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Sunday, April 26, 2015

MultiLingual is the leading source of information for the language industry and businesses with global communications needs. Published eight times a year plus an annual index/resource directory, it is read by more than 12,000 people in 67 countries. Information and current news are also provided by and the free electronic newsletter, MultiLingual News.

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Back Issue

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October/November, 2012


Columns and Commentary

Post Editing: Transcribing the obscure

In grad school, I had this idea that I would go on to get a PhD in field linguistics. We were doing these projects to figure out the phonetic structure of a language unknown to us based on our own transcriptions from a native speaker, and I picked the most obscure one I could find. There was a girl I knew from Gabon who spoke a language she called Bateke, which was also the name of her minority ethnic group there. The language had no alphabet, she said. Nothing was written down in her language, at least that she knew of. . .

Off the Map: Inclusion and exclusion

The topic of cultural inclusion and exclusion is vast in scope, but let me focus on the fundamentals in the light of content development and provide some pertinent examples. In essence, inclusion and exclusion are at the core of a broader category of anthropological friction often called cultural dissonance, which is a wide range of issues that may cause negative thoughts and feelings about a specific culture, nationality, ethnicity and so on. While distinct subcategories do exist within cultural dissonance, many of them share some facet of the inclusion/exclusion dynamic: one group being actively included at the expense of another group, or conversely, a group being actively excluded, which in turn benefits another group. . .

Macro/Micro: Out of Africa

Could the future of African translation lie in the United States? I’m not talking alternative realities
 here — Star Trek, science fiction, whatnot. The truth is, immigration in America is changing. According to Ron Crouch with the Kentucky State Data Center, immigration is actually at a low point when compared to what it was in the course of US history. The reason why Americans perceive immigration to be on the rise is because the number of countries that immigrants are entering the United States from is higher than it’s ever been before, making immigration seem larger. And the ways in which they’re coming are more diverse too.

Not every immigrant today is what we commonly think of as a traditional immigrant. . .

Core Focus

Localization: The global pyramid capstone

The attitude displayed by the hiring company may be useful in some situations, but to me, it embodied much of what has given globalization a bad name. It also pointed to another issue that I have observed closer to home: even in our relatively knowledgeable and harmonious world of software localization, substantial discrepancies exist in what industry participants understand about how globalization differs from internationalization, and how both of these two differ from localization. . .

The growing market of global information consumers

Joining the ranks of the middle class means gaining access to computers and mobile devices with internet access. In turn, access to the internet changes our engagement with content. Becoming an information consumer changes how we learn about products and services. As consumers and employees, we begin to access services online, in private networks, or on mobile phones. We engage with products and services, with companies and brands via digital content, and by joining social networks we enter into broader circles of influence with other information consumers. Participating in online social networks alters how we share what we know with others. Our exposure to products, services, brands and economic exchanges radically increases. . .

Localization for the long tail: Part 1

Traditionally, volunteerism and professionalism have been perceived in opposition. Nevertheless, in present day collaborative environments, this distinction is increasingly blurred. By no means could we define a volunteer as someone who delivers lower quality. Often volunteers working for various good causes are motivated to perform at their very best standard, as they are emotionally engaged with the causes and, because their work is often highly visible, they would not dare to perform suboptimally.

The cluster of notions related to the term prosumer plays a prominent role here. Prosumer is a portmanteau word first coined by futurologist Alvin Toffler in the early 1980s as a contraction of proactive consumer, and most often refers to hobbyists who perform basically on par with professionals. . .

Adobe Flash localization

Localizing structured content through translation management tools is generally a simple process. However, localizing unstructured content, such as text appearing in Adobe Flash videos, is not easy. This means that tracking translation efficiencies for unstructured content is all the more difficult. . .

Industry Focus

Documenting endangered alphabets

Three years ago, acting on a notion so whimsical I assumed it was a kind of presenile monomania, I began carving endangered alphabets. The disclaimers start right away. I’m not a linguist, an anthropologist, a cultural historian or even a woodworker. I’m a writer — but I had recently started carving signs for friends and family, and I stumbled on, an online encyclopedia of the world’s writing systems, and several things had struck me forcibly. . .

Language dubbing for emerging markets

Language dubbing is almost as old as sound in movies. It gives the illusion to the audience that they are watching a movie that was recorded in their original language. This illusion can be so good that I, being raised in France, didn’t have any idea for the longest time that most of the movies I watched were made in Hollywood. When you are born in these historical dubbing countries, dubbing is usually well made, natural sounding and finely adapted to the country’s culture. These countries import many movies and can create high quality, expensive dubbed products that produce high revenues. This is a nice ecosystem with professional dubbing studios and a great distribution system. It is important to note that most of the dubbing actors are professionals in this field and can make a living from dubbing. In contrast, the emerging countries don’t have the same ecosystem. The actors are not professional dubbing actors, the studios are usually music studios and the distribution cannot generate the same type of revenue. . .

Emerging new markets

Global business will soon have to work in some languages more often than it ever had to, and when these customers turn to you for that language support, will you be ready?

The fastest growing markets are not necessarily always desirable as new business opportunities. As of the writing of this article, the fastest growing economy for any single country is Qatar. It has a decent purchasing power parity (PPP) rating, number 55 in the world, but the population of the country is only two million. Almost all of them speak Arabic. The third fastest growing national economy by gross domestic product (GDP) is Mongolia. Mongolian is a language that most language service companies do not currently have large numbers of linguistic resources for, but with only three million inhabitants and a rather weak national PPP rating, number 135 in the world, global business is unlikely to rush into the Mongolian market anytime soon. . .

The rise of CIVETS economies

All of this makes not only for a fine cup of coffee, but also a neat analogy (and acronym) for the emerging markets of Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa. The CIVETS contribution to the world economy can, after all, be likened to that of the civet cat’s: cheap local resource in, expensive global product out. . .

Localizing e-learning for emerging economies

How does the development of emerging economies relate to e-learning? When US companies invest in emerging economies by creating new offices in other countries, they immediately generate a new workforce, and that workforce needs to be trained. Not surprisingly, many companies will opt for the relatively less expensive option of online training (e-learning) rather than classroom-based training, especially as these countries develop information and communication technology infrastructure and improve access to the internet. However, these efforts create challenges for all aspects of e-learning because e-learning is not simply software . . .

Medical translations for minority languages

When he arrived, he was heartbroken to find that in her kitchen area, right beside her in a corner of the same hut, the mother had containers of sugar, salt and water: all of the ingredients necessary for an oral rehydration solution that could have saved her child. Says Wadhwani, “This child did not die from dehydration caused by diarrhea. She died from a lack of access to medical information in her parents’ native language.” . . .

Quality Swahili machine translation

The survey of current MT systems reveals that except for Swahili, none of the truly African languages is found in the lists of language pairs. This is due to several factors. One is that the market for MT applications for African languages is considered marginal. Another reason may be the large number of languages in many African countries; the selection of some languages for development may cause political schisms. The scarcity of skilled researchers who master these languages may also contribute to the state of affairs. . .


MOX: Illustrated Guide to Freelance Translation

The comic strip, which you can also peruse by going to the author’s blog at, is interspersed with essays written by translation bloggers Sarah M. Dillon, Alex Eames, Céline Graciet, Judy Jenner, Laurent Laget, Benny Lewis, Corinne McKay, Pablo Muñoz, Rose Newell, Jill Sommer, Ramón Somoza, Steve Vitek and Kevin Lossner. Lossner praises Moreno-Ramos’ take on the life of a freelance translator in his introduction, noting that “I find myself working as a translator among peers whose real world and imagined tribulations are not unlike the comic characters of my college days,” who “succinctly described the absurdity of existence and helped me to laugh at it.” . . .


Language on the web

The next wave of web-induced change for the language industry appears to be driven with some help from its own constituencies. Players involved in natural language processing and web internationalization are investigating and advancing the web’s capabilities to support high-quality, large volume, effective and efficient processing in multilanguage contexts like translation. A point of convergence related to the possible forthcoming changes seems to be what’s currently termed the multilingual semantic web. . .