Archive for the 'Translation' 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.

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Nov 13 2006

Translation, Interpretation, Foreign Langauge Instruction, and Cross-cultural Training Resources

The Linguistic Solutions – Resources page has links to translation, interpretation, foreign langauge instruction, and cross-cultural training resources.

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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.

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May 29 2006

Translation to Be Supervised

Published by under Translation

China will set up a translation assessment panel to supervise the quality of translation work and regulate the market, which has long been plagued by disorder and unfair competition, industry management officials said in Shanghai yesterday.

The announcement followed the opening of the First China International Forum on Translation Industry at Tongji University yesterday. Nearly 200 scholars, officials and translation professionals from about 20 countries and regions attend the two-day forum.

Organized by the Translation Association of China, the assessment panel will consist of university translation professors, veteran working translators and other organizational professionals with years of translation theory studies and practice.

The panel will be responsible for assessing the quality of translation products, translation training institutes and programs, as well as evaluating translation service providers’ qualifications according to the country’s existing translation industry standards and regulations.

Assessment results will likely be passed on to government and market watchdogs. The group won’t have the power to close down companies that do unsatisfactory work, change school curriculums or force any organization to change, however.

It will have the authority to send out public warnings to businesses and consumers about translation companies that aren’t doing quality work.

China currently has more than 3,000 registered translation companies, which reported revenues of 20 billion yuan (US$2.5 billion) last year, up from 11 billion yuan in 2003.

More than 60,000 translators are employed by professional organizations, while several more hundreds of thousands of translators work part time or on a freelance basis.

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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.

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May 29 2006

Translation as Performance

Published by under Translation

n 1970, the American PEN had promulgated a manifesto on translation with a nine-point programme and a Bill of Rights. This manifesto not only recognizes the act of translation as essential to the future of mankind, but also laments the lack of recognition of the crucial role of translators in human affairs. The manifesto says:

Who knows the names of translators? Who cares? Yet the names deserve to be known and it is necessary that we should care about them. It is absurd that they should be relegated to their own private no-man’s land, with no court of appeal and without recourse to the usual benefits reserved for authors. They are the proletarians of literature with nothing to lose but their chains.

The manifesto, in effect, pleads for professionalisation and institutionalisation of translation as a serious academic activity, and asserts, what Goethe seems to have remarked, that “Translation remains one of the most important, worthwhile concerns in the totality of world affairs.” The significance of this assertion is of course quite obvious. Much of what we have learnt about Greek, Latin and other literatures have been through translations. Today, the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Buddhist scriptures have been held in high esteem all over the world because they are accessible to the non-native readers through translations into English and European languages. Imagine the state of Christianity today if the onerous task of translating the Bible into English by the collaborative endeavour of fifty-six learned men had not taken place about three centuries ago!

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May 01 2006

Speaking in (Many) Tongues Can Be Profitable

WANTED, and in many instances urgently needed: translators and interpreters of numerous languages into English. Opportunities especially good in New York and other cities with large and highly varied immigrant populations. And in government agencies where certain Middle Eastern and Asian languages have surged in priority in the post 9/11 world.

That, labor market and other experts say, sums up the outlook in the United States today for translators and interpreters, professions that have grown sharply since the 2001 terrorist attacks, though not solely in response to them. And with the routes into these specialties diverse — they all require a mastery of English and at least one other language, but there is no single form of certification in the country — people can enter them with varied educational backgrounds.

Although many people call anyone who renders one language into another a translator, practitioners reserve that word for people who convert written material in one language into written material in another, or speech in one language into a transcript in another. They refer to those who convert speech in one language into speech in another as interpreters.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics says there were 31,000 translator and interpreter jobs in the country in 2004, up 40 percent since 2000, and estimates a further increase to 37,000, or 20 percent more, in 2014. (The bureau notes that the number of people in the business is “probably significantly higher” because many work part time.) The average full-time salary in 2004 was $38,000, with those employed by federal agencies averaging more than $70,000. About 2,000 of the jobs in 2004 were in New York State and about 500 in New Jersey and Connecticut.

But Kevin Hendzel, a spokesman for the American Translators Association, which represents about 8,000 translators and interpreters, predicted even sharper future growth, “based on the current demand.” Aside from a severe shortage in “national security languages,” among them Arabic, Farsi, Pashto and Dari, the demand, he said, is being driven by, globalization and by the need for interpreters in hospitals and courtrooms. The need at hospitals has been made more acute by a 2000 requirement that institutions receiving federal aid provide more effective service to people lacking English proficiency, he said.

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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 .

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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.

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Nov 14 2005

ATA 46th Annual Conference

I presented Targeting and Profiling Customers and Vendors Online for the second time, this time at the American Translators Association (ATA) ATA 46th Annual Conference in Seattle on Saturday. The presentation was well attended and well received. Among the members of audience where my friends, Beatriz Bonnet, president of Syntes Language Group in Denver and Christine Egwuonwu, senior project manager of Commgap in Salt Lake City. I also met Christine’s husband for the first time.

Two members of the audience who came to the front of the room to introduce themselves after my presentation really stood out: Sandra Alboum, owner of Alboum & Associates in Arlington and Natalia Jimenez, managing director of Eurologos in San Jose. Both of them noted my need for Italian-English and Italian-Spanish translators by looking closely at the screen grabs of my social networking software (SNS) profiles during the presentation and each of them came forward to recommend one. They’re either naturals at networking or quick studies!

Another member of the audience, Virginia Anderson of Canvas Dreams in Beaverton, Oregon, pointed out, during the customer relationship management (CRM) portion of the presentation, that her husband, David Anderson, had built ContacTracker, hosted CRM solution.

After the presentation, I had the pleasure of dining with ATA Translation Company Division (TCD) assistant administrator, Ellen Boyar, translation manager of Thomson Scientific in Philadelphia, past ATA TCD administrator Linda Gauthier, COO of BG Communications International in Montreal and Greg Churilov, president of Effective Translations in Buenos Aires. We talked about money, politics, religion and sex. We are now closer than ever. Remember, networking is about building relationships and building relationships is personal.

To top off a great networking weekend, on my way home, I met up with the same Southwest Airlines flight attendant I first met on my trip home from the ATA TCD 6th Annual Conference in Philadelphia where, coincidentally, I first presented Targeting and Profiling Customers and Vendors Online last April. I recognized her first and reintroduced myself. She remembered me, my book, Vacation Spanish, and the flight we were on when we first met.

On my flight to Seattle I had met a linguist, author and speaker, Don Richardson (who was also traveling to Seattle to speak,) who, as a Christian missionary in far flung places across the globe, has documented types of Christ woven into the languages and cultures of the peoples among whom he has lived and worked and has written a number of books on the subject. Don told me a couple of compelling stories that aroused my curiosity. I now look forward to reading one or more of his books. I hope to stay in touch with him and his lovely wife, Carol, who was traveling with him to give a solo singing performance in Seattle.

For those of you who missed my presentation, and for those of you who would like to review it, I’m sorry I didn’t consent to have it recorded on the DVD the ATA made of this year’s conference presentations. I promise I’ll do it next time. In the meantime, you can download Targeting and Profiling Customers and Vendors Online.ppt or read Targeting and Profiling Customers and Vendors Online, the first in a series of articles on the subject published in the ATA TCD newsletter (the second one is due out later this month.) I also recommend reading CustomerCentric Selling by Michael T. Bosworth, author of Solution Selling, and The Virtual Handshake by my good friend, online business networking guru, Scott Allen, and Never Eat Alone by master networker Keith Ferrazzi. See also: Blogger, Bloglines, Ecademy,, Hoovers, LinkedIn, openBC, Plaxo, Ryze,, SugarCRM, TypePad and WordPress.

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Jun 28 2005

English/Persian Voice-to-Voice Translation Tool

Three years of work by a large interdisciplinary team at the University of Southern California has created a rudimentary but working two-way voice translation system that allows an English-speaking doctor to talk to a Persian-speaking patient.

The Transonics Spoken Dialog Translator turns a doctor’s spoken English questions into spoken Persian, and translates patients’ spoken Persian replies into spoken English.

Shrikanth Narayanan leads the large multidisciplinary USC Viterbi School team that developed Transonics. One member of this team presented a report on the system June 25 at the Association for Computational Linguistics conference in Ann Arbor Michigan.

“Fluent two-way machine voice translation is one of the holy grails of engineering,” said Narayanan, an associate professor of electrical engineering, computer science and linguistics at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering who directs the Speech Analysis and Interpretation Laboratory (SAIL) in the Viterbi School’s Integrated Media Systems Center.

“We are years away from perfecting it, but we think the choices we have made about how to go about creating such a system are working. We hope to have something that will be useful in emergency rooms or ambulances within two years or so.”

The system that exists, funded by two DARPA grants totalling $3.8 million, is a result of intensive research in information technology, critically supplemented by careful observation of patient-doctor dynamics in numerous bilingual interaction sessions staged for the project.

Narayanan noted that the Transonics approach relies not just on computer code, but also on the ability of humans to use even imperfect tools. This approach, he adds, grows directly out of the extraordinary difficulty of the technical problems involved.

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In contrast to my last post (Ky. Secretary of State Web Site Now Multilingual), this post offers a more realistic look at machine translation. Narayanan notes that he is “years away from perfecting it” and that “the Transonics approach relies not just on computer code, but also on the ability of humans to use even imperfect tools”.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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