Wednesday, 12 July 2017

39 Facts About Multilingualism in the European Union

Source: GraphicStock
Within the European Union there are many languages spoken. 

There are 23 officially recognised languages , more than 60 indigenous regional and minority languages, and many non-indigenous languages spoken by migrant communities. 

The EU, although it has limited influence because educational and language policies are the responsibility of individual Member States, is committed to safeguarding this linguistic diversity and promoting knowledge of languages, for reasons of cultural identity and social integration and cohesion, and because multilingual citizens are better placed to take advantage of the economic, educational and professional opportunities created by an integrated Europe.

A mobile workforce is key to the competitiveness of the EU economy.

§ In accordance with the EU population, the most widely spoken mother tongue is German (16%), followed by Italian and English (13% each), French (12%), then Spanish and Polish (8% each).

§ For the majority of Europeans their mother tongue is one of the official languages of the country in which they reside.

§ Just over half of Europeans (54%) are able to hold a conversation in at least one additional language, a quarter (25%) are able to speak at least two additional languages and one in ten (10%) are conversant in at least three.

§ Almost all respondents in Luxembourg (98%), Latvia (95%), the Netherlands (94%), Malta (93%), Slovenia and Lithuania (92% each), and Sweden (91%) say that they are able to speak at least one language in addition to their mother tongue.

§ Countries showing the most notable increases in the proportion of respondents saying that they are able to speak at least one foreign language well enough to hold a conversation, compared to data from the previous edition of the Eurobarometer survey, are Austria (+16 percentage points to 78%), Finland (+6 points to 75%), and Ireland (+6 points to 40%).

§ In contrast the proportion able to speak at least one foreign language has decreased notably in Slovakia (-17 percentage points to 80%), the Czech Republic (-12 points to 49%), Bulgaria (-11 points to 48%), Poland (-7 points to 50%), and Hungary (-7 points to 35%). In these countries there has been a downward shift since 2005 in the proportions able to speak foreign languages such as Russian and German.
Source: GraphicStock

§ Few countries show a noticeable increase in the proportion of respondents able to speak at least two foreign languages, with the most marked being in Italy (+6 percentage points to 22%) and Ireland (+5 points to 18%). However nine Member States show a significant drop of more than 5 percentage points: Belgium (-16 percentage points to 50%), Hungary (-14 points to 13%), Bulgaria (-12 points to 19%), Poland (-10 points to 22%), Portugal (-10 points to 13%), Malta (-9 points to 59%), Luxembourg (-8 points to 84%), Denmark (-8 points to 58%), and Estonia (-6 points to 52%).

§ Countries where respondents are least likely to be able to speak any foreign language are Hungary (65%), Italy (62%), the UK and Portugal (61% in each), and Ireland (60%).

§ The five most widely spoken foreign languages remain English (38%), French (12%), German (11%), Spanish (7%) and Russian (5%).

§ At a national level English is the most widely spoken foreign language in 19 of the 25 Member States where it is not an official language (i.e. excluding the UK and Ireland).

§ The majority of Europeans who speak English, German, Spanish and Russian as a foreign language believe that they have better than basic skills. Ratings of skill level are broadly similar to those seen in the 2005 survey.

§ Just over two fifths (44%) of Europeans say that they are able to understand at least one foreign language well enough to be able to follow the news on radio or television. English is the most widely understood, with a quarter (25%) of Europeans able to follow radio or television news in the language. French and German are mentioned by 7% of respondents each, while Spanish (5%), Russian (3%) and Italian (2%).
Source: GraphicStock

§ Europeans are just as likely to be able to read a newspaper or magazine article in a foreign language with just over two-fifths (44%) of Europeans saying they can. Again English is the most widespread foreign language, with a similar proportion of Europeans (25%) able to read a newspaper or magazine article in the language. French is mentioned by 7% and German by 6% of Europeans. Spanish comes next, with 4% of answers, followed by Russian and Italian (2%).

§ Europeans are slightly less likely to say that they understand any foreign language well enough to be able to use it to communicate online (e.g. using email, Twitter, Facebook etc.), with two fifths (39%) saying that they can use at least one foreign language in this way. Again, the most widely cited language is English, with a similar proportion of Europeans (26%) able to communicate online in the language. French and German are mentioned by 5% of Europeans each, followed by Spanish (3%) and Russian and Italian (1%).

§ There is a clear relationship between the order in which a language is mentioned (i.e. perceived fluency) and the frequency with which that language is used. A quarter (24%) of respondents use their first foreign language every day or almost every day, a similar proportion (23%) use it often and the remainder (50%) use it on an occasional basis. Around one in ten respondents use their second language every day or nearly every day (8%), with respondents much more likely to use it on an occasional basis only (65%). Similarly, only 6% of respondents who speak a third foreign language use it on an ‘everyday’ basis, around one in eight (13%) use it often but not daily, and around seven in ten (69%) use it occasionally.

§ Europeans say they regularly use foreign languages when watching films/television or listening to the radio (37%), using the internet (36%) and communicating with friends (35%). 27% of respondents report using foreign languages regularly for conversations at work and 50% during holidays abroad.

§ The most notable changes since 2005 are an increase in the proportion of Europeans who regularly use foreign languages on the internet (+10 percentage points) and when watching films/television or listening to the radio (+8 points). The proportion of  Europeans who do not use a foreign language regularly in any situation has fallen from 13% in 2005 to 9% in 2012.
Source: GraphicStock

§ The majority of Europeans do not describe themselves as active learners of languages. Around a quarter (23%) of Europeans have never learnt a language, while just over two-fifths (44%) have not learnt a language recently and do not intend to start.

§ Only a minority (14%) have continued learning a language in the last two years; less than one in ten (7%) have started learning a new language in the last two years; and a similar proportion (8%) have not learnt a language recently, but intend to start in the coming year.

§ Europeans are most likely to identify working in another country as a key advantage of learning a new language, with three-fifths of Europeans (61%) holding this view. Just over half of Europeans (53%) perceive as such using the language at work (including travelling abroad). A slightly smaller proportion (46%) evoke here ability to studying abroad and possibility of using it on holidays abroad (47%).

§ 88% of Europeans think that knowing languages other than their mother tongue is very useful.

§ Two thirds of Europeans (67%) consider English as one of the two most useful languages for themselves.

§ Languages perceived as the most useful that come up right after are the following: German (17%), French (16%), Spanish (14%) and Chinese (6%).

§ There has been a decrease in the proportion thinking that French is important (-9 percentage points), and in those thinking German is an important language for personal development (-5 points). Europeans are more likely now than they were in 2005 to think that Chinese is an important language (+ 4 points).

§ 98% of Europeans consider mastering other foreign languages as useful for the future of their children.  

§ Among languages perceived as such, French and German are mentioned by 20% of Europeans each, Spanish by 16% and Chinese by 14%. Around four in five Europeans (79%) consider English as one of the most useful languages for the future of the children.

§ There has been a decrease (-13 percentage points) since 2005 in the proportion of Europeans thinking that French is important for children to learn for their future and a (-8 points) in the proportion thinking German important for children to learn.

§ Whilst the perception that Chinese is a useful language for personal development is slightly more widespread now than in 2005 (+4 percentage points), the perception of its value as an important language for children to learn is significantly more widespread than in 2005 (+12 points).

§ Europeans are most likely to say that free lessons would make them significantly more likely to learn or improve skills in a language, mentioned by around three in ten (29%). Around a fifth of Europeans say they would be significantly more likely to learn or improve language skills if they were paid to learn (19%), if they were able to learn it in a country in which it is spoken (18%), and if it improved career prospects (18%).

§ The most widely mentioned barrier to learning another language is lack of motivation, with a third (34%) of Europeans saying this discourages them. Around a quarter of Europeans cite lack of time to study properly (28%) and that it is too expensive (25%). A fifth (19%) of Europeans say that not being good at languages discourages them.
Source: GraphicStock

§ The most widespread method used to learn a foreign language is through lessons at school. Just over two thirds of Europeans (68%) have learnt a foreign language in this way. Much smaller proportions of Europeans have learnt a foreign language by talking informally to a native speaker (16%), with a teacher outside school in group language lessons (15%), and by going on frequent or long trips to the country in which the language is spoken (15%). Europeans are most likely to think that school language lessons are the most effective way they have learnt a foreign language.

§ There is a broad consensus among Europeans that everyone in the EU should be able to speak at least one foreign language, with more than four in five (84%) agreeing with this view.
§ Europeans, for the most part, support the EU’s vision that EU citizens should be able to speak at least two foreign languages; more than seven in ten (72%) agree that people in the EU should be able to speak more than one language in addition to their mother tongue.

§ The majority of Europeans (81%) agree that all languages spoken within the EU should be treated equally. Even if around seven in ten (69%) think that Europeans should be able to speak a common language this view does not extend to believing that any one language should have priority over others.

§ Slightly more than half of respondents (53%) agree that EU institutions should adopt a single language when communicating with citizens, whilst more than two in five disapprove of this idea.

§ More than three-quarters (77%) of respondents think that improving language skills should be a policy priority.

§ More than two in five respondents (44%) agree that that they prefer subtitles to dubbing when watching foreign films or TV programmes, but a slightly larger proportion (52%) disagree that they prefer subtitles.
Source GraphicStock

§ Europeans recognise that translation has an important role to play in a wide range of areas across society, most notably in education and learning (76%) and in health and safety (71%). European perceive translation as important while looking for a job (68%), getting news about events in the rest of the world (67%), participating in or getting information about EU activities (60%), accessing public services (59%) or enjoying leisure activities such as TV, films and reading (57%).

§ Just over two in five Europeans (43%) say that translation has an important role to play in their everyday lives, and just under one in six (16%) consider this role to be very important. Three in ten Europeans (30%) say that translation plays no role at all in their everyday lives.

Source: SPECIAL EUROBAROMETER 386 “Europeans and their Languages” 

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Translators Under Pressure

Johnson/The Economist: Why translators have the blues
A profession under pressure

Credit: GraphicStock
Translation can be lonely work, which may well be why most translators choose the career out of interest, not because they crave attention. Until recently, a decent translator could expect a steady, tidy living, too. But the industry is undergoing a wrenching change that will make life hard for the timid.

Most translators are freelancers, and with the rise of the internet a good translator could live in Kentucky and work for Swiss banks. But going online has resulted in fierce global competition that has put enormous downward pressure on prices. Translators can either hustle hard for more or better-paid work—which means spending less time translating—or choose an agency that fights for the work for them, but which also takes a cut.

The alternative to schmoozing oneself or working with an agency is to market one’s skills in online marketplaces. But these display the most relentless price pressure of all: fees as low as $13-15 per 1,000 words translated are not unknown. Traditionally, something more like $50 has been the low end, with literary translation at around $120, and high-end work at $250. Buyers who know little about foreign languages and quality will, in online markets, shop almost purely on price.

To these pressures comes another: the rise in higher-quality machine translation. Just a year ago, machine translation still produced reliably rocky results: both inaccurate as to content, and often unreadable too. Both have improved dramatically with translation engines based on so-called deep neural networks. Those who offer rock-bottom prices for translation are almost certainly using translation software, and then giving it a quick edit for accuracy and readability. 

By and large, the big translation agencies are excited about technology and the possibilities of scale it offers them. What worries the translators themselves, though, is that the future may lie in nothing more intellectually pleasing than this kind of clean-up.
Like all incumbents, those affected are not happy. To avoid being “the coffee-bean pickers of the future”, one veteran counsels improving specialist knowledge and writing skills to get high-end work. But not all can do that. Translators in the bulk and middle markets will inevitably be doing more editing, or will be squeezed out.

What will the rest be doing? For one, literary translation is under no threat. Sales of translated fiction rose by more than 600% in Britain between 2001 and 2015, and have been growing strongly in America too, with big authors like Elena Ferrante conditioning readers in those countries to look beyond their borders for good books. Nobody thinks a novel can be translated by a machine. In Roy Jacobsen’s “Unseen”, which is on the shortlist for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize (MBIP), the original dialectal island Norwegian has been deftly rendered by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw into a kind of English that carries the same flavour: “Hvur bitty it is!” (“How small it is!”). The MBIP recognises that translation is, in effect, a kind of writing by sharing the prize money equally between author and translators.
Most work is in commercial translation, but that is a kind of writing too. Executives sometimes reject a translation of a speech or a letter because it doesn’t look enough like their original. But a good translator needs to rethink a text, rewording important pieces, , and so on. Translation software can be accurate, but it translates sentence-by-sentence. Since languages have different rhythms and different expectations for what counts as a good sentence, that approach can result in a mess. So it is often best simply to rewrite after thinking about the intended meaning.

Source: The Economist. Read the full article here

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Translation Services: Lower Prices with Higher Service Quality

Anna Pelēkzirne, Marketing Director of Baltic Media. 
The international language and translation service company Baltic Media has updated its quality management system from ISO 9001:2008 to ISO 9001:2015. The professional translation agency Baltic Media has been ISO certified since 2002.

ISO 9001:2015 specifies requirements for a quality management system when an organization:
a) needs to demonstrate its ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements, and
b) aims to enhance customer satisfaction through the effective application of the system, including processes for improvement of the system and the assurance of conformity to customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.
All the requirements of ISO 9001:2015 are generic and are intended to be applicable to any organization, regardless of its type or size, or the products and services it provides.
It is a specific guarantee for quality ensuring that effective quality assurance procedures, working environment, division of responsibility and quality audits are provided at all levels of the company.

The quality management system of Baltic Media ensures that the main focus within the company is the satisfaction of the Client’s needs, the respect for the Client’s requirements and continuous improvement of the quality management system. Baltic Media also bears responsibility for the safety and confidentiality of the Client’s data.
Our goal is to maintain the high level of our global language service quality, quick turnaround and the best price on the market.

The competitive translationand localization service price from and into the largest languages is achieved thanks to the low production costs due to our geographical location. Baltic Media is a professional language service agency located in Northern Europe (Stockholm and Riga) and works globally from its international office in Riga. 

“We have been striving to maintain and raise the level of service for more than 25 years since Baltic Media entered the language service industry,” says Anna Pelēkzirne, Marketing Director of Baltic Media. 

High quality, an outstanding client service and fast delivery provided by professional human translators have always been Baltic Media’s cornerstones and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

If You Want to Expand Into New Markets: Localization Basics

Localization and translation for global business Picture: GraphicStock 

So you want to expand into new markets. Or maybe you want to know what translation mistakes your company should avoid. Possibly, you’re just curious what localization is. Great! You’ve come to the right place. Here are four important things to keep in mind.

1. The customer is always right
You should know what your different end-users need, as Richard Sikes explains in an article about international expansion. Knowing what customers in various locales want, and then delivering it to them in a culturally-acceptable, error-free way, is the underlying focus of localization. You can read the full article, as well as several others on localization basics, in this excerpt from MultiLingual.

2. Localization management can be tricky
If you think you can hand off your international expansion or translation to Jan in IT or José in marketing, you might be in for a rude awakening. Translation, vendor management, localization project management — these are all full-time jobs that you need to outsource to qualified individuals or hire in-house. You can study up on it in further detail in this focus.

3. Translation itself is tricky
Especially when you factor in choosing a translation vendor and understanding translation technology. And by “translation technology,” we don’t necessarily mean machine translation, which you’re probably already familiar with thanks to Google Translate. Being a good translator requires a high level of expertise, especially in this day and age. Read more here.

4. In the localization industry, you can always learn more
Consider how complex each language is. Consider how complex the social cues, habits and customs of each country are. Multiply that by every language and every culture in the world, and then multiply that by the expanding set of technology we use on a daily basis. This industry is exciting because there’s always something new to learn or explore, whether that’s how to localize apps, how to localize voice recordings, how to translate for the medical devices of the future or a host of other considerations.

Monday, 3 April 2017

5 Things Global Companies Should Know About Language Translation Service Providers

Collage: Baltic Media Translations Services

When your company hires a translation service, your goal is to get an accurate translation of a document, interview, website copy, or other content in a timely manner and for an affordable price. But what are you really getting for your money?
Here are five things your global company may not have known about language translation service providers:
Many Translation Services Have Very Few Full-Time Translators
Did you know that many translation service providers use a stable of freelance translators who perform translation services for them on a per job basis? That means that your translation assignment may actually be performed by somebody on the other side of the world.
This is actually quite common, especially for translations of obscure languages. For example, if you need a document translated from English into German or French – or vice versa – this is something that can be done quite easily as these are popular language spoken by billions of people.
But if you need a website translated from English into Swahili or an obscure rural dialect of Mongolian, there are going to be far fewer translators who have the skills and experience needed to provide an accurate translation.
You Probably Can Do Some Translation Assignments In-House
One mistake many global companies make is ignoring the talents of their existing employees. In today’s business environment, workers come from a variety of ethnic and regional backgrounds. So there probably already are many people in your payroll rolls who speak other languages.
When you have a translation job that requires the talents of somebody who can speak one of the most common world languages, there may be somebody already on your staff who can do it for you at no additional cost. This can save you big money on translation services and at the same time make your employees feel better about the contributions they are making to the success of your business.
It’s always a good idea to ask applicants if they speak a foreign language when they apply to work at your company. This information can then be stored in a database that can be accessed whenever you need translation services in the specific language they fluently speak.
Their Goal is to Charge You as Much as Possible
Translation services companies are a for-profit business. As such, like any business their goal is to maximize profits. There are two ways to do this: Reduce costs and increase revenues. This is Business School 101: The higher the revenues and the lower the costs, the bigger the profits will be.
So the price you are quoted by a translation service for an individual job or for ongoing services is always going to be the most they think you will reasonably be willing to pay. But that doesn’t mean that you have to pay that price.
Negotiating a contract with a translation service is very common, even expected. If you accept the first price that they offer, watch out. They probably are going to know they have a live one on the line and continue to overcharge you for their services for as long as they can.
It’s in your company’s best interest to pay the lowest possible price while getting the most possible services you can for your money. So don’t be afraid to make a counter-offer that is far lower than the original quoted price.
There are Thousands of Translation Services
From a negotiation perspective, you have the advantage of being able to take your business to one of the other thousands of translation services there are around the world and online. So when a translation service offers you a relatively high price quote for your project, you can confidently come back with a counter-offer that is much lower.
That gives you an economic advantage in negotiating a deal with a translation service – whether it’s for a single job or for ongoing work. You can always walk away from the table because you already know that there are thousands of other companies that will do the same job for you at a substantially lower price. You can then use this advantage as a negotiating tool to get the lowest price possible.
Get the Services You Need
Not all translation service providers are created equal. Some are better than others. Many outsource their translation services while others handle translation in the most popular languages in-house.
Your goal is to get the translation services you need at the lowest possible price. So you need to find a translation service provider that specializes in the type of services you need most: Whether it’s translating short documents or long, translating live speech or written, or whatever your requirements are.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Localize Any Product You'd Like To Sell Globally

To compete in a global marketplace, your products must be useful and marketable to a global customer base. Digital products such as software are particularly vulnerable to obsolescence if they're not delivered in the language of the end user, and in a format that respects the end user's culture and laws. 
Localization is the process of translating locale-sensitive features of a product and converting them for use in other countries. Although software is the product most commonly associated with localization, you can -- and often must -- localize any product you'd like to sell globally.
1. Determine the legal requirements for use of the native language with products in the locale where you intend to localize. For example, the locale might require that all software interfaces be in the native language, or that shelf labels or packaging be translated. Confirm which dialect is required in locales where two or more dialects are common.
2. Assess the scope of the project. Analyze all aspects of the product you intend to localize. Include noncode portions of software with which users interact, keyboard characters and symbols, documentation, packaging and labels. Review support channels, including websites consumers in the locale might use to learn about your product or seek support in its use. Compile a master list of each element that needs to be localized.
3. Plan the localization project. Assign accountability for each element. Establish a schedule that includes a timeline for milestones. Prepare and distribute a contact list of team members.
4. Document relevant information, such as software platforms, version numbers and previous translations, if they exist, that team members are likely to refer to frequently.
5. Create a glossary with nomenclature that standardizes important or confusing terms. Include technical terms, abbreviations, trademarks, slogans and other verbiage that needs to be part of a shared vocabulary. Work with the translator and area experts to determine whether cultural sensitivities require changes to product names or terminology.
6. Assess graphics in the user interface and website as well as on packaging, signage and product documentation. Ensure that they’re inoffensive to users in the locale and that they accurately represent those users.
7. Make a list, with screen shots as well as file descriptions, dates and sizes, of all graphic user interface files. Notate the list to show which files will be translated and which files will not be translated.
8. Specify preferences regarding transmission of localized files.Consider the directory structure, file transfer methods and file-naming conventions. Prepare similar delivery instructions for other projects elements, such as package graphics.
9. Execute the translations.
10. Conduct engineering-related testing of compiled software, websites and other digital products for localization and linguistic accuracy. Perform quality assurance on nondigital project elements.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Georgian Language: Protecting an Ancient Alphabet in a Digital Age

February 10, 2017 - 3:37pm, by Monica Ellena 

Dato Dolidze’s fingers move slowly on the old handset as he writes a text message to his son.
“My phone only has the Latin alphabet, so every time I text I need to translate the Georgian letters into the Latin. It’s a pain,” says the 50-something orange vendor at a Tbilisi vegetable market.
While newer smartphones enable the use of the Georgian alphabet, many in Georgia – where the average wage is $333 a month – are, like Dolidze, stuck with cheaper, older phones.
Georgia’s unique alphabet is one of the unintended casualties of such digital compromises.
 The curvy Georgian alphabet has seduced scholars and calligraphers for centuries, most recently the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Last December, UNESCO included the Georgian alphabet in the organization’s register of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. 
Georgian in fact features three scripts – the mkhedruli, the one commonly used today, and the ancient asomtavruli and nushkhuri, used mainly in religious scripts, and in most ancient documents. The three scripts, UNESCO wrote in its citation, “coexist thanks to their different functions, reflecting an aspect of Georgia’s diverse cultural identity.”
The Georgian alphabet is hardly in imminent danger. But it is a linguistic underdog, used only for Georgian and related languages in Georgia like Mingrelian and Svan, spoken by about 3.7 million people, or 0.06 percent of the world population. And with minor languages around the world dying at the rate of 
one every 14 days, some in Georgia are trying to make sure their language or alphabet is preserved for the long haul.
“Minor languages are particularly vulnerable today thus need protection,” says Nino Doborjginidze, who heads the Institute of Linguistic Studies at Tbilisi’s Ilia Chavchavadze State University. “A lack of technology development for such languages, including Georgian, in turn, impedes international dissemination of valuable Georgian-language data surviving in different media, oral, manuscript and printed.”

Of the 7,100 languages currently in use worldwide, only 500 are used online while only 348 are supported by Google, the world’s leading search engine, according to a UNESCO report published in 2015. And even many of those languages that do make it on the Internet have limitations: Georgian, for example, is represented by only a single font on Microsoft Word.
As a result of Georgia’s limited online reach, Latin script is often used instead. Retail companies as well as service providers, for example, tend to use the Latin alphabet in their promotional texts. “25% p’asdaklebas akhal ch’amosvlis” instead of “25% ფასდაკლებას ახალ ჩამოსვლის” (25% off on new arrivals).

Private initiatives have emerged to bolster Georgia’s web presence. In 2015, industrial designer Zviad Tsikolia teamed up with Georgia’s largest lender, TBC Bank, and launched the contest #WriteinGeorgian, calling on volunteers’ creativity to create new styles for the alphabetic characters. Georgians responded enthusiastically, with 160 new fonts submitted in five weeks.
“Our language and our alphabet is our heritage; it is a treasure that needs to be not only protected but also kept alive and updated,” explains Tsikolia, 45, a staunch advocate of using the Georgian script in day-to-day digital communication. “The world is becoming increasingly digital, and our characters must be able to evolve and adapt to a reality that is no longer just on paper.”
By March, all the fonts will be available on the contest’s 
website for open-source download, Tsikolia said. “The future is glocal, global citizens who value national traditions,” notes Tsikolia. “Switching to the Georgian keyboard takes two seconds, but many people cannot be bothered even to do that,” Tsikolia says.
Neighboring Armenia faces similar challenges, as it also has a unique language with an alphabet used solely for Armenian.
“Transliteration is common, especially among the vast diaspora, but not only,” explains Gegham Vardanyan, editor-in-chief of the media discussion platform “It is not only the Latin script, Armenians in Russia will communicate in Armenian using the Cyrillic script. The result is just bizarre, often you just cannot understand it.”
As in Georgia, enthusiasts have taken the initiative. Zohrab Yeganyan, press officer at Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, grew tired of seeing Armenian ill-treated on the web and vented on his Facebook page. “Let’s make February 7 the day to write Armenian on the Internet,” he wrote in a 2012 post. The response was overwhelming, both in Armenia and among the diaspora.
“There were people who only spoke Armenian and decided to learn how to write in Armenian, starting with posts on social networks,” Yeganyan told EurasiaNet from Yerevan. Yeganyan said that while the Armenian government has been relatively inactive in supporting the alphabet, there are signs that the private sphere is increasingly embracing it. “Recently one mobile company started sending texts to its customers in the Armenian script, switching from the Latin alphabet,” he said.
The popular push has supported the national scripts to become fashionable again, Yeganyan argues, as people have grown to realize that their particular alphabets are uniquely suited to represent the sounds of their language.
“Transliteration is no longer trendy,” says Yeganyan. Nowadays, he says, “it is often used to ridicule something or someone.”


Monday, 13 February 2017

The State of Content Globalization 2017

The internet has closed the distance between countries around the world, democratizing access to content from wherever you are, whenever you need it. Increasingly, companies are operating in global markets—whether they intended to or not. 

Craig Bloem is the founder and CEO of LogoMix. “As a company that does 50% of our business internationally, personalization for our non-English-speaking markets is a key focus of our business,” says Bloem. “We’ve found that the best way to do so is to personalize our website for our 10 largest languages and to follow up with our 20 million users with personalized, professionally translated emails.”

According to Common Sense Advisory (CSA), a market research firm focused on global markets, 14 languages account for 90% of digital opportunity. CSA has analyzed the state and size of the language industry every year since 2005. It has identified 21 companies that have qualified to be on its list of the 10 largest language service providers (LSPs). It’s a list that has seen significant changes, particularly during the past year.

The Year in Review
In the translation and globalization world, 2016 was a year of mergers and acquisitions. “There have been dozens of them this year,” says Michael Stevens, the international growth manager for Moravia. “It seems like the industry is going to continue in that vein, with the top companies receiving more funding from outside private equity firms,” he says. “The gap between the large companies in the industry and the smallest companies is growing even larger.” As examples, he cites LanguageLine Solutions, welocalize, and Smartling, adding, “Pactera actually changed hands twice this last year.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Stevens says, 2016 saw the emergence of a number of startups. The exploration of higher-level linguistics is being combined with engineering, he says. “So you have schools like MIT and Carnegie Mellon that are becoming hotbeds for innovation within the industry.” Duolingo, he notes, is one of the most popular of these startups. “They’re primarily a language learning company, but they’ve been doing localization through a crowdsourcing model,” says Stevens. In 2013, the company announced agreements to translate articles for CNN and BuzzFeed’s international sites.
Mike Colombo is CMO at Cloudwords. Over the past year, he says, there has been a growing sense of nationalism in the U.S. and abroad. “Major events like Brexit, the refugee crisis, and an unprecedented U.S. election highlight a deep sense of loyalty people all over the world feel toward their home countries.” This heightened nationalism, he says, is prompting global companies to ensure they are paying close attention to how they represent their brand on local and regional levels.

“In many cases, long-standing brands are softening their stance on global consistency across products and messaging and going to great lengths to more closely align with changing local desires,” he says.

“We are at an intersection of globalization (having economic ties with several regions), localization (making content relevant for local cultures/regions), and an added third dimension, personalization (providing customer experiences based on what we know about them),” says Colombo. He points to Pokémon GO as a “great example of intentional localization for regional audiences from the onset.” Nintendo, he notes, “went through great effort to localize the app, renaming nearly every Pokémon character to give it a unique name in the region’s preferred language, while retaining the character’s unique characteristic in its new, localized name.”

Clint Poole, SVP and CMO for Lionbridge, says that companies such as his have been making heavy investments in technology to help automate what has traditionally been a very manual process. For example, he points to a recent announcement from Google about its neural machine translation software powered by artificial intelligence (AI). The system basically trains itself, reducing translation errors by up to 87%.

On the flip side, he says, there is also a renewed focus on the role of people in the translation mix, with some companies moving to a “localization framework strategy”—a hub-and-spoke model in which companies build a technology infrastructure that manages the deployment of content, but provides the opportunity for in-market teams to own execution and content creation. This approach, he says, reduces the burden on headquarter marketing teams, but requires an investment in the right technology. “It’s always on-brand, but they’re writing it in their native language, and it’s more relevant and more timely. The technological advancements that help corporate-pushed content be translated faster and cheaper, and the ceding of control over content creation to in-market teams, have helped marketing move the needle.”

A Look Ahead
As we move into 2017, there are two things that are simultaneously impacting the future of translation services, says Poole:  “a change in strategy when it comes to global content and the advancement of technology.” As communication channels proliferate both for text and voice, marketers are creating an increasing amount of content that must be translated for an increasing number of markets that they’re moving into, all in a competitive environment with increasing focus on the customer—or user—experience. 

“In 2017, demand for personalization will go mainstream,” says Colombo. “The digitization of products, those consumed online and those connected through the Internet of Things, gives marketers significant understanding of their customers’ product usage, location, and intent. Add in the emergence of scalable localization technologies, and B2B marketers now have the ability to address new levels of personalization.”

Voice translation will also become increasingly prevalent, predicts Stevens, through the application of deep learning. He points to examples from the gaming world in which augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are increasingly being used, and developers are beginning to favor voice instruction over text. Google’s work in the area of neural machine translation will drive this, he says. Facebook has also entered the fray after making an announcement in June that statistical machine translation had reached the end of its useful life. The company deployed an applied machine learning team, which is tasked with finding ways to apply AI to Facebook products. With Google and Facebook in the mix, Apple is sure to follow.

The ability for people to speak in their native language and have their speech translated, via voice, into another language will drive significant change, Stevens predicts. 

He envisions the combination of this technology with apps so that, for instance, a French person in Spain could reserve a table via Open Table by speaking into a virtual assistant app, which would translate the request. “Looks like we’re on the edge of a leap here,” says Stevens.
“With technology like this available,” says Bloem, “2017 should be one of the best years to be an expanding business—and a non-English speaking customer.