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Translation Technology

Being Jesuitical About Translation Subjects

Language in the News, Localization Culture, Translation Technology

I recently found out about www.sacredspace.ie, a multilingualDrupal-based,  prayer website run by the Irish Jesuits (or to be more correct, the religious order of the Society of Jesus). Currently in redesign (the site that is, not the order), it has millions of visitors every year, with over three quarters of a million visitors recorded during Lent in 2011 alone. It’s one of the most successful Irish-run multilingual websites that I can think of, going about its other-worldly business in a quiet way (as I suppose it’s intended to).

Sacred Space: Multilingual Prayer website run by the Irish Jesuits.

This got me thinking. Translation of religious texts (notably the Bible) has been a mainstay of translation activity for centuries, as well as being a textbook case in message globalization. Multilingual translations of religious text provide quality corpus for machine translation (MT) development. Anyone who has that dreaded phrase “lost in translation” as a Google Alert will have been driven crazy in the last year about the number of times the new  translation of the Roman Catholic Church missal turned up (I have to say, having read and used the translation, that I can understand some of the angst, and the debate continues).  I also fondly remember exchanges I had as Gaeilge with linguists of the Church  of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at various localization conferences around the world.

Yet, we rarely hear any organized discussion about religious, spiritual, or other matters of faith when it comes to translation. When was this topic last featured at an industry conference or in a magazine article? And, why is that? Risk of offending the audience? Presenter discomfort? Inappropriate for public discussion? Considered irrelevant? What?

If you think faith translation doesn’t matter, then think again as organized religions of all sorts increase their presence worldwide, in Africa, Asia, South America, and so on, and as millions of people turn to spirituality and other belief systems in these hard economic, soulless, technocratic times. It’s really a global growth area.

Don’t people, globally, have needs for spiritual information in their own language as much as they do for information about health or economic development? So, what’s the translation process? What tools are used? How much is this religious translation business worth? What are the quality standards? Come on, there’s even an MT system called Moses.

Done squirming? Find the comments.

Peace.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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How to Use the HTML5 Translate Attribute: A Translatability Best Practice

Personalization and Design, Translation Technology

HTML5 introduces a translate attribute that allows fine-grained control over what content should be translated, or not. Richard Ishida of the W3C has all the details of the attribute and its applicability, as well as some interesting insights into how Bing Translator and Google Translate deal with the translatability of content issue.

Here’s an example of the translate attribute’s use, taken from Richard’s blog (the HTML5 spec’s global attributes section has another other nice example, see the Bee Game.):

<p>Click the Resume button on the Status Display or the
<span translate="no">CONTINUE</span> button
on the printer panel.</p>

See how the word CONTINUE is made non-translatable using the translate attribute’s value set to “no”? Blimey! However, there are times when CONTINUE might need to be translated. So, flip that puppy to “yes”.

This HTML5 attribute is a very welcome addition to the content creation and translation tools world, sure.  But, it is very welcome for other reasons too.

This is a time of new interactions and emerging platforms that challenge the established desktop and website norms of what should be translated or not. Mobile, augmented reality, gamification, and other trends, all challenge established norms of content rules. So too, is it a time when companies redefine themselves, cross over, and promote their own design guidance as a differentiator in the market. Oracle, for example, likes to say “Software, Hardware. Complete” so content needs to cross-reference many deliverables. SAP, as another example, recently launched an app in the consumer space (available in German and English) that may require a different style of content and translation from the enterprise applications space. Android has released user experience (UX)  guidance of its own, and so on.

I previously raised such translatability issues in my Don’t Translate: Won’t Translate blog post.  I chipped into the [Bug 12417] discussion about the attribute’s development, too.

Using content to convey a translation instruction, by making a piece of text all uppercase for example, is not a best practice. It is a UX failure, makes personalization and customization difficult, and assumes the consumer of the content is a second-class stakeholder. Frankly, it is also very dangerous. Can you imagine if software developers used text that way in their code, rather than relying on the program logic?

As for the time-honored method of writing a translation note, or description, telling a translator that some content should not be translated, or should be, well such approaches just ain’t reliable or scalable, are they?

Now, there is a clear best practice to follow (and adapt for other formats). The HTML5 translate attribute educates content developers that the best practice for indicating whether content should be translated or not is through the use of markup (or metadata), and not through how the content is written. Translation tools should update to the HTML5 spec requirements and process this attribute asap.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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IUC44

Common Sense Advice about Machine Translation and Content

Translation Technology

You’d need to be living on the moon if you still don’t get it about how data quality impacts machine translation quality (actually, every kind of translation). But, what does this fact really mean when communicating with content creators?

Writers, and information developers generally, have to contend with all sorts of “guidance” about how they must create content to make it easily “translatable”. I am against that sort of positioning.

Content creators need and want guidance on how to make their content usable, not translatable. There is no conflict between making content readable in English and making it easily translatable, and vice-versa. There is a conflict between telling content creators to make their content translatable and not accounting for content style, source user experience, and especially the motivations and goals of the content creators themselves.

Well, I have been reading the Microsoft Manual of Style (4th Edition), recently published, and I am delighted to see there is a section called “Machine Translation Syntax”.

Microsoft Manual of Style 4th Edition. Sensible stuff about machine translation.

Microsoft Manual of Style 4th Edition. Sensible stuff about machine translation. Did I mention that I got a new bag from Acrolinx?

Here is what that section says:

“The style of the source language has significant impact on the quality of the translation and how well the translated content can be understood.”

The style of the source language. Brilliant appeal to the audience! What follows is a baloney-free set of 10 guidelines for content creators. Each guideline appears to be an eminently sensible content creation principle worth respecting, regardless of the type of translation technology being used, or even if the content is not explicitly destined for translation at the time of creation.

You can read the 10 guidelines on the Microsoft Press blog.

Well done Microsoft, again (no, I am not looking for a job). Let’s see more of this kind of thing from everyone!

I’ll do a review of my new Acrolinx bag when time allows.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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The Dublin Windows Phone Code Camp: A Localization Debrief

Language Industry News and Events, Personalization and Design, Translation Technology

I attended the Windows Phone (WP) code camp at Microsoft in Dublin, an event organized by the Microsoft Ireland Development and Platform Evangelism (DPE) team and Dublin ALT.NET. One of the great things about my interests profile is that I get to cover user experience (UX), developer relations, localization, and a bunch of other cool stuff, all at the same time. The WP camp was no exception. I guesstimated that between 70 and 80 people turned up.

First up, Josh Holmes of Microsoft gave a quick overview of how to use the WP development environment, pointing out key UX features of the WP7 Metro interface– panning and pivot interactions, for example–and how to integrate geolocation, web services (no, nothing on Microsoft Translator, sadly), and so on. Microsoft has done a great job with Metro and I cannot wait to play with it in the field.

Lumia 800 with Windows Phone 7 Metro UX. Picture taken in Vodafone store in Dublin, Ireland.

Lumia 800 with Windows Phone Metro UX. Picture taken in Vodafone store in Dublin, Ireland.

Then, it was the turn of Matthew M. Gonzales (@matthewgonzales) of Irish cloud-based, localization as a service, solution Tethras to talk about the localization of mobile apps and global market trends. Some points that sunk home for me from the localization discussion were:

  • There’s a relatively low breakeven dollar point for localization of apps, and developers need to sell less than three dozen to turn a profit.
  • Don’t forget to localize the app store or market place description for the app. In fact this appears to constitute the bulk of the cost (marketing people, huh?).
  • Apps developers really do have to know their market and strategize accordingly. For example, in Brazil and Korea whatever the potential and strength of the app market, most users will not pay for gaming apps. In Japan, localization is hypercritical; so don’t forget to localize pictures of people, icons, and so on. Oh, don’t forget the potential offered by Nordic markets, either.
  • All the major platforms of interest to mobile apps developers are internationalized and provide for localization. It’s the app’s resources that are localized, so there aren’t 30 versions of the app executable being distributed. Windows Phone is no exception, and furthermore there are some very useful style and terminology guidelines available from Microsoft for the more serious-minded developer.

Later, I chatted with some app developers about localization. Their main concern was not about cost but knowing local markets and whether their localized app would take off without being blessed by some international viral campaign. Perhaps, there’s an opportunity for some innovator to address that. An additional service of localizing targeted collateral for integration into a localized communications ecosystem of tweets, recommendations, shared links, and so on, maybe?

On a more general point, I love attending these events and talking with others and watching what’s going down. I believe that for language technology to make any real headway where it matters economically–with individual developers and with small and medium enterprises and innovation–then it needs to start making an appearance at events like WP code camps, amongst others.

Thank you Microsoft DPE and Dublin ALT.NET for making this happen. And, what a wonderful building Microsoft employees have as a workplace in Dublin. I was deeply jealous!

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

The Berlin Wall of Code

Language in the News, Translation Technology

Too soon?

Google Developer Day Berlin 2011 Code Wall of Fame

Google Developer Day Berlin 2011 Code Wall of Fame

Hardly. I took that photograph at the Google Developer Day in Berlin in November 2011. Google runs these events globally. The event itself was very well attended with some excellent presentations on Android, Google TV, App Engine, and a tonne more. Coloured me excited by those Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich user experience guidance sessions aimed at developers, too.

All serious tech players run such events and a lot of them are free to attend provided that you apply in time and your credentials are even reasonably credible. So, why not add some of these events to your conference calendar?

The point of all this is that as language industry professionals you can steal a march on localizing emerging technology and new interactions by attending such events. Start your research into terminology, style, cultural differences, and so on, before anyone even thinks about approaching you for your services.

Watch out for sessions on user experience and design guidance in particular. You could even influence matters in the right direction before it’s too late.

Remember this: In the global mobile app development space it’s increasingly likely that it’s just going to be you, the translator, and the app developer sitting at his or her kitchen table. Understanding this tech stuff and how it’s developed is important.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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