#198 – November/December

Navigating Culture

On the Cover: Jaap van der Meer, language industry pioneer and visionary, recently stirred up debate around an article published in MultiLingual.

Read on!



his month’s issue of MultiLingual is dedicated to navigating culture. Though culture isn’t inextricably linked to language — the existence of pluricentric languages proves that various cultures can be transmitted via a nominally singular language, after all — it is asymmetrically wedded to it in a way that touches the lives of all our readers. Put another way, one can be, mutatis mutandis, multicultural without being multilingual, but one can’t be multilingual without being multicultural. 

Being multilingual doesn’t just mean being proficient in the vocabulary and syntax of multiple languages, but also in their pragmatics. That is, knowing not just what to say but how, when, and why to say it. Grammar and phonology can be learned through books and practice. Culture, definitionally, can only be acquired through interaction with others, and it’s this ineffable and indispensable aspect of the multilingual experience that we hope to share with you in this issue. 

As 2021 comes to a close, we’re bringing yet more changes to MultiLingual, including the addition of a new section: Perspectives. We’ve recently published articles that have created quite a stir, and we welcome this. Our industry encompasses many aspects, and not all matters are settled. What will the future of translation look like? What makes for good localization? How do (and how should) different entities adapt to different markets? These are all questions with significant social, cultural, economic, and moral implications, and the answers aren’t as simple as “1+1=2.”

These articles have, perhaps predictably, invited a strong response from others in the field. We decided it would best serve the interests of our community, and basic fairness, to provide a platform not just for these articles, but for those wishing to express well-founded and carefully thought-out disagreement with them. It’s our intention to be a platform for debate and discussion, and the decision to publish a given piece is based entirely on the interests of our community and our commitment to fair and equitable coverage. These pieces reflect the opinions of their authors, and are not reflective of, or influenced by, the opinions of MultiLingual, its employees, or its advertisers.

We hope you enjoy this final issue of 2021. Stay with us in 2022 for more insightful, provocative, informative, and challenging coverage of language, culture, and the industry that they make possible. 

Katie Botkin signature


Jaap van der Meer

Interview by Elena Langdon – Photos: Victoria Ushkanova
Translators — or linguists, or cultural adapters, or whatever new titles we invent — will be able to see the need for a specific terminology, data, nation, language, and go to a platform and provide data. They’ll be able to sell it multiple times because there will be many enterprises, platforms, and application builders that will need that kind of data to polish and customize their applications.


Finding Digital Humanity: Global Society in Online Environments

By Traci Snowden

You’ll have to read this article from start to finish in order to even see the word “language” appear a second time. In the meantime, another word to center your thoughts on will present itself much sooner.

Experience Disruptors, DoorDash, Please & Thank You: How HubSpot Speaks Japanese

By Yuka Kato

Translating into Japanese can be tricky, especially when it requires cultural adaptation. Often, content that is intuitive, or part of American culture, simply doesn’t translate well for Japanese readers without additional explanation.

Inglehart-Welzel: Are Belgium and the United States Truly Cultural Neighbors?

By Stefan Huyge

Are you familiar with the Inglehart-Welzel World Cultural Map? Upon coming across it for the first time, I was intrigued to find that, according to the World Values Survey Association’s most recent research data, the two countries I am most familiar with — Belgium and the United States — were determined to be some of the closest cultural neighbors.

Why You Should Localize Your Business Communication

By Lauren Supraner

Companies entering international markets understand the importance of localization. While the impact and importance of culture and language are considered in a marketing strategy, they are often forgotten in daily communication.


Data: Of Course! MT: Useful or Risky. Translators: Here to Stay!

by Dr. Alan K. Melby and Dr. Christopher Kurz

In the July/August issue of MultiLingual magazine, Jaap van der Meer presented a vision of the future in which the current “mixed economic model” — a combination of raw machine translation delivered at nearly zero cost and paid translation delivered by human translation service providers — becomes unsustainable.


UK Language Services Industry Survey and Report 2021

The Association of Translation Companies (ATC), in conjunction with Nimdzi Insights, recently conducted and published the findings from its annual survey of the UK language services industry. Here, we’ve included an abbreviated introduction to the report — to read the report in its entirety, go to

Bolingo’s African Country Guides: Cameroon & Egypt

Curated by Andrew Warner

Bolingo, the Accra-based communication and media consulting firm behind Localization Africa, is releasing localization guides with insights on how to localize content for African markets. In the July/August issue of MultiLingual, Marjolein Groot Nibbelink provided a brief overview of the first three Bolingo African Country Guides on Benin, Burkina Faso and Ghana. In this issue, we’ll break down some of the main details of the most recent releases on Cameroon and Egypt.


Inventing New Scripts

by Tim Brookes

As you read this, someone, somewhere (statistically, most likely in India) is inventing an alphabet.

We’re not talking about alphabets created for sci-fi novels, TV or movies, which are challenging enough. We’re talking about a single person, usually male, often startlingly young, always with a strong sense of devotion to his community and its needs, sometimes divinely inspired, listening carefully to and analyzing the sounds of his own language well enough to understand its internal geography, devising a set of easily written and learned symbols that are visually congruent with the aesthetic of his culture — and then the real work starts.


A historical contextualization of Plunet and the rise of automation

Sponsored Content by Plunet

When Plunet originally started back in 2003, no one would have guessed where the journey of the once moderate but complex network administration service would lead them. It was at the height of Web 2.0, when smartphones and social media fostered a boost in digital communication.


Machines Are Your Friends: The Future is Now

By Jaime Punishill

In the July/August issue of MultiLingual magazine, industry icon and TAUS founder Jaap van der Meer wrote a fascinating and insightful piece called “Translation Economics of the 2020s.” Jaap is an industry veteran since its inception during the dawn of the PC era. As such, his perspective on its past, present and future is born of a deep connection to the industry’s ebbs and flows.

Managing Cyber Risk in Localization: Part 2

By Mark Shriner

Language service providers and buyers of localization services are especially vulnerable to cybersecurity risks. This is partially related to the distributed work model, one that often relies upon freelancers, remote linguists, work from home project managers, and others spread across several countries.


By the Numbers: Tracking the COVID-19 Pandemic’s Influence on the Language Industry

Data source: Nimdzi Insights – Compiled by Andrew Warner

In the 20 months since COVID-19 first came onto our radar, the technology and ideas shaping the language industry have evolved quite a bit. As we come to the close of another pandemic-addled year, it’s worth breaking these developments down by looking at the data.