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.

SDL Tados 2021

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Washington Post Implementing Localization Solutions

Localization, Localization Strategy

As major news publications reckon with decreased readership, the Washington Post has turned to solutions that emphasize localization and regional outreach.

The Washington Post has been trying to expand its global reach, turning to localization as one of its primary strategies. This year, as the publication and many other newspapers lifted their paywalls to grant people around the world access to timely, pandemic-related information and news, the Post has seen a significant uptick in subscribers. However, despite the growth in its daily user base, the publication has also seen little growth in user-generated revenue.

According to WaPo’s chief marketing officer, Miki King, subscriptions have grown by over 40%, and its global subscriptions business is up 60% from last year. “Part of the growth that we saw was a result from things that we’d done prior to this year that began to gain traction and allowed us to be poised [for] this moment,” said King.

The actions King refers to are part of the Post’s localization strategy for global outreach. Newspapers have traditionally lost revenue in past decades, so expanding globally is one way to mitigate the downward trend. With global readership making up about 10% of its subscribers currently, the Post hopes it can increase that number to 20%.

Prior to the global shutdowns, the publication changed its subscription payment methods to match local currencies, reducing friction in the sign-up process. Furthermore, the Post’s marketing team found that publishing newsletters and paid social media marketing with global content as its focus has led to a significant increase in usership, as has the inclusion of global perspectives in article excerpts and graphics. The Post’s site netted over 96 million unique visits in September, a 3.2% increase from last year.

Due to higher engagement from American expatriates and anglophones around the world, the Post will likely target countries with large English-speaking populations, including Canada, Australia, and the UK. One strategy already in play to capture the international traffic in these places has been to partner with local publishers.

In October, the Financial Times of the UK and the Post offered a joint bundle deal that would give their respective readers a discount to sign up for a subscription to the other publication. After the experiment ended in mid-October, the Post is now seeking partnerships in Canada to initiate a similar bundle deal. A point of emphasis in these partnerships is that the Post does not aim to compete with local publications, but rather to provide readers with regional perspectives on global issues already reported in the Post.

Other major news agencies have made similar attempts to gain readers in other countries. The New York Times (NYT) went as far as including a Spanish version and two Chinese versions (Traditional and Simplified Chinese characters), but failed to achieve financial success and even fell into political trouble after conducting an investigative piece on the People’s Republic of China. NYT’s shortcomings raise the question about how the Post will reconcile its localization strategy with government censorship.

For now, the Post’s decision to start with countries like the UK, Canada, and Australia will avoid differences of opinion around freedom of the press and allow for a stronger emphasis on reaching financial success. As a boost, interest in global news sources continues, with COVID-19 cases at record-highs and the US presidency at peak volatility. Now is as good a time as any for a major news organization to reach an international audience. Should the Washington Post’s localization strategy pay off, other major publications will follow quickly on its heels.

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MultiLingual creates go-to news and resources for language industry professionals.


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Was Amazon’s Giant Translation Gaffe a Marketing Ploy?


“It felt like a huge prank,” said translation industry business consultant Anne-Marie Colliander Lind in a conversation about Amazon’s botched launch of amazon.se in Sweden last week.

Amazon launched its amazon.se platform in Sweden last week, and the transition into the new market did not go unnoticed. On day one, users were reporting en masse blatant and quite shocking errors in much of the Swedish translation. We wanted to better understand what went wrong, so we turned to localization expert and consultant and native Swede Anne-Marie Colliander Lind to glean some insight about how Amazon allowed these shocking gaffes to define its first impression in Sweden.

Describing her initial reaction to the news, Lind said, “It felt like a huge prank.” Lind’s surprise came from more than just the level of vulgarity she witnessed. Beyond noting the flag blunder — Amazon used Argentina’s flag in place of Sweden’s — she found the ubiquity of certain errors particularly disconcerting.

Lind took us through a few examples and explained why they appeared so flagrant. Some were relatively innocuous. Star Wars products that featured the Death Star translated it as Dödlig Stjärna, or dead star. The trunks in swimming trunks turned into Bagageutrymme, meaning trunk (of a car).

Some were a bit more risqué.

The Swedish kuk, for example, is equivalent to the English noun cock. From an English perspective, we knew the double meaning of this word can refer to both rooster, and, well, yeah. In Swedish, on the other hand, kuk is employed solely as a vulgarity, meaning cock and dick would both translate to kuk, but rooster would not.

For intentionally vulgar products — like the pair of boxer shorts with a rooster printed near the phrase “Suck my Cock!” — the pun, then, would not track, but the juvenile denotation would. Still, as we scrolled on, kuk continued to show up in places where the translation clearly should have been tupp, the Swedish word for rooster. Even more, it began showing up in products devoid of any rooster or phallus-related content: skateboards, fishing tackle. Our minds wandered.


The fishing lure and skateboard in this picture both use forms of the Swedish word kuk, which translates to a phallus-related vulgarity.

Lind noticed verbal conjugations of kuk as kukad and kukande, which as verbs would mean, essentially, to dick something. We conjectured the source translation might, possibly, have been from the English verb form of cock: to set something in place, like a skateboard wheel or a fishing lure. So perhaps the machine translation recognized that the word was now used as a verb, but still could not determine a better equivalent than an unrelated vulgarity?

It seemed possible that anywhere the English letters c-o-c-k would have appeared — even for words unequivocally referring to something else — the Swedish resorted to the vulgar translation.

Pung, or scrotum, is used here to describe a bra.

Similar tendencies arose with the Swedish word for rape, Våldtäkt, which described not just rapeseed oil products, but also descriptions for shower curtains, cell phone covers, and sexual assault goal-keeper shirts. Pung, referring to the scrotum, was used to describe bras and lingerie. Feline-related material became pussy. It all seemed, to Lind, too blatant to just be a mistake with the machine translation.

“These mistakes don’t resonate with machine translation,” she said, adding that even Google Translate would have picked up on such errors. Furthermore, Amazon has translation standards in place that require vendors provide translations for product descriptions and customer support. Even with the reliance on individual vendors, Amazon would still have a filtration process for vulgar content. Furthermore, trade names, which are generally marked as non-translatable, were included in the numerous gaffes.

Amazon released a statement of thanks to the community for pointing out the gaffes, promising improvements as they continue to receive feedback, but did little to clarify the source of the errors or what it would do to prevent such a disaster in future launches. Amazon will act on any flagged material by lowering the rank of products with poor translation quality. But simply removing or lowering the rank of these products seems more in line with sweeping the issue under the rug than determining what caused the disaster in the first place.

Lind noted that the company’s own localization processes seemed to be running smoothly, including delivery mechanisms and payment information, highlighting that Amazon would hire its own localization team for essential site functions. Clearly, Amazon has shown a commitment to the smooth exchange of money and goods, but all while allowing some terrible translations to slip into the public sphere.

We discussed what this all means for Amazon, and whether the company can assimilate to the Swedish market in a meaningful way moving forward. Lind said that while she expects the dust to settle around Amazon as it makes fixes to the site, she does not expect it will take to the Swedish market as significantly as it has in other European markets. With Sweden’s strong ecommerce industry — including retail giant IKEA — Swedish consumers already have access to quality products over the internet. Nevertheless, Amazon will try to find ways to become the premier ecommerce site wherever it goes.

Which brings us back to the translation issue. As a multi-national company, Amazon knows the risks and considerations of launching in a new country. So could this have been a large-scale prank that the company employed as a marketing scheme? After seeing IKEA successfully recover from its own translation gaffe back in August, perhaps Amazon is following suit.

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MultiLingual creates go-to news and resources for language industry professionals.

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Global Growth at DiDi


Yan Carolla, head of localization at DiDi, is positioning her team as a global growth driver.

If you haven’t heard of DiDi, then you definitely haven’t been to China in the last few years. If you have been to China, then you most likely would have used the app at some point to book a car or taxi. DiDi, headquartered in Beijing, has created one of the leading mobility and convenience platforms in China.

The recently-released September/October issue of MultiLingual features an article on DiDi’s localization journey written by globalization project manager Jasmine Bao — because the company is now expanding internationally. DiDi began to focus on international expansion in 2017, and is currently operating in 12 countries with six available languages. Yan Carolla joined the DiDi team as head of localization in February of 2020. Here, she discusses the challenges facing DiDi’s localization team and what it’s like working at one of the largest Chinese Unicorns with serious international ambitions.

Yan Carolla

Yan Carolla, head of localization at DiDi.

Carolla’s journey in the localization industry began in 1994 when she was hired as the first project manager by Lionbridge China. Since then, she has worked on both the client and vendor sides in various roles for businesses like SDL, TransPerfect, Autodesk, and Roxio. She has built and managed globalization, software internationalization and localization teams. Before joining DiDi, she was senior director of Strategic Accounts at TransPerfect. She is based in San Jose, California.

What’s been unique about working at a Chinese company like DiDi?

When Chinese companies go abroad, a lot of them have a specific department that focuses on managing the international business. At DiDi, it is called the International Business and Technology (IBT) team. We have our own R&D, product design, and product management teams in IBT. This team then works with the local teams on developing new products for their local markets.

In Western companies, depending on how mature their localization models are, they often have a centralized localization team that sits either within the marketing team or shared engineering team. Sometimes they are not very visible within the organization.

In DiDi, IBT is highly visible and strategic. Localization is part of the essential function of IBT. Localization doesn’t have to justify our existence, but we do have to make sure that we are understood enough so that we can best deliver our language products.

You inherited a team that was established only two years ago, and your role as head of the localization team was newly created. Did you feel you had a lot on your plate when you started?

I was pleasantly surprised with what the team had set up in less than two years and I was pretty happy with what Jasmine Bao, our localization project manager, did to get from zero to one. We have an operations team with project managers in Beijing and language specialists in local markets. The team had a commercial TMS setup which was integrated with their home-grown CMS. They also had qualified and onboarded an experienced language service vendor. My role is to pull the team together globally and to provide leadership.

What were your top priorities when starting at DiDi?

My priorities are firstly to integrate the global localization team, and then to have a strategy on managing DiDi’s style, tone, and voice in local markets. Thirdly, it’s to provide guidance on new market entry from a localization point of view.

While the localization team in Beijing was centralized, language specialists in each country operated in silos. So my first priority is to pull the global team together to serve as center of excellence globally for anything related to language for DiDi’s products and content. That’s what we need to put in place. When working in unison, we can add more value and solve more problems.

Could you share an example?

For example, if one language faces a truncation problem in the UI, we don’t have enough power to change the design or talk to the development team. But if you have several languages all having the same issue, then you can present that it’s better to redesign instead of working on redoing the translation.

The second priority you mentioned was managing style guides for each language and market and getting everyone to adhere to them. What makes that challenging?

Part of the challenge is that the source is in Chinese. Chinese is a very logical language, so the style of the app is more focused on the features. But in order to connect well with the global users, we need to focus on the benefits of using the product or service, not the feature itself. Our priority is to make sure we maintain DiDi’s global branding but also communicate with our global users as if they are using locally developed products.

How are you dealing with the style, tone, and voice of legacy translations?

In parallel, we ran a big localization quality assurance review of our legacy content to fix historical issues, and then we set up style guides for each language. The language specialists are the owners of the style guides. They are created and maintained with inputs from the marketing, PR and design teams. It is one of the important language guidelines, besides translation memories and glossaries, for the vendor linguists to follow.

Additionally, we also created writing guidelines for source Chinese content. We built a checklist into our content management system for Chinese content creators. When they submit translation requests, the system will remind them to run the style guide checklist. This achieves quality control at the source.

How has the pandemic influenced your work?

Because of this pandemic I can’t travel. I was hoping for closer collaborations with the local leadership teams. I am able to build close communications remotely with China and local operation teams. However, I’d like to communicate more with other local functional teams like legal and marketing to ensure we align well for feature approvals and language approvals.

What do you think is important in order to be a successful manager for a localization team at a company like DiDi?

I’m very impressed with the young people on my team; they are very capable and very smart. Completely capable to do things. All you really have to do is to give them directions, really foster them to grow and mature professionally. They are looking for opportunities to learn and learning at work really motivates them.

One of the things we do in the team is to assign someone to do research on a certain topic — for example, one localization project manager had the topic of localizability. Then she did lots of research and presented to the team. During this process, she expanded her own knowledge on the topic. After presenting to our team, she also presented to the R&D team to help them understand internationalization. As a result, each individual learned more about the industry and the team broadened their overall capabilities.

Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

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Morgan Gallup Zhu is a consultant at Nimdzi Insights. She has spent 14 years in China and speaks Mandarin. She is passionate about bridging Asia and the West, and as the APAC director of operations at RWS Moravia she ensured that RWS Moravia's teams in the region were able to meet the demands of clients who were scaling up operations in Asia.

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Toward a Sustainable Language Services Ecosystem for the UK’s Public Sector

Localization Strategy

Many of the United Kingdom’s very large language service contracts for the public sector are being tendered for or awarded in 2020, influencing the working lives and livelihoods of hundreds of language service companies and thousands of freelance translators and interpreters in the UK. Everyone involved in public sector work in the language services ecosystem has a vested interest in how these contracts turn out, but more constructive dialogue is needed across the ecosystem.

An “ecosystem” of language service procurement and provision within the public sector encompasses public sector organizations who commission and use translation and interpreting services, together with the supply chain — language service companies and the translators and interpreters providing these services. At the very heart of the system are the individual people requiring translation and interpreting in their own languages.

When I joined the UK’s Association of Translation Companies (ATC) as its CEO two years ago, this was about as far as my understanding went regarding public sector work, having spent my entire working life in the commercial translation world.

What I didn’t understand were the challenges around providing critical language support in over 300 languages, some very rare, in hugely demanding situations, at a very short notice, with the constraints of austerity measures and changes in the way governments procure language services having completely changed the landscape in the past decade.

There’s no doubt that providing language services for the public sector is a challenging task, but what I also didn’t see or appreciate were the deep divides within the language services supply chain and between the organizations and associations active in the ecosystem.

Many of these divides are borne out of the changes the sector has experienced in the past decade; for example, the introduction of large government framework contracts, or the knock-on effects of many years of financial austerity measures on public sector procurement.

I don’t think anyone would argue that there are many areas within which public sector work could be developed. Public sector procurement practices, pricing and the shape of the supply chain have regularly made industry news globally, and not in a positive light.

However, as I learned more about the procurement of language services for the public sector, the more it was clear that there really was very little genuine collaboration, or even discussion, across the divides, and thus very few genuinely constructive initiatives to improve the ecosystem.

This was a problem.

I was lucky enough to be surrounded by a Council whose commitment and experience laid the foundation of what in the past year has crystallised the ATC’s position and objectives of working towards sustainable development in the procurement and provision of language services for the UK’s public sector.

Within the UK’s ecosystem, the ATC represents language service companies from micro enterprises and SME’s to large companies providing the widest range of services in over 300 languages to public sector commissioning authorities. Our members have a pivotal role in delivering language services for the public sector, and in commissioning individual assignments with freelance translators, interpreters and other language professionals.

For the ATC, it was clear from the start that if the association was to truly invest in the development of public sector work, it would have to be based on constructive collaboration and genuinely open channels of communication between industry stakeholders. We wanted to identify and find areas which our stakeholders could get behind, and achieve tangible developments.

The ATC’s Public Sector Manifesto, published in January 2020, set out the association’s objectives toward sustainable development to:

  • identify and promote sustainable best practices within the procurement and provision of language services
  • proactively work together on implementing realistic, concrete solutions that benefit the entire ecosystem
  • work towards a regulated environment, with more effective governance and oversight of the provision of language services at all levels
  • look beyond immediate challenges and into the future, supporting inspirational solutions and technology that advance the development of the industry, in meeting the needs of all users

In the past year, our activities have focused on building the foundations for constructive relationships, and in this I think we have succeeded.

We have brought together stakeholders from the entire ecosystem; founded a platform for ATC member companies to engage in meaningful collaboration, irrespective of size or position in the market; and forged positive, open channels of communication with organizations and associations representing translators and interpreters.

But this is just the start.

Due to its size and continuous, organic evolution, the public sector’s translation and interpreting landscape is highly fragmented, which complicates our understanding of the procurement fulfillment process, and consequently creates challenges around implementing and monitoring best practice.

We believe that through increased understanding and visibility of the landscape, we can pave the way for more efficient and effective public sector procurement in the future. We will do this by continuing to initiate and support research on language services for the public sector, and publishing best practice recommendations and guidance to support our objectives.

We believe that the foundations of sustainability across public sector procurement are laid at framework specification level, which will create a level playing field for the organizations participating in tenders, and as a consequence, their suppliers.

We will continue to identify opportunities for positive contribution, and to focus on constructive conversations that identify shared objectives and goals, and move the development of the ecosystem forwards.

We acknowledge the need for robust governance of public sector contracts and the provision of effective language services within those contracts. We wish to work together with stakeholders to identify ways and means of achieving comprehensive due diligence during tendering, improved governance and oversight of service delivery, as well as reliable checks on the qualifications and competences of translators and interpreters engaged in public sector work.

We advocate open discussion on transparent levels of oversight and quality control that can reasonably and realistically be put in place.

It is in the entire ecosystem’s interest that the procurement and provision of language services is sustainable, and that the individual people depending on language support are able to get it, not just now, but also in ten and twenty years’ time.

There are definite challenges, but also opportunities for improvement, developing technologies, and above all, a new willingness to work together to identify the areas where genuine advances can be made.


Raisa McNab is chief executive officer at the UK’s Association of Translation Companies (ATC). She holds a Master of Arts degree in translation and interpreting from the University of Turku in her native Finland, and has previously worked in the language services industry as a translator, project manager, and quality, training and development manager. She is interested in collaborative cooperation and sustainable development of the language services industry.

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SAS Localization Search Engines Available to Public


Expanding access to its search engines, SAS aims to create more cost-effective and efficient function for its localization software for users in the translation community.

SAS terminology manager Ronan Martin announced recently that the search engines in the SAS Portal are available to communities outside SAS. Already operating internally, these tools are used extensively by testers, technical support and in-house translators. Several factors have led to the decision to open the portal.

SAS uses language vendors for most languages and aims to provide better access to freelance translators, who can use the SAS firewall to review their own translations and compare translations of the same source text in other languages.

Along with granting better access to the translation community, SAS must localize software for contractual reasons. “A new generation of young analysts in non-English speaking regions who have only ever encountered many key terms in English,” said terminology manager Ronan Martin. “There is two-way push: translators and some older academics want to use localized terms, while younger people want to use the English terms. This is an ongoing struggle, but the portal at least provides a way of linguistically navigating the software for users who find themselves in this predicament.”

Martin also pointed out that localizing software is expensive and challenging from an engineering point of view. The company’s default position is to localize a software solution to the extent that there is a business case for it. This will usually encompass the user interface. Localizing documentation and user guides can be prohibitively expensive, as they are generally large. Responding to the barrier, users may interact with the software in their local language, and simultaneously delve into English-language documentation and guides. The portal can provide a bridge between the two languages.

Like many other software companies, SAS is moving away from shipping software packages and instead turning to cloud deployment using the DevOps approach. This entails developing discrete pieces of software that are slotted together in different combinations, known as a containerized approach to software development.

Academic environments are also of great interest. Students have free access to SAS software as part of the company’s academic programs.

“We hope that they will take this knowledge and experience into industry with them when they graduate,” said Martin. “We would like to support students, lecturers, course providers, researchers, authors and presenters of papers by providing terminology in the local language, to the extent we are able to.”

Furthermore, SAS expects an increase in situations where third party companies assemble apps using SAS containers behind the scenes. This could be an app developed in another language, or an English-language app localized outside SAS.

“This is a new exciting development,” said Martin, “But looking into the future we would like to establish an eco-system of SAS terminology that cascades down through the software, regardless of where, or in what language it is developed. We hope the portal will enable this to happen.”

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Lokalise Raises $6 Million in Backing


Previously bootstrapped, the software startup team Lokalise decided to raise external capital to hire top talent in order to accelerate growth, as it moves remote.

This week, Latvian translation software startup Lokalise announced that it had raised $6 million in a recent funding round. With a focus on translation and localization of apps, websites, and games, Lokalise provides a Software as a Service (SaaS) product that helps users improve workflow and processes when updating for different languages and regions.

“Initially we were just a handful of coders building a product for a pain that we ourselves were experiencing,” said Lokalise co-founder and CEO Nick Ustinov. “When top-tier customers started knocking on our doors we saw the larger opportunity at play. We quickly realized that the greatest challenge to scale Lokalise is in attracting the best go-to-market talent. Having met good VCs in both Europe and the US, we are happy that we picked Mike Chalfen as our partner to realize our vision.”

Lokalise aims to streamline the localization process, allowing users to upload language files or integrate them directly with GitHub or GitLab so that it automatically updates changes. Additionally, users can browse each sentence in different languages from the service, and a team of translators can edit text in the Lokalise interface all on the same page.

Similar to cloud-based platforms, Lokalise has collaboration features through comments and mentions, as well as assign tasks and trigger events based on completed tasks, like an email notification. Furthermore, Lokalise allows users to use Google Translate or a marketplace of professional translators, with built-in spelling and grammar features to spot errors.

“Most customers work with internal or external individual translators or language service providers (LSPs) directly,” Ustinov said. “The SaaS product generates 90% of our revenue — the revenue breakdown between the SaaS product and the marketplace of translation services is 90%/10%.

Founded in 2017 in Riga, Latvia, by tech entrepreneurs Petr Antropov and Nick Ustinov, the company has since attracted over 1,500 customers in 80 countries, from early-stage businesses, to scaleups and Fortune500 companies, including Revolut, Yelp, Virgin Mobile, and Notion.

“Every business has an online presence, yet inefficient localization remains a painful barrier to geographic expansion,” said lead investor Mike Chalfen. “Lokalise changes that. It has amazing customer references. Its beautifully designed collaborative tool and powerful integrations position it to disrupt the industry’s complex and archaic business processes. I am excited to partner with this ambitious team to build a new category leader.”

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