Some highlighted their broad experience and networks in the localization industry, while others highlighted their generational experience operating family-run LSPs, and some others reflected deep knowledge in linguistics and international exchange. The answers reveal valuable insights about the variety of paths that make up the localization industry.

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Study from CMU Illuminates the Divided US Political Lexicon


As the US transitions into post-election fallout, a recent study from Carnegie Mellon University might demonstrate how language has defined the nation’s dividing lines.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University began a study in January 2014 that has observed the correlation between political leanings and language… language that might even need translation. Publishing the findings last month, they discovered a consistent pattern of differing language across the political spectrum.

Applying the hypothesis that conservative and liberal Americans speak two distinct languages, the researchers collected data from the YouTube channel comment sections of CNN, Fox News, MSNBS, and One America News Network (OANN). They used that data to compile a lexicon of words and phrases with strong connections, albeit polar opposites.

The derogatory ways people might refer to those with opposing political views (trumptards, snowflakes) was consistent, as were references to individuals (chump, trump), (pelosi, pelousy), (obama, obummer), (barr, weasel), (biden, creep). The researchers also discovered opposing phrases like “Republicans/Democrats are the greatest threat to America…are traitors…are patriots.”

“We do not intend these categories to be formal or exhaustive, but rather to be illustrative of the types of misaligned pairs we encountered,” the study explains. Some of the pairs map to the same entity, such as the terms “liberals” and “libtards,” while the rest map to completely different entities and beliefs.

With 10.6 million subscribers and almost 100,000 videos, CNN provided the most voluminous set of data, with Fox News just shy of 6.1 million subscribers and 65,000+ videos. MSNBC follows with about 3.5 million, and OANN, which largely aligns with President Trump, has 800,000+ subscribers.

While the study provides some interesting connections between conservative and liberal language, the researchers also acknowledge some drawbacks to using an internet platform.

“It is not possible to unambiguously identify if a YouTube user prefers CNN over Fox News or not,” they explain. “We assign a user to CNN or Fox News using a simple filter. We acknowledge that our filter makes certain assumptions that may not hold in the wild. It is possible that a user only comments on a video if she does not agree with its content.”

Whether these commenters are left or right, boomer or millennial, serious or trolling, this study at least illuminates the language that the commenters have determined appropriate for the context.

To learn more about the stark contrasts between the American political lexicons, MultiLingual‘s most recent issue features a deep analysis of the language propagated among both ideologies, and considers this Carnegie Mellon study as well as other research.

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Insights from Managing Canadian Indigenous Language Projects


When we think of the translation landscape in Canada, the first thing that comes into many people’s mind is the unique English-French bilingual environment. The vast majority of the translation requirements in Canada are from English into French. However, there is a small but steady amount of translation required into Canada’s Indigenous languages.

Managing Indigenous languages projects are very different from managing French ones. In some languages, there are very few speakers left; often translators don’t have consistent access to a computer or internet. Additionally, cultural differences between mainstream business and Indigenous traditions can create confusion or potential conflicts.

Elvire Mekoudjou is a project manager at wintranslation, a Canadian translation company that has an Indigenous language practice covering 40 of Canada’s 60 Indigenous languages. She shares her insights and lessons learned from managing Indigenous projects such as the Federal Indian day school class action lawsuits, and Canada’s Food Guide.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Elvire Mekoudjou, and I am from Cameroon in Central Africa. After I graduated with an M.A. in translation, I worked as an English-French translator for more than five years before being recruited as a project manager in a start-up company. I later became a project manager at Wintranslation, where I have been working since 2018.

What are the top Indigenous languages in Canada based on the number of speakers?

According to the 2016 Census done by Statistics Canada, the main Indigenous languages in Canada would be:

For a COVID-19 related document, what are the languages that should be translated in order to reach a maximum number of people in Canada’s Indigenous population? 

Before answering this question, it is important to mention that when making recommendations to a client seeking to reach a national audience, we take into consideration the number of speakers per language, and also the representativity per province. This is why, in order to reach the largest audience possible, we will recommend the most-spoken dialects of the languages mentioned earlier, but also perhaps a language like Mik’maq, as this will allow our client to reach the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick Indigenous communities who might not have been included in the most-spoken languages.

Based on your experience dealing with government departments that translate into Indigenous languages often, what are the most frequently translated languages?

It really depends, but usually, a federal organization with a national mandate would ask for languages like Inuktitut (many dialects), Cree, Mohawk, Mi’kmaq, Dene, OjiCree, Michif and even Stoney. They will try to reach the maximum number of Indigenous communities, not just to cover the most spoken languages. However, when it comes to provincial governments, they will target the languages spoken in their specific province. For instance, an Ontario government organization will translate into Cree (one of the two Ontario Cree dialects), Ojibway, Inuktitut, OjiCree, and Mohawk, whereas a Quebec Government will request the translation to be done in Cree (Quebec Cree), Inuktitut (Nunavik), Innu, Atikamekw, Mohawk and Naskapi.

What are the misconceptions about Indigenous languages you encounter most often?

The most common misstep is when clients want a specific language that will be understood by all Indigenous communities. We have to explain to the client that there are many Indigenous languages in Canada, and that there is not a “national” Indigenous language.

Another faux pas is when clients try to make a comparison between the English/French structure and an Indigenous language structure. Here again, we have to explain to the client that most concepts are new to Indigenous languages, so our Indigenous language expert has to use his/her creativity to find the perfect way to express a completely foreign reality in a way that won’t be misleading for the target community. This is why a single word in English or French can be translated by a sentence in an Indigenous language, or the other way around. For example, to translate the term “digital device,” our Inuktitut language expert had to look up the meaning of the different words and use general descriptions to convey the meaning of this foreign concept in his language. For digital, he used “ᖃᕆᑕᐅᔭᓕᕆᔾᔪᑦᑎ” which means involving or relating to the use of computer technology and for device, “ᓱᓇᒃᑯᑖᖅ,” which simply means a tool.

What are the most memorable things you learned about Indigenous language or culture in the course of your work?

Oh, this is a great question! I must say working with Indigenous languages has been the most challenging yet fulfilling experience I have ever had. With every single project we manage, we learn something new about the Indigenous culture. Indigenous resources seize every opportunity to share some interesting aspects of their culture or language with us, and this is absolutely amazing!

I am often in awe when I see some similarities with my African culture. The world is definitely a global village! A great example is religious beliefs. Just like most African tribes, Canada’s Innu people, for instance, believe in the power of ancestors. Ancestors have the power to intercede for us with God. This is why it is important to honor them and convey our prayers through them. However, we should bear in mind that Indigenous people have different cultures, and this aspect of the Innu culture might not exist among other Indigenous cultures. 

Are all Canadian Indigenous languages based on syllabic scripts?

No, all Indigenous languages are not based on syllabics. Syllabics are used for some Inuit languages, Cree languages and Algonquian languages. Languages like Mohawk, Mi’kmaq, and Innu use Roman letters. I was also given to understand that for some languages like Dene, the Cree syllabics were adapted to write them at some point since they were basically all oral languages, but today it is written differently. I would also like to mention that nowadays, the tendency is also to write syllabic-based languages in Roman orthography, but just like dialects, the choice of the writing system would depend on many factors.



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Lilt Hosts Successful Virtual Conference

Language Industry News and Events

Lilt, an AI-powered enterprise translation company, held its first Lilt Ascend virtual conference yesterday, October 22. The theme was localizing at scale in a digital world, a topic that underscores the challenge companies face as the volume of digital content continues to grow exponentially while the pool of linguistic talent remains constant.

The conference came right on the heels of Lilt becoming the first ever Diamond sponsor of the Women in Localization organization, which was announced earlier this week. And indeed, advancing the role of women in the industry was a recurring theme throughout the day’s sessions. The conference kicked off with a keynote speech by Lilt’s chief evangelist, Paula Shannon, who emphasized the benefits of finding a mentor and filling in gaps in financial literacy to those seeking more senior roles in the industry.

Following the introductions, Lilt’s CEO Spence Green gave a presentation on how Lilt is helping enterprises address the challenge of localizing digital content at scale. For those whose first introduction to Lilt was through their adaptive MT-enabled Translator Workbench, it was informative to hear about improvements in translation and review workflows. These include a Neural AutoReview feature that provides reviewers with context-based stylistic suggestions for text improvements. Green also announced several other new and improved services, including connectors to leading TMS solutions, an on-prem private cloud deployment option, and improved data modeling via Lilt Insights.

The conference was a well-balanced mix of product updates and demos, conversations with industry thought leaders on how they’ve driven digital transformation, and presentations on AI that ranged from the technical to the practical. Speakers from Intel, Aisics Digital, and Canva took the audience through challenges they faced scaling their localization programs, and how Lilt has helped them achieve the efficiency gains needed to keep up with their global customers. 

Lilt Ascend was hosted on Hopin, an interactive online event platform. As anyone who has attended virtual conferences in this brave new world knows, the platform can make or break an event. Hopin did not disappoint. Though there were a few minor delays lining up speakers for Q&A portions, the audiovisual quality was excellent and the UX was quite intuitive. The networking function also worked well, setting up participants with one-on-one sessions lasting 15 minutes each. Overall, it was a solid solution that any event organizer would be remiss not to consider.

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