Trends in the Global Translation Market

Companies and multinational corporations operating in the global translation market require translation services for many aspects of their business. Marketing materials, websites, help forums, compliance documentation, technical handbooks, and human resource manuals all require language support. To meet demand, departments routinely contract with various translation service providers from around the world; however, in light of budget constraints and corporate belt-tightening, perhaps this isn’t the most sensible approach.

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Transcreating colours: Seeing Red

March 22, 2013
By Emma Clarke and Katy Burgess 

Passion. Anger. Danger. That’s what Westerners see when they spy a scarlet symbol.Red Rose

But what about other countries? When transcreating a website for example it’s important to take other cultures into account. After all, transcreation is about being faithful to the ‘feel’ of the original.

It’s amazing how many messages a colour can convey. I would be less likely to buy products from a relaxing spa website if their background was a bright crimson red instead of a soothing azure.

Red is apparently associated with sacrifice and sin in the Hebrew language, so it’s worth taking that into account when exporting products to Israel.

In Eastern Europe, meanwhile, red is still strongly associated with communism, being the colour of the flags of communist China, Vietnam and the former USSR.

Meanwhile, in India the colour brings to mind the concept of purity. In the West brides tend to wear white, whereas in the East wedding dresses are often red. If your website featured an Asian bride wearing white you could lose credibility. And in Thailand, people tend to wear cherry coloured clothes on Sunday.

From weddings to funerals: in South Africa red is perceived as the colour of mourning. In fact, because of this, the Red image020Cross had to change its brand colours in the country to green and white.

Scarlet isn’t always so sombre. Indeed, it’s a lucky colour in China and if a customer received a red envelope they would be expecting money. Crimson is the colour of festivities: for example, Chinese New Year, or the red egg and ginger ceremony which is traditionally held to mark a baby’s first month and the giving of their name.

However, do not be tempted to write anyone’s name in red because Chinese obituaries are conventionally written in red text, so writing ‘John Smith’ in red could suggest that they have died.

Transcreation experts take all of these factors into account and many more besides. It’s important to employ specialists in order to make sure that your website is transferring the message you want to send.

So it seems that red can either be a beacon of hope or a warning sign to potential audiences across different cultures – but what does it mean to you?

– Obtained from Wolfstone Translation, UK

A Growing Market: Spanish Speakers in the US

A Growing Market: Spanish Speakers in the US

February 21, 2013
By John Watkins, President – ENLASO Corporation

With Latinos representing 16% of the US population, they profoundly influence everything from the recent presidential election to major trends in business strategy. No company wishing to grow in the US market can ignore the Latino population.

Perhaps the earliest indication of the increasing influence of the Latino culture is the address made in 1996 by Madeleine Albright to the United Nations after Cuban jet fighters downed two unarmed civilian planes from Miami: “Frankly, this is not cojones, this is cowardice.” This speech, given to the UN, effectively turned the recorded comments of the Cuban fighter pilots into a memorable expression that resounded within the US, though context and cultural heritage affect how well it was received. In popular US English usage, “cojones” implies a brave attitude. In Spanish, however, this word is distinctly vulgar. The former US Secretary of State accomplished her goal by using a vulgar term—in the politics of that time, it worked. Marketing to Latinos generally benefits from better word choices. Volkswagen’s billboard campaign using the same term fell flat because they did not understand the culture and needs of the Latino market in the US. By understanding the market, we can help our customers deliver effective messages for marketing, human resource management, and legal goals.

Over 100 languages are spoken in the US, but the 2012 US Census reports that Spanish is the most common language among non-native English speakers. Communicating with the Latino market in Spanish is not a courtesy; it is a requirement! Much of the Spanish speaking population in the US is not fluent in English. In fact, nearly 50% of this populace identifies itself as having limited English skills—of 55 million Spanish speakers, 25 million speak English less than “very well” in their self-assessment.




The Latino labor force in the US is growing quickly and driving the need to provide content to them. The US Department of Labor reports that currently there are nearly 23 million people of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, representing 15% of the current labor force. This number is expected to grow to 19% of the labor force by 2020. This results in a remarkable growth rate in Latino purchasing power: they are increasingly important as employees, healthcare consumers, and purchasers. Nielsen reports that the Latino buying power in the US will increase from approximately 1 trillion dollars in 2010 to 1.5 trillion by 2015.

Consumers in this large and growing Latino market, while sharing many cultural similarities, do not comprise a single, homogeneous culture. Spanish speakers have immigrated to the US from a wide range of countries. While there is an international body that oversees the Spanish language (La Real Academia Española at, providing language standardization in all Spanish-speaking countries, clear regional differences remain. In the US, these regional differences manifest themselves with Spanish speakers of various origins, most of whom came from Central and South America and the Caribbean. Within this heterogeneous culture, approximately 60% of the Latino population is of Mexican origin. As
a result, much of domestic marketing in Spanish is directed to this population group, with efforts made to use vocabulary that can also be understood by Spanish speakers from other locales.
The Latino population in the US is large and, as such, somewhat slow to assimilate. Historically, sociologists considered that immigrants typically assimilated within three generations. For the Latino population, this does not appear to be true (though it is too early to know for sure). In general, small population groups assimilate more quickly because there are societal
pressures to do so. Larger population groups take longer to assimilate because it is easier to retain their culture of origin. Today, approximately 80% of the first and second-generation Latino population speaks Spanish. Most telling, these Spanish speakers retain a preference for Spanish content when it comes to purchasing decisions.

Language service providers have the needed skills to help US businesses and government agencies reach the Latino population. We have the skill set necessary to produce content for the Latino population that is sensitive to the culture and localized appropriately in Spanish. Already, language service providers are helping in a variety of ways:

  •  Healthcare consumers in the US must be able to receive information from the medical providers and insurance providers in their native language. This has spurred tremendous growth in over-the-phone interpretation services, adding a new arrow in the quiver of the language services arsenal.
  • Employers must offer employment information to employees who do not speak English, including compliance information required under US labor law. Providing accurate translation of this content is critical for the Latino population and regulatory compliance.
  • US businesses need to create print, radio, and television advertising targeted to the Latino market, creating opportunities for cultural consulting and script customization.
  • Manufacturers increasingly require translated and localized support content for US consumers and call centers augmented by over–the-phone interpretation.

There are great opportunities for language service providers to grow as the Latino market grows in the US. Jump in and help your customers reach this market now!


Language and workplace safety

From The Economist:

Language and workplace safety

Para su seguridad
Dec 19th 2012, 21:07 by S.A.P. | NEW YORK

TWO WEEKS AGO, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report on a poultry plant accident that occurred in Arkansas in June 2011. Chlorine gas, an irritant, was released when chemicals were improperly mixed, and over 150 workers were hospitalised. When interviewed, the employee who caused the accident, a monolingual Spanish-speaker, noted that the safety instructions were written in English, a language he could not read. In fact, 68% of the workers at the plant spoke Spanish as a first language. 12% spoke Marshallese, an Austronesian language spoken on the Marshall Islands. Just 17% of the plant’s workers used English as their native language. The CDC chided the plant for failing to provide proper training in the workers’ languages.

The English-only movement seeks to enshrine English as the only official language in the United States. On its surface, this unfortunate story fits neatly into the English-only narrative. A worker doesn’t know English and causes a serious accident; if everyone could read English safety materials, perhaps we could avoid these kinds of mishaps. But the CDC points out that knowing English, even knowing only English, might not help. Safety materials are often written in university-level English, even though English-speakers in factories usually have low levels of literacy. English-speakers are relatively rare in factories, anyway. Non-English-speakers aren’t going anywhere soon, and denying them resources in their own languages pushes the problem aside, rather than addressing it. For many blue-collar workers, learning English on the side isn’t really an option if their work schedules are prohibitively busy or the cost of classes doesn’t fit into their budgets. If safety is taught only in English, what happens to the workplace? Deciding whether to accommodate, say, Spanish- or Marshallese-speakers isn’t so difficult when heavy machinery is involved. Even if providing resources in smaller languages like Marshallese doesn’t make sense for most employers, it does make sense when 12% of workers speak that language. For factories, accommodating even one non-English-speaker might ensure safety.

Many American government agencies do offer resources in other languages where they’re needed, such as on ballots or governmental forms. Some governments outside of the United States have taken up the cause of language accommodation, too: the Australian state of Victoria, for example, has a guide for employers on how to manage language and cultural differences to promote safety.  Preventing factory accidents is, of course, a particularly pressing goal. The burden of providing translation is low compared to the potential costs of maintaining an English-only workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Act, now over 40 years old, requires training to be provided in a language the workers can understand. But accidents like last year’s demonstrate that the Act’s promise isn’t yet fulfilled. If we’re to take workplace safety seriously, making sure that training sessions and written guides are always properly translated is surely among the most urgent steps.

Bite the wax tadpole: What bad translations cost in dollars (and sense)

What really gets lost in translation? If you guessed money, you’d be right! As the story goes, when Coca-Cola tried to market its deliciousness to China, it mistakenly printed up thousands of signs with verbiage that sounded like Coca-Cola in Chinese, but in reality meant “bite the wax tadpole.”

Okay, that story isn’t entirely true, as reports. But it’s because such errors can cost a billion-dollar company like Coca-Cola more than money — think lost credibility and failed diplomacy — that vigilance in translation accuracy matters.

As the Korean rapper Psy of Gangnam Style fame recently experienced, poor translation can equal political scandal for a worldwide audience.

“Kill Yankees” is Tough to Translate


CNN’s problematic translation of a recent cover song maligned rapper Psy in many parts of the world for supposedly anti-American lyrics, which may have actually been anti-torture lyrics, according to the Washington Post. This report provides about half a dozen translations of what the Korean lyrics might really have meant and how they could otherwise have been translated into English. Although the performer was fortunate to shake President Barak Obama’s hand, it’s a little sketchy whether he’ll be cashing in on that fickle Yankee music market if American audiences hold any one of those possible translations to heart.

Mistranslations of Biblical Proportions


Bad translations have a long history. In fact, some Bible scholars trace poor translation to the time of Moses when God’s Tenth Commandment “do not take” somehow got translated into “do not covet,” according to an article in the Huffington Post.

Language experts around the world meet at great length and expense to debate single words in translations of ancient texts like The Dead Sea Scrolls, The Koran, and certainly various translations of the Bible. Errors in translation can create soul-wrenching affairs for people of faith throughout the world and, unfortunately, mistranslations abound.

Loss of Credibility


Linguists can easily chide — don’t use machine translations or try to cut corners by using student translators if you want to be taken seriously. For those of us who just want to drop a few bon mots at a holiday party, these online translations work fine and chances are, there isn’t much riding on the translation if it’s a gaff.
However, when a U.S. president goes with a shoddy translator to address another nation, the consequences of mistranslation include lost credibility and even blatant insult to an entire people. President Carter’s 1977 address to the Polish people began with giggles over the language screw-ups but ended with real shock for the missed chance to communicate effectively. As Time listed among its “Top 10 Embarrassing Diplomatic Moments,” what was communicated to the Poles was that Carter was “abandoning” America instead of temporarily leaving it, and that he desired the Poles “private parts.” Oy.

Failed Diplomacy


Government translation gaffs don’t always end in laughs, however. Sometimes mistranslations cause an escalation of political tension. A 2006 CNN World Report reported that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was mistranslated as saying “Iran has the right to build nuclear weapons” when he actually stated “Iran has the right to nuclear energy.” A similar situation occurred during the Cold War when Soviet leader Khrushchev was mistranslated; Americans were told he said “we will bury you” instead of the commonly used Russian phrase of “we will outlast you.”

Lessons from the Peacemakers


Then, how do you get a trustworthy transation? Well, for a start, selection criteria matter! Businesses, governments, and news agencies are all learning that to save face and potentially thousands in revenue, you have to employ top-notch professionals. That’s true whether for the localization of technical documentation or for simultaneous interpretation in the political arena.

Indeed, look at the example of the United Nations. Its interpreters continue to be celebrated for setting the standard in translation today, according to Radio Free Europe.

To get a good translation, you’ve got to get the best translator for the job — which, if this whole mix-up with Psy is any indicator, is no small task. Heck, because you already know that people who speak the same language have trouble understanding each other, you can readily see how tough it is for those who speak languages that seem worlds apart!

Translation technologies survey results

Ruth Torres Domínguez, a former Natural Language Processing and Human Language Technology student at The University of Wolverhampton (UK) and Université de Franche-Comté (France), recently conducted an online survey on the topic of translation technologies. 509 translation professionals and students from 59 countries participated in the questionnaire.  The study seeks to shed light on the opinions of translation technologies users and to update the findings of previous studies, such as the TM survey of 2006, the SDL survey of 2009, the TAUS post-editing and TTC surveys of 2010. Translation technologies still do not meet all their users’ requirements or they are of little use to all their potential users: Translation professionals. There are still many gaps to be bridged.  Interesting and key findings on the respondents’ preferences and concerns with respect to terminological-lexicographical resources, translation memory systems, machine translation (MT) and MT post-editing software, and subtitles translation tools are summarized in this report.

The results of the survey are downloadable in English  Results (in English) (2.4 MiB, 122 hits)

First public beta version of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek is launched

For all who are interested in German culture and science, the beta version of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (German digital library), the central German portal for culture and science was initiated on Nov. 28, 2012.  It provides Internet access to Germany’s cultural heritage.  Digital objects from all sectors and media (text, sound, images, moving images) will be offered via a simple search function.

Multilingual Content Strategy: How to Get Started

Posted by  Valarie Badame /
October 17th, 2012

Content lies at the heart of every marketing initiative. In both the online and offline worlds, consumers seek information to guide their buying decisions, and will follow the path of least resistance to get that information. In modern marketing, success is measured by a company’s ability to provide the high quality content that consumers demand.

Producing good content in one language is difficult enough. But a global customer base demands more. If you don’t have a multilingual content strategy that speaks directly to foreign consumers, you’ll be edged out by the companies that do.

But how to approach this essential task? Managing local content teams in multiple countries is both difficult and expensive. A more efficient solution is to produce content centrally, then distribute translated versions to your target markets.

The advantages of centralization are clear. It’s much easier to manage your content team from a single location. And because you’re only paying for content to be produced once, you can invest more in quality. One great blog article localized in six languages is better than six average articles written in different countries.

The following tips will help you implement a “centralize and localize” approach to multilingual content.

Understand The Principles of Global Readiness

Successful localization depends on the quality of the original text. Global readiness is about preparing your content for translation in multiple languages. These are the three key areas on which you should focus:

Terminology management

Global companies need a tight handle on their use of language. Your brand depends on using  the right words at the right time. Terminology management is about developing an “official glossary” for your company, and knowing precisely how certain word and phrases should be translated. A properly built term base that is domain specific ensures language consistency across all language and content. These guidelines must be readily available to content authors and translators.

Using Pivot Languages

pivot language acts as an intermediary when translating an uncommon language pair. Say you have some valuable content in Japanese, which you need translated for the Hungarian market. Finding a Japanese-Hungarian translator won’t be easy (or affordable). It’s much cheaper to re-route the translation, first from Japanese to English, then from English to Hungarian. Your language service provider can advise you on using pivot language translations.

Global-Ready Editing & Writing

Long-winded content full of idioms and flowery language will take longer and cost more to translate. Prior to translation, you should edit your existing content with the following objectives:

  • Shortening long sentences.
  • Removing non-essential words.
  • Replacing idioms and obscure language with common expressions.
  • Applying strict English grammar rules.

Over time, your content authors should adopt these principles from the outset, reducing the need for heavy editing.

The key point is to make your content clear and simple before sending it to the translators. The global-ready format keeps costs to a minimum, because there are fewer words to translate, and ensures the smooth and consistent delivery of content across multiple languages.

Global Cities Initiative

About the Global Cities Initiative

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the United States faces economic challenges that are both structural and cyclical in nature. At the most basic level, the U.S. needs more jobs—to recover those lost during the downturn and keep pace with population growth and labor market dynamics—and better jobs—to grow wages and incomes for lower and middle-class workers and reverse the troubling decades-long rise in inequality.

Launched in Los Angeles in March 2012, the Global Cities Initiative is a $10 million, five-year project of Brookings and JPMorgan Chase aimed at helping the leaders of metropolitan America strengthen their regional economies by becoming more competitive in the global marketplace. GCI is built on the concept that the global economy is a network of metropolitan economies which are home to most of the world’s population, production, finance, and sources of innovation. Combining Brookings’ deep expertise in fact-based, metro-focused research and JPMorgan Chase’s longstanding commitment to investing in cities, this initiative:

  • Helps U.S. city and metropolitan leaders better leverage their global assets by unveiling the economic starting point of their communities on such key indicators as advanced manufacturing, exports, foreign direct investment, freight flow, and immigration.
  • Provides these leaders with proven, actionable ideas for how to expand the global reach of their economies, building on best practices and policy innovations from across the nation and around the world.
  • Creates an international network of leaders from global cities intent upon deepening global trade relationships.

In each of the initiative’s five years, Brookings and JPMorgan Chase will co-host a series of domestic and global forums in collaboration with local, metropolitan area leaders to drive discussions, build consensus, and catalyze action about best practices and strategies for regional economic growth. ‪ Using Brookings’ data-driven analysis and original research, metropolitan leaders will evaluate their regional standings on crucial economic measures and be exposed to best policy and practice innovations from around the world. Ultimately, GCI aims to foster an international network of metropolitan leaders who are committed to trade, invest and grow together.

Related to this initiative, during an event hosted by the Atlanta Regional Commission, Bruce Katz, Vice President and Director, Metropolitan Policy Program, highlighted the Atlanta metropolitan area’s current economic strengths and provided ways for leaders to leverage their assets and build the city’s next economy, under the title “Delivering the Next Economy in Metro Atlanta”.  The content of the presentation is applicable to all metropolitan areas, including metropolitan Kansas City and can be found in full, either in the form of a webinar or as a transcript, at the URL: