Sunday, August 24, 2014

"Donate a Workout" for Translators without Borders

Inspired by the Ice Bucket Challenge, and by my new biking outfit (courtesy of Global textware), I'd like to invite all Language Service Professionals to donate one workout to Translators Without Borders during the next few weeks before the end of the Summer.

I rode 25 km today and donated $5.00 per km (www.translatorswithoutborders/Donors). Monetize your exercise in minutes, miles, kilos, yoga positions, steps and convert them into euros, dollars, yens, reais or any other currency and help raise money for many worthy causes.

Please share.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Expert Advice for Globalizing Medical Devices | Qmed

Interview originally posted in

When it comes to tapping the potential of emerging markets, medical device firms have just scratched the surface. One reason for this is that commercializing a medical device product in a foreign market can be challenging. The difficulty in doing so depends on the product in question as well as the end market being targeted. Here, Renato Beninatto, chief marketing officer of Moravia, a globalization and localization firm, provides general background information and advice for device companies seeking to commercialize products internationally.

There are essentially three major regions that provide opportunities for U.S. medical device manufacturers:
  1. The European Union: To introduce a medical device in every country in the European Union requires localizing it, translating and adapting relevant materials, to the 26 official languages of the European Union.
  2. Asia: Countries like Japan, China, and Korea pose specific challenges from a localization perspective, especially for software developers because those countries use what we call ‘double-byte languages.’  Every character they use occupies two bytes instead of one, like Latin characters do. “This requires the software that is embedded in the medical device to be internationalized by software engineers. This is not work done by linguists,” Beninatto says. “It is adapting the product so that it can handle different character sets, date formats, currency formats, and sorting orders.” This type of work can be outsourced but is something that medical device companies should plan on as early as possible.
  3. Latin America: This market uses only two languages, Portuguese and Spanish, but is also a significant growth market for device firms.
The concept of globalizing first requires preparing the product for localization and then converting content into multiple languages. A best practice is to do as many languages as possible at the first pass. The preparation work required before translating content to a different language is essentially the same as prepping it to be translated into 20 languages. Because medical devices are regulated, Beninatto says, translating text can be a painstaking process. “Even a minor change you do to the documentation has to go through an expensive and laborious approval process. The best approach is to do it right the first time.”

While machine translation has progressed over the years, it is largely unsuitable for translating important documentation. “There is a joke I heard many years ago: 'Machine translation is great but is somewhere from four and 400 years from perfection.' That joke still seems to apply with every passing year.” Customizing translation software can yield “decent results” for things like knowledge bases, but the success of it depends highly in the language pair. “There are situations and contexts where machine translations could be used—especially those that are more conversation in tone rather in scientific. But I would still always advise partnering with a specialist company when working with machine translation,” Beninatto says.

Software Matters

Software development is undergoing a major change from a traditional waterfall model to an Agile methodology. In the software methodology, it would take anywhere from 12 to 18 months to have a complete development cycle. “You knew exactly where you would do translation in that process. You would have finished the whole development documentation, sent it to translation, incorporated the content back, did functional and regression testing and so on, and then you would release the product,” Beninatto says. “You could either do a simultaneous shipment, all languages at the same time, or a scattered release.”

The world today is different, thanks to smartphones and Google. “Now change is happening all of the time and software is continually updated. This is the world of Agile development and translation becomes part of this process,” Beninatto explains. The cost of doing internationalization work becomes increasingly expensive, the longer you wait to start because of the need to go back and correct code. “When somebody is designing a product, they should anticipate that it will be global.”

An example of what not to do is to embed strings into the code. “Let's say you use concatenated strings to generate text,” Beninatto says. “In the code, you have an 'if' followed by a variable. When something happens, 'then' you introduce another variable. This structure is a problem because the order of the words varies based on the language. For instance, in German, you would put the verb at the end of a clause rather than in the middle.” For that reason, it is a best practice to internationalize the code as early as possible.

Brian Buntz is the editor-in-chief of MPMN and Qmed. Follow him on Twitter at @brian_buntz.  

Friday, June 28, 2013

Feminism & Cheeseburgers? Yawn. It's All About The Click!

(This blog entry was originally published in the Moravia blog)

Translation can be really unsexy at times. Sure, it can be good for a viral video that pokes fun at the Germans. (Wat are you zinking about?) And, yeah, occasionally some diplomat really flubs it, resulting in a whole lot of angry Russians. (We're looking at you, Hilary.) But, well, mostly translation is about processing a whole lot of data through tools so advanced even Gene Rodenberry's Star Trek writers couldn't imagine it.

So when you're charged with getting customers excited about words, it's at least cool to gather them around some pretty visualizations of the data. Ooh. Ahh. Nice.

Size Matters

Curious myself, I asked the folks in our Production Group to give me a sense of the numbers. With clients that include Microsoft there's no doubt we're processing (and gratefully getting paid for) a lot of words each year. The answer: 371,162,387 words translated into 122 languages.

I'm a talkative guy. Really talkative. If, as Scientific American reports, the average male speaks 16,000 words per day I'm probably doing twice that. At my pace, it would take my mouth more than 30 years to push out that kind of volume.

Look A Little Closer

I asked my buddies at the Process and Technology Group (PTG) to take this deeper — to look at the body of source data and to do some word frequency analysis. For the test, here's what they did:

PTG took translation memories with approximately 24 million English words, of which 206,000 were unique (non-repetitive). They divided the total number into Microsoft projects and non-Microsoft projects. They then broke those down into most frequent, least frequent, and — for kicks — the longest words.

At The Top

Perhaps no surprise for Microsoft data, click appeared most frequently and far more so than among non-Microsoft projects.
top words moravia

At The Bottom

Of the 206,000 unique words, there were of course many that appeared just once in our projects. The results were humorous ... or telling. We'll leave those assessments to you.

infrequent words moravia

The Longest WordsWe were looking at English words, of course. Were this an analysis of German words, we'd have to wrestle with the likes ofRindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz — 63 letters and, curiously enough, just lost from the German lexicon earlier this month because its reference, a law, was repealed. (Farewell, friend!) At just 22 letters, magnetoencephalography is a linguistic bargain.

longest words moravia

Industry colleagues, you're welcome to use the comments for a little size comparison. I've shown you mine; how about you show me yours?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Localization trends for 2013. No news, good news?

(This article was originally posted in the Moravia blog)

Every year, around December or January, I have written a blog entry with predictions and trends for the next year. We are now two weeks into the new year, and I didn't find anything special to write about 2013.

So, it ocurred to me that this might be a year when things are settling down. A year for evolution, rather than revolution. A period when trends tend to consolidate and take ground. There are five movements that have started sometime ago, but that I feel are now part of the gestalt of the localization business.
  • Content style is moving from formal to informal in all languages. Companies are not doing major rewrites of their manuals, but new products are written in a friendlier tone. Another way to put this: "All localization is marketing related."
  • The job of localization managers is expanding beyond language and culture. Global customer satisfaction and business requirements demand other activities like support, community moderation, usability adaptation, and local relevance. The relationship with vendors changes accordingly.
  • Voice and video content become more localization-friendly and language-aware, now that it actually became "normal" to use your voice to control your phone, car, computer and even your TV.
  • Continuous localization or on-demand translation becomes the norm, not the exception.
  • African languages appear on everybody's radar, especially when it comes to the localization of mobile devices and apps.
Of course, nothing prevents a revolutionary product like holographic telepresence for interpretation services or a pill that makes you speak Chinese from being launched this year or next, but it feels like 2013 will just be another good year for the language services industry.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What I expect for 2012

As the song goes, "it's the most wonderful time of the year". It's the time to make predictions.

Before going into my expectations for 2012, I took a look at what I wrote last year, and I believe that my predictions for 2011 materialized.

Content is indeed being served in smaller chunks and requiring faster turnaround times. There is more demand for multimedia translations such as video, and also for interpretation both on-site and over the phone. So voice was in fact more in demand in 2011.

Last week, LinkedIn announced that their website was now available in Indonesian, Malaysian, and Korean. Several other companies have done the same. Brazilian Portuguese was one of the fastest-growing languages, but also one with the most quality and delivery problems.

What didn't happen at the pace that I expected, was the number of mergers and acquisitions in the industry in 2011. There have been some, but no major mergers.

The topics that I expect to hear about in 2012 are more related to startups. There is going to be an increased focus on on-demand translations. Companies like Speaklike, MyGengo, Smartling,, LanguageWire, Tolingo, and OneHourTranslation will be all over the place. Larger players will also offer their own solutions. Companies will be able to find efficiencies in moving down to smaller projects.

I also believe that we are going to be talking about marketplaces again. This sounds so 1999, but companies like Cloudwords and OpenBorder will be offering an online marketplace for translation companies to bid on projects of traditional buyers. Proz tried that before, but who knows... the times are different.

The automation of small project workflows, will require an increased productivity on the part of project managers. The most requested job in the translation industry will actually be project management, but the role of the project manager will shift more rapidly from closely managing resources to managing exceptions.

I don't think that the economy is in shape for many mergers and acquisitions. But we will hear about some of them happening. Companies like Welocalize and Transperfect still have plenty of cash, and there are companies for sale in the market. It is just a matter of finding the right price point.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

From Managing to Monitoring - From Drops to Drips

After the recent IMTT Conference in Córdoba (Argentina), my friend Cecilia Piaggio was kind enough to offer me a ride to Rosario the next day. During the five-hour drive, we had a chance to talk about some changes that have happened in the translation industry in the past several years and to think about the changing roles of translators, project managers, LSP owners in a world where content is ubiquitous and streaming constantly.

She told me that one of the things that she noticed is that more and more clients were moving from the traditional project model — where files are dropped in an FTP server, work is done, and files are delivered again by FTP or e-mail — to a continuous flow of strings and small files that need to be picked up, processed and published within a short period of time. Or, as she aptly put it, we are moving from drops to drips.

If we combine this with the constant advance of automation of processes and repetitive activities with the use of tools like Plunet, XTRF, and Multicorpora, it becomes clear that the role of the project manager is also shifting. In fact, if you look at the performance of highly efficient companies like LanguageWire in Denmark, you will notice that project managers have become a lot more productive in the last few years. And the explanation for this is that instead of managing projects or drops, that traditionally require manual preparation and a lot of file shuffling, project managers can now focus on monitoring the process.

In other words, we are moving from active involvement in tasks to managing by exception. The project manager only interferes in a process when the systems show that something is not going according to plan. This allows a PM to work on many more projects, just monitoring his dashboard for red flags.

More projects and more automation lead to fewer human errors and higher yields. Good times!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Revenue Opportunities for LSPs

Innovation and new services are regular topics in my consulting engagements. My clients want to know how they can differentiate and increase their margins. They want to go beyond calling prospects and offering translation for cents per word.

Recently, while on-site at my clients, I happened to come across requests that I thought could become opportunities for starting new conversations with potential translation buyers. After all, calling a prospect to offer translation services is a losing proposition. To use the words of Anne-Marie Colliander Lind: to be successful in sales, you have to talk about activities that will generate translations, and not translation itself. Here are some examples:
  • Video subtitling. In the middle of my consulting session, a project manager asks permission to talk to the LSP owner about an urgent project that required subtitling in two languages. Using the traditional processes, the transcription, translation, and subtitling would have taken four days and cost $3,000.00. I introduced them to dotSub, a site that I first mentioned here back in 2007. In a few minutes we had an account and I walked them through how to do the job. Few hours later, the translation was ready and we downloaded the HD video to deliver to the client for no cost at all (except our effort). 
  • Tape transcription. Same scenario: PM brings a client's request for the transcription and translation of the recording of a Board Meeting that was held in English. Finding foreign language transcribers is not always easy, especially on short notice. Enters CastingWords, a crowdsourced web-based transcription service with fast turnaround and prices varying from $1.00 to $2.50 per minute. Low cost transcribers can also be found on Elance and other freelance sites. The result was that the transcription was done in 24 hours by native speakers and the translation was ready the next day. Point, set, match! 
  • Streaming content. Hot day, no air conditioning (you guessed, I was in Europe!), my client tells me that he recently lost an opportunity because his client had short sentences that needed to be translated within 5 minutes for the duration of a sporting event every Sunday. These were newsflashes and game statistics that needed to be broadcast in several languages and my client lacked the infrastructure and the linguistic resources to fulfill the need. The project never materialized. I explained to him that companies like SpeakLike specialize in this type of service, and that he could have outsourced the solution for as little as $0.06 per word, giving him enough room to mark it up and make a profit, without having to invest in the technology infrastructure.
The action item following these three events was clear: Productize the request and call potential buyers asking questions that will generate translations. 

So in the first case, the question could be: "Do you ever receive training videos in other languages that you need to share with your employees?" 

In the case of transcriptions, the LSP could call administrative assistants (or secretaries as they are still called in some countries) and ask if they ever have to transcribe audio from meetings in English (if you ever had to do it, you know it is a pain).

As for streaming content, any website that publishes news is a candidate for on-demand translation. Financial sites, sports associations or events, news organizations, all need to provide information fast and accurately. After all, news has as very short shelf life. In theory, a Czech hockey player in Canada might want to have his Twitter feed and news published in Czech, English, and French to satisfy his fan base.

Using creativity to transform project challenges into new and innovative products is a good practice. All you need to do is say yes to your client requests, and maybe give me a call.