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Friday Roundup | Aug 29, 2020

Friday Roundup, Language Industry News and Events

News you may have missed from the last week

Akorbi Ranked as Largest Woman-Owned LSP in the US

Akorbi, a US-based group of companies specializing in language, technology, and global workforce solutions, has earned rankings that make the company the largest privately owned, woman-owned language service provider (LSP) in the United States. The company is ranked #29 and #35 in the world by CSA Research and Nimdzi Insights, respectively. Akorbi has ranked #11 on CSA Research’s North American list. As a top-ranked member of the multibillion-dollar global language services industry, Akorbi is one of only a few women-owned LSPs operating successfully in the global market.

Polyglotte releases new free app

Polyglotte Inc. has released a new free app for iPad, which first launched in 2016. The Polyglotte app involves a patented multilingual keyboard that makes it easy for users to type in several languages with the same keyboard layout. The app got an update and a makeover just in time for the pandemic — bored children can type upside-down. Others can enjoy multilingual typing, legal, math and finance symbols. An earlier version, polyKB One, supported the iPhone as well, but has been discontinued. Supporting the iPhone in the future will require some bug fixes and a UX redesign. The Polyglotte app for iPad works exactly like Polyglotte ES, and serves as a great demo for those interested in clacking away on multilingual mechanical keyboards.

Straker publishes annual meeting results

The annual meeting results outline resolutions from the Straker meeting, including the election of Director Amanda Cribb and the re-election of Director Paul Wilson, along with several amendments to company terms and an alteration of the company constitution.

Appen releases AI Readiness Assessment tool

Designed to level-set companies pursuing AI, Appen’s assessment aims to provide practical guidance on how to effectively leverage AI. The announcement follows the 2020 State of AI and Machine Learning report, in which 82% of respondents reported utilizing AI in their business.

Keywords Studios PLC announces the acquisition of Maverick Media Limited

Keywords Studios, the international technical and creative services provider to the global video games industry, announced the acquisition of Maverick, a video games creative marketing agency, for £3.6m. The acquisition progresses the group’s goal to become the premier technical and creative services platform for the global video games industry.

Microsoft Translator adds two Kurdish dialects for text translation

Northern and Central Kurdish dialects will now be available on the Microsoft Translator app, Office, and Translator for Bing. Users can also use Azure Cognitive Services Speech to add Northern and Central Kurdish to more than 70 other languages. Northern Kurdish, also known as Kurmanji, is spoken in Turkey, Syria, northern Iraq, and northwest and northeast Iran by 15-17 million Kurds. Central Kurdish, known as Sorani, is spoken in Iraqi Kurdistan and western Iran by 9-12 million Kurds. The two languages make up about 75% of all Kurdish speakers.

Google Translate now lets users save transcripts of real-time speech transcriptions

The Google Translate App acquired a new feature in March that allowed users to transcribe and translate speech in near real-time. Google is now rolling out an update to the feature that will allow users to save transcriptions for later reference. Google Translate’s transcription feature currently supports nine languages: English, French, German, Hindi, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai, and Italian.

China sees 210,000 new AI-related enterprises

Growing by over 45% this year, the number of AI-related enterprises has skyrocketed as entrepreneurs flock to the industry, according to Xinhua News Agency. Nearly 950,000 companies in China have developed in the areas of AI, data processing, cloud computing, voice and image recognition, and natural language processing.

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

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Translation App Now Features Auto Mode

Translation Technology

Translation app companies are continually developing new features that will better facilitate experiences abroad for users. Microsoft Translator’s Auto mode is the latest addition to its UX design.

two man chatting white sitting on brown wooden chairFor travelers and expatriates planning their post-COVID journeys abroad, using the right translation app will play a major role in communicating for directions, housing arrangements, contracts, conversations with new friends, and just about anything involving language.

Choosing which translation app will work best for communicating is a very personal choice that depends on several variables and necessities. Among considerations like number of languages, ability to translate both audio and text, and user interface, user expedience often takes precedence. After all, conversations rarely seem worth the effort when each party needs to spend time waiting for the app to process speech or literature.

With convenience one of the keys to successful translation apps, many companies are seeking the best ways to create and update their translation app with the new features and machine translation software to aid in the process. Some translation apps like Google Translate have special features that allow users to snap pictures of text that the app will then translate.

Microsoft Translator also recently announced a new functionality called Auto mode that will remove a step in the translation process. The app’s designers recognized that for many relying on their phones to translate conversations, the phone can create as many problems as it solves.

For example, users often must speak into a translation app, tap translate, and await the results. The process leaves users obsessing over the functionality of the app, rather than keeping the focus on the conversation itself.

The new Auto mode feature will allow users to choose the languages and tap the microphone only once. Auto mode will then register each party’s speech, and turn green to signal it is ready for a response. Removing the need to tap translate with each new statement, the app may provide conversational users a more convenient way to make friends or ask for directions while traveling abroad.

While the update is currently available only for iOS users, Microsoft is working on a version that will be compatible for Android users as well.

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

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Programming and Programmer Languages: Beyond "Hello World"?

Language in Business, Language in the News

Interesting discussion (of old) on the StackExchange blog podcast about coding in other natural languages.

Other than English, that is.

So,should programming languages should be localized or not? The podcast mentions the case of Microsoft Excel’s Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) language, which was localized from US English (the source/target paradigm framing the discussion is revealing in itself). The practice was not continued. I should disclose I was a Microsoft employee at the time. I should also disclose that I have no clue as to why the decision was made and then reversed. Perhaps someone can enlighten us? It is not the only language that Microsoft localized by the way. WordBasic, the Word for Windows forerunner to VBA was also localized into a number of major languages. Pretty much all trace of these localization initiatives appear to have been scrubbed from memory and Internet alike.

german_wordbasic

German localization of Microsoft WordBasic: Whatever were they thinking? (Source)

Given the expense, effort and care we see in localizing UIs and documentation, I do wonder though why some programming or scripting language functions and names are not localized, particularly the visual ones used in language-sensitive countries, regions or markets, or by particular types of end users of software.

A matter of user experience I expect, though from a technical and business perspective it is easy to see how English language-based programming facilitates open source, open standards and global development efforts. What a pain it would be to have to learn say, French as well as the Java language!

Wikipedia has a list of Non-English-based programming languages, by the way.

As for the thought that all programmers need to speak English (and American English at that), or at least English to some level, there is a lot of energy from within the development community itself on the subject (all of it in favor of English, no surprise). Check out this somewhat unappealing titled Ugly American Programmer piece on the Coding Horror blog for a start.

Some think developers themselves are part of the problem, perpetrating a myth about not speaking English well. Others say it’s essential for developers have functional English to be a “hacker”, others say English is mandatory because programming languages aren’t localized, and others posit that a lack of English betrays a lack of passion and interest in technology generally. Some have even turned developers grappling with English into an whole comedy act on Twitter (@devops_borat).

Read into it. Make up your own mind. But consider this: English is clearly the lingua franca of programming. But what about all that information around the language itself: The documentation, the community forums, the support organizations, the development conferences, and the customers for developed applications? And, does not speaking or reading English play so well with the stakeholders and ecosystem that surrounds software development?

How often have we, as localization professionals, heard the claim that “Oh, we’re not localizing that UI/demo/developmentguide because developers/administrators/technicians all speak English anyway”?

But, do we even have the research to back up the argument either way?

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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.

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