Archive for the 'Localization' Category

Nov 29 2006

Global Naming “Gotchas” Trip Up Microsoft and General Motors

…Later this year PC users in Latvia can look forward to a chicken on every disk when Microsoft releases Vista, which in Latvian means “frumpy woman” or “chicken.”

Meanwhile, closer to home, Microsoft media users in Quebec raised their eyebrows last summer when the company announced its new Zune media player. It seems that “Zune” sounds like “zoune,” a dated, cutesy slang term for genitalia in la belle province. Microsoft dismissed the homophony as a nonissue and said that the association of the slang term with its music player was “quite a stretch.”

The bottom line: We assume that Microsoft decided that giving 1.3 million Latvians a good laugh or unduly offending a few million Québecois wasn’t worth sacrificing otherwise good product names.

Microsoft isn’t alone. Last year General Motors rolled out its Buick LaCrosse in Canada, causing sophomoric twitters among those same francophones in Quebec. It seems that “la crosse” is a slang term for self-gratification. Every guy wants his ride to make him feel like a stud, but this name went a bit too far for Buick, whose average buyer is 68 years old.

….Whenever one of our clients decides to take a product or a brand name beyond its home turf, I always recommend that they get help on linguistic, cultural, economic, and legal issues.

…don’t take the chance of being the subject of blog entries and sophomoric twitters for something so easily avoided.

Read more

One response so far

May 30 2006

Maryland Lost in Translation

Ask people which states have a horrible language problem, and they are likely to name Florida, Texas and California. Maryland won’t be mentioned.

It should be.

In 2002, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law requiring all state agencies to offer oral interpretation and written translation “into any language spoken by any limited English proficient population that constitutes 3 percent of the overall state population within the geographic area served by a local office of a state program.”

Canada has two official languages. The United Nations has six. Because of the 2002 law, Maryland now has several official languages. The available evidence suggests that no one in Annapolis is quite certain as to exactly how many.

The Maryland State Board of Elections Web site offers translations into eight languages, two more than the United Nations attempts: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean and Chinese.

By contrast, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Web site merely offers translation into French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. The Maryland Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Administration Web site is solely in English.

Read more

Comments Off on Maryland Lost in Translation

May 29 2006

Worry Over English Erosion Hardly New

The way we English-speaking Americans see ourselves at home and in the world is necessarily changing. No matter how often we hear that we live in a big, diverse, multicultural country and a global economy, it still surprises us to see English as just one of our languages, not the exclusive one.

That’s because many of us didn’t grow up with language pluralism. The multilingual packaging that frustrated the Sunday shopper is the result of the demands of a global marketplace that blossomed in the 1990s.

The North American Free Trade Agreement, signed in 1992 by the first President Bush, requires multilingual packaging. Companies want to sell to Mexico and Canada as well as the United States without changing their packages. North America is one big store, and customers are a picky lot.

Mexican law requires that if you want to sell your widgets retail in Mexico, the label information in Spanish must be equally displayed with the English. To put it more plainly: The English can’t be bigger or more prominent on the packaging than the Spanish.

To make Canadian customers happy, a manufacturer will want not only to be sure the commercial information is in French but that the French is idiomatic, as spoken in Quebec, not in Paris.

Americans have been worrying about the erosion of English for decades. It may be some consolation to know that our neighbors in Quebec complain that, despite their best efforts to foster French, English remains the dominant language in the world for business, science and commerce.

That doesn’t mean English will be our sole language. The 2000 Census also found that 47 million people — almost one in five — speak a language other than English at home. The vast majority said they also speak English well. Only about 8 percent of people said they spoke English less than very well.

The reality is that votes in the Senate declaring English the “national language” and the “common and unifying language” were purely symbolic. The measures wouldn’t change a thing, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has said. In this country, federal law protects the rights of those who speak other languages.

A brochure, “Federal Protections Against National Origin Discrimination” by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, explains that federal laws prohibit discrimination based on a person’s national origin, ancestry, culture or language.

“This means,” the brochure says, “people cannot be denied equal opportunity because they or their family are from another country, because they have a name or accent associated with a national origin group, because they participate in certain customs associated with a national origin group, or because they are married to or associate with people of a certain national origin.”

The brochure is available in 17 languages, including English.

Read more

Comments Off on Worry Over English Erosion Hardly New

Feb 16 2006

Triple Certification in Localization: Summer Workshop: June 20-22nd

The Localization Program, CSU Chico offers The Triple Certification in Localization in conjunction with our certifying partners:

1. The Center for Regional and Continuing Education, California State University Chico
2. The Localization Institute
3. The Globalization and Localization Association (GALA)

The Objective of this Triple Certification is to establish learning opportunities, and educational standards that can provide much needed Localization skills and training in cutting edge industry developments and technologies.

The Triple Certification in Localization has two components:

* 45 hours of online instruction, in form of videos, power points, lecture notes, and interactive quizzes.
* 24 hours of face-to-face interaction and lab work at California State University located in Chico , CA .

Comments Off on Triple Certification in Localization: Summer Workshop: June 20-22nd

Feb 16 2006

Want to See if Your International Website Hits Its Mark?

Common Sense Advisory and the authors of “The Culturally Customized Web Site,” have teamed up to study trends and best practices in website globalization. Qualifying respondents will receive a free cultural diagnosis of one of their international websites in the form of “The Cultural Customization Scorecard.” In return the researchers request participation in a short survey.

What does the assessment cover? In short, respondents will get a review of one language or country site based on a theoretically-sound, empirically-validated framework built on five unique cultural values that account for similarities and differences across global cultures. For more information, see our description of the Cultural Scorecard.

We invite marketing executives and website owners to participate. We also encourage language service providers and software developers to ask their customers to participate and benchmark their work against a well-defined methodology. Click here to take survey or forward this link to someone you think might benefit from the cultural assessment.

Having Don and Renato and Nitish and Arun assess your website is a powerful one-two punch.

Comments Off on Want to See if Your International Website Hits Its Mark?

Jan 28 2006

Google Launches Censored Chinese Search Engine

Online search giant Google (GOOG) launched a China-based search engine Wednesday that will be self-censored to avoid posting results that antagonize China’s communist government. uses the Chinese Web suffix “.cn” and supplements the existing dot-com Chinese-language website available from servers in the USA.

“In order to operate from China, we have removed some content from the search results available on, in response to local law, regulation or policy,” said a statement from Google’s senior policy counsel Andrew McLaughlin. “Removing search results is inconsistent with Google’s mission,” he conceded, but “providing no information … is more inconsistent with our mission.”

In an increasingly competitive market, Google’s move to a China-based website will aid its fight against foreign rivals such as Yahoo and homegrown firms like, China’s most popular search engine, in which Google owns a 2.6% stake.

By creating a unique address for China, Google hopes to make its search engine more widely available and easier to use in the world’s most populous country.

Because of government barriers set up to suppress information, Google’s China users previously have been blocked from using the search engine or encountered long delays in response time.

Read more

Comments Off on Google Launches Censored Chinese Search Engine

Jun 28 2005

Ky. Secretary of State Web Site Now Multilingual

The Web site for the Kentucky Secretary of State’s office now offers translations into six new languages. The new service makes the office one of the first multilingual Web sites in Kentucky state government.

The site is translated through an automated and computerized process and occurs dynamically, allowing the site to be translated immediately after it is updated in English. The site will now be accessible in Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Italian and traditional Chinese.

Forms for the office will not be translated as state laws require “the document shall be in the English language.” All visitors to the site whose computers are programmed with the appropriate characters will have access to the translations.

Nearly 2 percent of the 1.8 million yearly visitors to the the secretary of state’s Web site come from foreign countries. The languages chosen primarily reflect the demand for the languages as determined by constituents’ requests or the international visitors that most frequently visited the site.

Read more

To understand why this doesn’t work, pick a string of text (any string of text,) go to, enter your string of text, pick a language (any language) to translate it into, take the resulting translation and use the same system to back translate it into English and see what you get.

Two sayings come to mind: On the one hand: “something is better than nothing.” On the other hand: “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

One response so far

Jun 28 2005

Bowne Sells Globalization Business to Lionbridge

Bowne & Co., Inc. (NYSE: BNE News) announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to sell Bowne Global Solutions to Lionbridge Technologies, Inc. (Nasdaq: LIOX News), a provider of globalization and testing services, for a total sale price with a value of at least $180 million.

Under the terms of the agreement, the consideration consists of at least $130 million in cash and 9.4 million shares of Lionbridge common stock. If the shares issued to Bowne do not have a value of $50 million at the time of closing, Lionbridge will issue a subordinated note to Bowne of up to $20 million to bring the value of the shares, together with the note, to $50 million. If the shares have a value greater than $68 million, the number of shares will be reduced so that the value is no greater than $68 million. Bowne will also receive one seat on the Lionbridge Board of Directors.

The Bowne Board of Directors is reviewing plans for the proceeds from the sale. Alternatives under review include further investment in the core businesses (including strategic acquisitions), debt retirement, share repurchases and/or cash dividends. Bowne currently has authorization for the buyback of up to $35 million of the company’s common stock.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions. Goldman, Sachs & Co. served as the financial advisor to Bowne.

The Company stated that its full-year guidance, regarding BGS’ revenue of $225 to $265 million and segment profit of $19 to $24 million, is unchanged from the outlook provided April 28, 2005.

Bowne has scheduled a conference call to discuss this transaction with investors on Tuesday, June 28 at 10:00 a.m. (Eastern Time). To join the webcast, log on to To access the call via telephone, please dial:

Domestic callers: (877) 502-9272

International callers: (913) 981-5581

A replay of the call will be available at from 1 p.m., June 28, through midnight, July 12, 2005. To access the rebroadcast via telephone, please dial: (888) 203-1112 (domestic) or (719) 457-0820 (international); use passcode 3605414.

Read more

Comments Off on Bowne Sells Globalization Business to Lionbridge

Jun 23 2005

Top 25 Companies and Worldwide Translation Market Size

Ever wondered what are the biggest companies in the translation and localization industry? Common Sense Advisory has the answer.

This report is available now

This report, available for free for anybody in the industry, also establishes the size of the worlwide translation and localization market, and growth projections for the next five years.
Some of the players are not the usual suspects. Check it out… your company might be there.

Click here to read the Quick Take

Read more in our blog
If you want to read some more about this deal, read also our Global Watchtower, where we comment on news related to the industry.
By the way, did you know that you can get our blog automatically in your news? If you use MyYahoo, for example, just select “Add New Content” and add the following URL:

Go to the Global Watchtower

And while you are at it…

Two years ago we polled people who make their living in translation, localization, and internationalization on how they feel about industry conferences. It’s time to check again. The survey should take you about 10 minutes to complete. Everyone who completes the survey will receive a copy of the 2003 report plus the list of top-finishing BEST and WORST conferences from this report. Take the survey now.

Comments Off on Top 25 Companies and Worldwide Translation Market Size

Jun 06 2005

Targeting and Profiling Customers and Vendors Online

My proposed presentation for the ATA 46th Annual Conference in Seattle, Targeting and Profiling Customers and Vendors Online, was accepted, and is scheduled for Saturday, November 12, 2005 3:30-5:00 p.m.

This is a repeat of the well-received presentation I gave at the 2005 ATA TCD Annual Conference in Philadelphia on Saturday, April 16, 2005 and the subject of a series of articles by the same title, the first of which was published in Volume 5, Issue 2 of the ATA TCD News.

Comments Off on Targeting and Profiling Customers and Vendors Online

Jun 04 2005

The Culturally Customized Web Site

My copy of The Culturally Customized Web Site by Nitish Singh and Arun Pereira arrived yesterday from the publisher (Elsevier). The price offered by the publisher when following the link from Nitish Singh’s homepage ($23.96) was lower than the price on which was list ($29.95) and the publisher shipped it gratis. It comes endorsed by John Yunker, author of Beyond Borders: Web Globalization Strategies, who says it’s “a valuable tool for helping executives successfully localize their web site”.

By the way, I found out about this book thanks to’s personalized recommendations. Aside from buying books from, I’ve taken the time to click “I own it” under “RATE THIS ITEM” on the page describing each book I’ve purchased elsewhere. Doing this really put the “personalized” in my personalized recommendations.

Also, Don DePalma’s book, Business Without Borders: A Strategic Guide to Global Marketing is now available in paperback on for only $16.96 (list price for the paperback is $19.95, list for the now-out-of-print hardcover edition was $29.95).

Comments Off on The Culturally Customized Web Site

Apr 28 2005

Support for Small and Medium-Sized Software Enterprises in Brazil

The Multilateral Investment Fund announced today the approval of a $1,300,000 grant for a technical cooperation program to help small and medium-sized software enterprises in Brazil improve their competitiveness by introducing a quality standard in software development geared towards smaller software businesses, internationalization and localization techniques and business linkages.

The program will be in charge of the Association for the Promotion of Brazilian Software Excellence (Softex) and will seek to make software enterprises more competitive in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America. Local counterpart financing provided by Softex will total $1,650,000.

The initiative will benefit 3,000 software companies through the dissemination of project tools. Two hundred and twenty small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will receive support to improve product quality and 315 specialists will be trained, 40 of them in Argentina and Chile. More than 50 institutions involved in quality enhancement, product internationalization and business partnerships will also benefit, and five export consortia are expected to be generated.

The project will allow to demonstrate and implement, on a significant scale, the merits of the new quality certification system Melhoria de Processo do Software Brasileiro (MPS Br) that was developed by Softex and other institutions. The dissemination of the quality system to two other countries, Argentina and Chile, will set the basis for a region-wide certification system.

Read more

Comments Off on Support for Small and Medium-Sized Software Enterprises in Brazil

Apr 18 2005

ATA TCD 6th Annual Conference

Saturday, April 16, 2005, I had the pleasure of speaking to an audience of my esteemed colleagues at the American Translators Association Translation Company Division 6th Annual Conference in Philadelphia on Targeting and Profiling Customers and Vendors Online. Download Targeting and Profiling Customers and Vendors Online.ppt.

Comments Off on ATA TCD 6th Annual Conference

Jan 28 2005

Local Is Lekker, But So Is Global

Companies that monitor and respond to the growing internationalisation of business cope better with the new challenges of international competition and outperform those [that] do not respond adequately to change. In the manufacturing and services sectors, for example, companies in China and India are recognising the opportunities in the global marketplace and capitalising on them. Both countries are becoming global hubs in these sectors.

What is required is the ability to make intelligent choices on when to think globally and when to think locally and how to develop integrated strategies that market brands in the best way in both environments.

But what means are available to aid South African companies in making the right choices?

New research shows that South African companies can be more competitive by improving in one key area: market orientation. Being oriented to the market is about more than just customer orientation. It is an organisational culture and set of behaviours that help the company develop insight about international markets, craft strategic intent and manage effective interaction strategies.

Whatever business leaders decide is the best route for their brands, both venturing abroad and staying at home have winning strategies in the global marketplace.

Companies operating beyond SA’s borders may already have a unique advantage. Given that a dominant feature of the international marketplace is cultural diversity, South African companies have an advantage in their experience of doing business in a diverse society.

For locally bound companies, despite the rise of global culture, local culture remains a central influence on consumer behaviour and individual identity the “local is lekker” adage is a powerful purchasing factor for many South Africans.

Research shows local companies that firmly position and communicate their brands as icons of the local culture can generate higher brand value. This is a counterstrategy that remains underused.

Read more

Comments Off on Local Is Lekker, But So Is Global

Jan 03 2005

Three Basic Steps to Globalize Your Web Site for International Visitors

Marketing Sherpa interviews John Yunker:

We asked Yunker for three basic steps you can take to begin globalizing your site this year.

-> Step #1. Start small

A. List your strategic markets for next five years

Once you have a basic list, register domain names in those countries so you don’t lose out on them, even if you don’t plan to use them immediately.

B. Pick a single country to begin

Get your feet wet by branching out into one additional market so you can fully understand the details of globalization before launching a full effort.

C. Be prepared to support your new local site

“The minute you do launch a local Web site, you will be expected to support it, so you’ll need some people who have language skills that can support questions that come in via email or by phone,” says Yunker.

Customers understand that you may not offer the same services that you offer in your local market, but you have to manage their expectations, he says. If you can’t offer phone support in the local language, make that clear, and offer alternatives.

D. Research the culture

Okay, this should be obvious, but don’t forget to be sensitive to local culture

E. English language or not?

Many companies make the mistake of thinking the whole world (or all business executives) speaks English, but in truth it depends on your market segment.

-> Step #2. Keep your site’s bandwidth low

Be aware of the bandwidth requirements of the countries to which you’re reaching out. Limit graphics and avoid animation. This means little or no Flash or rich media.

-> Step #3. Rethink your “global gateway” start page

Note: The sweet spot for your global gateway icon is in the upper right-hand corner of each page a new visitor might enter your site on.

Read more

Hat tip: Going Global

Comments Off on Three Basic Steps to Globalize Your Web Site for International Visitors

Next »