Tag: Amazon


Friday Roundup | December 25, 2020

Business News, Translation Technology, Weekly Shorts

Amazon adds translation to Alexa

Amazon has launched Alexa Live Translation which — according to a blog on the company’s site — “allows individuals speaking in two different languages to converse with each other, with Alexa acting as an interpreter and translating both sides of the conversation.”

Unfortunately, Amazon uses translation and interpreting interchangeably, but one thing that is clear is that users activate the feature by asking Alexa to “translate.” The virtual assistant then listens to what the first speaker is saying and identifies the language from English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese and Hindi before interpreting the message. Live Translation is currently available on Echo devices set to US English.

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


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Mario Bros Anniversary, Nintendo Localization Stumbles


Nintendo is celebrating the 35th anniversary of Super Mario Bros this year, but the game that centers around two fictional Italian plumbers may have run into a language problem.

In homage to its flagship game turning 35 this year, Nintendo has released several Super Mario Bros collector’s items that will be sure to evoke the deepest 80’s nostalgia. Teaming up with with the gaming company, Amazon has already been shipping random orders in limited edition Mario-themed boxes. Likewise, apparel company Champion is collaborating with Nintendo to release a line of Super Mario streetwear, including the signature red overalls, which are also in very limited supply.

Perhaps the most anticipated item, though, is the Game & Watch. The predecessor to the Gameboy, the Game & Watch was the first handheld console. To pay respects to its first successes with handheld gaming, Nintendo has committed to delivering the most authentic experience possible, with some modern twists. From the color palette to the button layout – including the classic D-Pad and minimal controls – the Game & Watch is nearly indistinguishable from the 1980 version, except for a USB charge port and upgraded graphics.

With Nintendo’s meticulous effort to recreate the original experience of handheld gaming, it may be surprising, then, to learn which details went overlooked in the development process. According to UEPO.de, Nintendo botched parts of the localization process in several countries.

First, a glitch occurred on the digital clock application, preventing users from accessing dozens of game options. Additionally, the lyrics for one of the songs in the game are displayed in the wrong languages. Italian, for example, shows up in the German version, but Spanish appears for Italian users. French shows up in the Spanish version, and German in the French version. These appeared to be the only languages in which the mishap occurred. Nintendo has since released an apology to its users who experienced the issue.

This is not the first time this year that Nintendo has found itself in hot water over a botched localization process. Earlier this year, Multilingual Magazine reported on problematic Chinese translations of the recent Paper Mario game. For further insights into the game localization process, go here.

We reached out to Nintendo for a statement and will update this article with any responses we receive.

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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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Friday Roundup | October 16, 2020

Weekly Shorts

XTM announces new version of XTM Cloud

XTM International, the company behind the enterprise cloud-based translation management system, announced the release of its new version of XTM Cloud. XTM Cloud 12.5, the “Powerful Connectivity” release comes with new integrations and CMS connectivity as well as usability and productivity enhancements. Read our improved release blog to find out more.

Wordbee hires new CEO

Wordbee announced the appointment of Andre Hemker as new Chief Executive Officer as of October 1, 2020 taking over from José Vega.

YTranslations becomes Citrix provider

YTranslations has become an Authorized Citrix Service Provider and Advisor. Citrix is a application that allows users to securely connect to a virtual desktop, server, application, or roaming profile through a terminal (or other computer). In partnership with Podio, YTranslations developed a custom translation management system (CMS) that helps automate organizational processes. Features include automated project management processes (linguist project offer emails, assignments allocation); automated billing and financial processes (invoices, purchase orders); and automated linguist assessments and review performance system.

GTE Localize opens new production office in Indonesia

GTE Localize, a medium-size translation agency specializing in Asian languages, has opened a new office in Indonesia.

SDL wins long-term enterprise agreement with US Navy

SDL has announced a long-term contract with the US Navy to standardize the creation, management, and delivery of all technical publications on the SDL Contenta Publishing Suite. The Navy Enterprise Subscription License (NESL) agreement re-affirms SDL’s role in the US Navy’s ongoing rationalization, reduction, and centralization strategy to lower the total cost of ownership of all technical publications.

First deployed in 2009, the SDL Contenta Publishing Suite is centrally hosted and managed from the US Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Data Center, laying the foundations for the US Navy’s Standardized NAVSEA Integrated Publishing Process (SNIPP). The SNIPP standard — which all NAVSEA organizations are required to use — supports the acquisition, development, maintenance, storage, and distribution of technical manuals, content, data and source files.

Boostlingo launches American Sign Language 24/7 service

From all areas of telehealth care, emergency and public agency and legal aid support services, and everywhere else where language support is vital, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a growing need for improved access to American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters. Video remote interpreting (VRI) solutions have helped improve availability for deaf and hard of hearing individuals that need to connect with professional interpretation services, regardless of their location. This VRI-ASL service has solved many of the geographical challenges that exist today in terms of connecting to qualified ASL support, but it has not always been readily available after-hours and overnight.

Recently, the Boostlingo interpreting platform has begun offering on-demand support for ASL video remote interpreting to include calls that occur outside the hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST (US). Extending to full 24-hour 7 days a week access to ASL interpreters via its video remote interpreting platform, Boostlingo is widening the hours of coverage to provide connectivity for all deaf and hard of hearing individuals to ensure that they can receive appropriate care during a medical emergency at any time, through the use of the Boostlingo HIPAA compliant telehealth platform; feel confident that they can make emergency calls any time in order to communicate with police, fire or EMT services whenever urgent and needed; access an attorney or legal services outside of office hours; and communicate with customer service representatives in industries that have extended business hours, such as hospitality and tourism.

Vermont DMV expands language, translation services for residents

More Vermonters will have increased access to services from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, as the department expands its applications and driver tests to cover nine languages spoken by state residents. Forms for driver’s permits, licenses, and identification cards will be available in Arabic, Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian, Burmese, French, Kirundi, Nepali, Somali, Spanish, and Swahili.

The announcement came on Friday from the Vermont Department of Vehicles, following bills enacted in the past year to provide increased services and support for New Americans.

TAIA, the Slovenian AI Translation Platform, Gets €1.2 million investment

The Slovenia translation platform TAIA, which makes use of deep learning methods, has received a 1.2 million euro investment from Fil Rouge Capital, a European venture capital fund. The funds are to be used to boost TAIA’s presence on foreign markets and a further development of the deep learning algorithms.

According to TAIA INT, the company behind the platform, this is one of the biggest investments in tech companies in Slovenia this year.

“With the investment we will be able to spread faster on western European market, secure a footing in the US and continue developing technological solutions that enable faster and higher quality translation,” said Marko Hozjan of TAIA INT.

Éclair opens new Barcelona studio, upgrades Paris facility

Localization specialist Eclair Versioning & Accessibility (EVA) has opened a new dubbing studio in Barcelona, and has added a state-of-the-art, additional recording room in its Vanves (Paris) facility, as it continues its current expansion plans.

The new room in the Paris facility will serve both theatrical and TV recordings, and becomes the fifth hybrid room enabled for both recording and mixing. The facility also has two rooms dedicated to recording and another two designed as mixing studios.

“Our teams have worked very hard during these last weeks to complete [the new room] Audi 1; the initial feedback received from customers has been excellent. This addition continues the path started with Tecnison’s acquisition and the build of our Berlin studios, listening and responding to our customers’ needs,” said Bouchra Alami, EVA’s French country manager.

Amazon starts road-testing streamlined, multilingual Alexa Auto SDK 3.0

Amazon unveiled Alexa Auto SDK 3.0 on Monday, upgrading and adding new features to its automotive platform. Arriving a little over a year after version 2.0 debuted, the new Alexa Auto SDK appears focused on making it easier to add and run custom versions of the platform to more vehicles.

The new SDK supports multilingual mode, where drivers can speak two different languages, and Alexa will recognize and respond in kind. The language duos depend on geography, with the English everywhere, but Spanish in the US, French in Canada, and Hindi in India as options. The new SDK also supports text messaging via paired smartphones. Alexa can read and respond to the texts and can send messages directly to Alexa devices so that someone could make an announcement on their home Echo smart speaker for those at home to hear.

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Visual Composer makes Citizen Developer a Citoyen du Monde

Personalization and Design

Interesting to see that Facebook has announced the launch of a multilingual composer tool that enables users to post their status updates in different languages so that their friends and followers can see the update in only their preferred language. 

This notion of composers is not new, of course. They’ve been around for a while and often encountered in the e-commerce and SaaS spaceAmazon lets sellers create, customize, and brand their own online stores for example. What is interesting from a user experience perspective is that composers are part of the emergence of a global citizen developer role, a role that now finds itself responsible for tailoring the language in the UI of cloud applications.

Oracle SaaS Release 10 in Dutch. Language changes can be made with a visual composer tool.

Oracle SaaS Release 10 in Dutch. Language changes can be made with a visual composer tool.

Oracle SaaS Release 10 in Dutch. Language changes can be made with composer tools.

The term citizen developer itself presents some difficulty and in many ways is a contradiction in terms. Nobody seriously expects governments, multinational corporations, and bodies of that nature to hand over their implementation or SaaS customization to “citizens” with basic “Hello, World” programming chops.

Instead, think of citizen developers as more about the empowerment of software owners themselves to make their own modifications, be they branding, extensions, localisation, or translation changes. It’s all about enabling customers to take real ownership of their cloud software, without resorting to making source code changes or needing any real software development skills. It’s a low-code or no-code approach, if you like. In other words, citizen development abstracts away the complexity of programming and integration so that user experience can be tailored to your heart’s desire as if by magic. The tool du jour for the job of making your own digital world? Composers. The very word has an element of artistry to it.

Composers are more vital tools than ever now with the advent of SaaS, be they in the hands of the customers, implementation partners, user experience specialists, or design consultancies who don’t usually have, or need, deep-drive software development skills yet know what the desired result should be.

Sandbox-based composers enable Oracle partners, for example, to make SaaS user experience changes quickly and safely for customers, freeing up their own development resources for more critical tasks. Given that 80% of enterprise software applications require customization of some sort, composers are a key part of the partner world’s implementation and maintenance toolkit.

In the multilingual enterprise space, for example, a partner might be asked by a customer to make language changes across their suite of applications quickly and securely, ensuring that the changes are made in just the right places. That’s what’s happened in one case where Oracle PartnerNetwork member and UX champ central Certus Solutions was asked to change the out of the box German translation for performance to another word shown in Oracle’s simplified UI for SaaS. The customer wanted to use the English word instead. Language is a critical part of the UX; like everything else it must be designed.

German Simplified UI customization done using a visual cloud composer

German Simplified UI customization done using a visual cloud composer

If you need the word Performance for your user experience; then so be it! German simplified UI SaaS customization by Certus Solutions (now Accenture) using a visual composer tool.

Other examples might be the desire to change all those U.S. English spellings to the U.K. variant; or to make changes in language that reflect how customers actually structure and run their business. For example, employee might be changed to partner. The label My Team is often changed to My Department, a language change that doesn’t even require a composer right away but can be done at the personalization level with just a click and overtype if you have the right security settings! Some previous translations for the word worker have proven problematic in Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, and French, requiring modification for certain customers (let’s not go there). There are lots of examples where composers could be used to change the language of an application or service.

Autumn? Fall? Who cares! Change the language in the SaaS simplified UI easily with a sandbox-safe visual composer.Autumn? Fall? Who cares! Change the language in the SaaS simplified UI easily with a sandbox-safe visual composer.

What is of interest is that very few of these composer tools use localization industry standard procedures or formats and yet seem the better for it. For example, although language changes are made directly into resource bundles or XLIFF files, they are done so at run-time, eliminating context problems. Composer tools rarely have any complex terminology look-up capability, offer TBX support, have language QA features other than spell checkers, and nor do they use translation memory or support TMX. Why not? Well, these things aren’t needed by customers or partners right now and probably would just complicate things.

Perhaps as composers evolve this kind of “traditional translation” functionality might appear. But only if the customers and partners demand it.

Allowing business users to make a language change themselves is more cost-effective, faster, and more secure solution than doing a retranslation or taking a UX hit by deciding to leave the language as is. The result is a better customer experience, faster.

Will translators find themselves out of a job as a result?


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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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