Thursday, January 27, 2011

Translators without Borders Is Growing ...and can use your help and donations!

In Port au Prince last month, a 2-year old girl was given up for dead. Her mother had dressed her in her best clothes, expecting to lay her to rest. But today the little girl is one of the 84,500 people in Haiti successfully treated for cholera by Doctors Without Borders.

What does this have to do with translation?

Saving the life of this one child was the result of the concerted efforts of many people. The doctors and nurses on the ground who rehydrated and treated her. The logisticians who made sure they had the right medical supplies. The fundraisers who helped raise the money to get the supplies and medical staff to Haiti. And Translators without Borders volunteers.

Since 1993, Translators without Borders has donated the equivalent of $2 million dollars through volunteer translation efforts to Non Governmental Organizations.  They need our help and donations to expand.
  • For Handicap International, $2 million dollars could clear 83,333 land mines
  • For Doctors without Borders, this would provide 285,714 vaccines
  • $2 million dollars in the hands of Action against Hunger would be enough for 47,617 malnutrition kits
Translators without Borders’ translations helped Doctors Without Borders/Medecins sans frontières raise money from international donors and train international medical staff. In the first days of the earthquake in Haiti, they told the world where help was needed, and have continued to inform the world on the ongoing situation.

Haiti is just one of the regions where Translators without Borders helps NGOs communicate.  Since 1993, Translators without Borders has donated more than 2 million U.S. dollars worth of translations for humanitarian needs in countries such as Somalia, Chad, Angola, Afghanistan, and many more.

Translators without Borders’ goal is to increase the amount of humanitarian translations every year. For all the good work done, there is much more content and many words that need to be translated into local languages.

The organization is now putting the infrastructure in place to serve that unmet need. Just this year, Translators without Borders formalized its volunteer board and developed a platform to make it very easy for volunteers to translate as much or as little content as they have time to contribute. Now the organization is working with African grassroots NGOs to translate critical health information into local languages.

But Translators without Borders cannot succeed solely with volunteers. Structurally, the organization must hire a manager to match the huge and growing need of translations with the many eager translators who want to help. With a direct need of $150,000, every donation will help!

There is much more to be done.

This is simply a request to consider helping. Rather, it is one of the few moments when those of us involved in the Translation Industry can "make a difference". Please consider a donation of any amount to Translators without Borders.  Make a difference — be a part of the translation industry’s effort to serve humanity. You can donate through this link.

Thank you for your consideration,


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Google Introduces New Type of Telephone Interpretation

As announced yesterday on Google's blog, next month Google will launch what it is calling the Conversation Mode in Google Translate for Android. You can see a preview of it here.

It is a basic process of Voice Recognition, followed by Machine Translation that is converted back to voice using text-to-speech. The service will start to be offered in February 2011 between English and Spanish, but other languages will follow soon.

Google alerts that this is still an experimental feature that is in its early stages and that it cannot handle accents, background noise or rapid speech.

Is this the so awaited Universal Translator that we saw in Star Trek? Will this replace telephone interpretation or even human interpretation?

Not yet. In fact, I have seen demos of voice-based MT systems several times. Language companies used it as a technique to impress investors and get some venture capital. One of the first ones I was from Lernout & Hauspie that translated between English and Chinese. More recently, I was very impressed by how Speaklike was able to create a functioning demo just using off-the-shelf or free software.

Just like Google Translate, the Conversation Mode will help in situations where an interpreter would never be called before, like the shoe store case presented in the preview mentioned above. The applications are limited and the accuracy is not consistent. And just like Google Translate, the Conversation Mode will probably help increase the awareness of the importance of professional interpretation. Or would you go to court in foreign country using your Android phone as your translator?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Livemocha Signs Deal with Telefônica in Brazil. Rosetta Stone Loses Money.

Livemocha, the community-based online training platform, announced an agreement with Telefônica Brasil offering high-speed Internet customers significantly discounted pricing to Livemocha's English courses. The deal is part of an agreement with Telefonica Worldwide to offer Livemocha's language courses to Telefonica customers across the globe.

Seattle area-based Livemocha provides self-study language courses that combine traditional language training with practice with native speakers online. The company shares the space with traditional language training companies, like Berlitz and The Wall Street Institute, but competes mostly with self-paced programs like Rosetta Stone (NYSE:RST), Mango Languages, and Fluenz.

But why is this news?

The first part is pricing. According to their press-release, Livemocha's regular price for Active English is R$40 per month (US$24); but under the agreement, Telefônica Brasil's broadband customers can purchase the program for as little as R$4.90 per month (US$2.90). This allows the company to easily penetrate one of the fastest growing technology markets in the world, where there is a huge demand for English training.

The second part is scalability. Contrary to Rosetta Stone, which generated a net loss in the third quarter of 2010, Livemocha's training model maintains the engagement of the student through very efficient reminders and invitations. Rosetta Stone relies mostly on self-motivation, which in my opinion is not enough. In fact, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, I suspect that a high percentage of Rosetta Stone's software is just shelfwarei.e., software that gets bought by a company or individual that ends up sitting on a shelf somewhere and not being used.

As for Livemocha, I have personally taken at least three free lessons and I am constantly being invited to come back and join the community.

In its SEC filings, Rosetta Stone states that it is growing faster internationally (119% in the third quarter) in markets like Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom and Germany, but that those sales still represent only 17% of their total revenues. By signing a deal with Telefonica, Livemocha has an opportunity to penetrate more global markets more competitively though a powerful channel partner.

If Livemocha manages to get the visibility and branding that Rosetta Stone did with its ubiquitous advertising and retail strategy, it has the opportunity to grow in a more sustainable way than its competitors.

Oh... from an international branding perspective, I believe that both Livemocha and Rosetta Stone are very bad names.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

New Starbucks Logo is Localization Friendly

Four logos in 40 years
Starbucks announced today the roll-out of its new logo as of March 2011, when the company celebrates its 40th anniversary. The main change is the elimination of the words "Starbucks Coffee" from the iconic brand image.

The new wordless version of the logo -- in addition to allowing the company to expand its product offerings beyond coffee -- makes it easier to penetrate more international markets, especially those that don't use latin characters. The company already has 400 stores in China and plans to open more in the future.

Branding people at Starbucks monitored the performance of companies like Nike and Apple, which had earned enough recognition with consumers to drop the words from their logos.

From a localization perspective, using words in logos generates branding issues that require several types of adaptation. These are not unsurmountable, but might be avoided by using only images.

Coca-Cola is a good example. The brand is in virtually every country in the world and sounds basically the same everywhere. However, its famous trademark needs to be displayed in different scripts according to the locale where the product is sold.

Another problem with word-based brands is pronunciation. SC Johnson launched the line of Glade Air Fresheners in Brazil as Gleid (so that Brazilians could pronounce it correctly and not as the word glad). It has only recently relaunched the brand with the English spelling after research showed that the brand had become a household name with something close the English sound.

A very good practice when it comes to brands in international markets is to perform a linguistic brand assessment to ensure that the words mean what they are supposed to mean. You want to make sure that the written and pronounced words don't have any negative or derogatory connotations in foreign languages.  I always remember an assessment for, which sounds like "my urine" in Spanish. Or Chana Motors in Brazil, which sounds like a vulgar word for vagina in Brazil (thanks to Daniela do Carmo).

Finally, another element to take into consideration is color. An excellent recent post in the COLOURlovers blog about top web brands and a study by Interbrand about corporate brands show that blue is the dominant color among the top brands. Starbucks seems to be the only corporate brand that will use only green as it is brand color.

If you know of any interesting stories about global branding, please add a comment and share it with us.

Starbucks in Russia

Italian Leading LSPs Arancho and Ic.Doc Merge

As I predicted a few weeks ago, the consolidation movement in the language industry kicked off early. Today, Roberto Ganzerli and Susan West, respectively CEOs of Arancho and Ic.Doc announced the formation of Arancho Doc srl.

Susan West & Roberto Ganzerli
The new entity will combine the talents of companies that excel in software localization, technical documentation, life sciences, and CMS integration in nine offices in seven countries (Italy, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, Japan, Spain, and Switzerland).

Arancho Doc will be run by Roberto Ganzerli (Chief Strategy Officer) and Klaus Haase (COO) and will be headquartered in Bologna. The combined organization has 90 employees and approximately €8.5 million in revenues.

After the successful integration of the Czech LSP Donatello last year, Arancho Doc is now looking to expand into Germany and the United States through strategic mergers or acquisitions.

I always thought that Arancho's unique strategy of growing in peripheral markets was very smart. I loved the fact that the company headquartered in Rimini (Federico Fellini's birthplace) had offices in Barcelona and Helsinki, before venturing into more traditional and highly competitive locations like Brussels and Prague. Now, with the addition of Ic.Doc, the organization adds more cosmopolitan Zurich and Osaka to their list of locations.

Let's see who is next.