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ELIA Together 2017: Community, collaboration, communication

There’s a longstanding myth that translators are solitary creatures by nature, preferring to spend their days burrowed away in their little home offices rather than joining the horde. After all, if we weren’t reclusive introverts, wouldn’t we all have opted for the exciting world of interpreting instead? Well, with a vast tapestry of attendees from 38 countries across the globe, all keen to share their own perspectives on the profession, this year’s ELIA conference showed that solitude, far from being a motivation for translators’ career choice, is in most cases just an unfortunate byproduct.

The team behind 'The Patchwork Approach' gave an inspiring talk on 'The Warmest Project', their unique initiative designed to bring language professionals together on a human level, sharing their weird and wonderful tales of life in the industry (read more at Quoting David Brooks, Jozeph Kovalov warned translators against getting “caught in the loneliness loop”.

‘Humans are caught in the loneliness loop. What drives us, ultimately, is the yearning for community and to be understood by others’

This occupational hazard is the very reason why it’s so important for independent language professionals and companies to meet up at events such as ELIA Together, and to build relationships that can continue well into the future. But what does this mean in reality?

Various practical ideas for promoting better community, collaboration and communication were discussed this year. One speaker recommended that translation companies take a more personal approach to the recruitment process using the concept of ‘remote interviews’, giving both parties the opportunity to develop a rapport with one another. Strategies like this reflect the need for the relationship between the language professional and the translation agency to be a mutually beneficial partnership rather than a mere business transaction – a mantra that fits in well with our ethos here at STB.

Heidi Kerschl, who in her own words has worked “on both sides of the fence”, suggested taking that collaboration even further, bringing together project managers and freelance translators (or, perhaps, Martians and Venusians!) for software training, for example. While the logistics of such an arrangement could prove challenging, the fact is that, whether we’re project managers or freelance translators, we face the same obstacles day in day out, so it makes sense to try and overcome them together.

Talking of obstacles - funnily enough, in an industry brimming with experts in language, communication was highlighted time and again at Elia Together as the greatest hindrance to successful collaboration. As keynote speaker Balász Kis reminded us in his opening talk, the faceless world of email communication opens up a minefield of potential misunderstandings. That’s why the best thing about an event like ELIA Together, besides the fascinating talks and the amazing location, is having the opportunity to venture out from behind the screen and talk face to face, without a keyboard in sight, with the people who make our profession a community.

According to Heidi Kerschl, “a good project manager is one you can get drunk with”, so we’ll meet you at the bar at Together 2018!

Lauren Reed

Surrey Translation Bureau







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Effective Localisation: Beyond Translation

Having material localised is essential for any company looking to expand into different countries. No matter the industry there will always be a need to manipulate the content to fit the target population, whether it is a product, business, movie, e-learning etc. To be effective this must be done right and not just translated.

So how do you achieve successful localisation?

First of all it is important to understand what localisation actually is. In short, localisation is altering content for a different locale or population. The most obvious example of this when working internationally is translating content. However, localisation does not stop at translation, it also includes…

-Changing images, graphics or colour schemes

-Altering content to match the desires of the population

-Accurately inputting translated material that may vary in size

-Converting to the target demographics units e.g. kilometres, currency etc.

-Using the correct formatting for dates, times etc.

-Meeting legal and cultural requirements

The best way to successfully localise your content is to work with a translation and localisation provider, who can localise each part of your project whether it is websites, video or printed material. To make this process run smooth and efficiently It is important to consider the following things before diving into localisation.


First things first, languages.

Put your selected languages into stages (either in similar groups or by importance).

 Stage one: French, German and Italian

 Stage two: Chinese, Japanese and Korean etc.

 Focusing on fewer languages will help the quality checking process. This will allow an improvement in work flow and highlight any areas that may need editing for the localised version to work.

Next, find your range.

Identify what does and doesn’t need localising.

Audio, video, text, images, tables, screenshots, logos and names are just a few things to consider.

Have any of these things been translated or localised previously? If so, compile a glossary with them all in, this will help your localisation provider. Often brands are already used in the target country, therefore they probably don't need localising. Selecting anything that doesn't need to be localised saves time and money.

Make an Estimation

Estimate the word counts and timing for the audio, video or text.

Prices for localisation are often done by word count. Knowing these can help your localisation service provider give you an accurate quote. Little things like this are often overlooked by companies and it basically means more work for the localisation provider and therefore more time and money.


Now consider your design

Changing languages can cause havoc with the design of your content.

To avoid this, limit the text on images and in videos. Also, consider that text expands in different languages, on average by 20-50%. Furthermore many languages only 'work' in certain fonts and formats. If your original content contains all manner of fonts, italics, colours and even bold text the process of localising this will be much more difficult. So it is best to keep it simple if you know it will be localised at a later date.

Save, time, money and effort.

Can you provide the correct source material to be localised?

When providing content to be localised the editable source content is vital to make the whole process easier and therefore quicker and cheaper. If you have an English version already the easiest thing is to provide the source material which can then be altered.

Keep it cultural.

Countries have different views and beliefs on many things. Some are not all obvious.

Things such as colours, pictures, signs, gestures and symbols are all important to consider to make the localisation accurate because the last thing you want to do is cause offence.

In addition, some colloquial language and acronyms etc. wont translate directly, this causes issues if there are specific phrases or terms used for your product. A lot of phrases etc. are only relevant in their own specific culture and will be 'lost in translation' in other languages.

Listen to the pros.

Just because a person can speak a language doesn’t mean they can be a voice over artist. If you require voice-overs make sure you sample various artists and ensure that they fit your specific needs. Does their personal sound portray what you want it to?


Finally, test the content.

Review the validity of  the localisation, is it achieving what it set out to achieve? Does it still portray the same message? There is no point localising materials if the message is lost or confused.       

Double check the translations, no translator is 100% perfect and often words can have multiple meanings or can be interpreted differently. As a result, getting a second opinion on translations is essential.

Ensure that the product is user friendly, can the desired people access it. Make sure that this is across different platforms that may be used, e.g. PC, mobile, Mac. In addition is it available across different internet browsers?

The modern globalised world demands localisation, any think that needs to transcend across different countries and cultures needs to be localised effectively. Many people think simply translating material will suffice but this is not the case. In addition many people fail to understand the requirements to successfully localise something and therefore the above tips should be followed. You can avoid ineffective localisation by hiring experts that control all aspects of the localisation process for you. The key to this relationship comes down to good communication, if you can go through the factors above with your provider the process will be much smoother and inevitably more successful.

Adelphi StudioLtd

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6 billion reasons to translate the Untranslatable

Linguists have always been intrigued by pictorial and symbolic languages. Consider the Egyptians and their hieroglyphs, the Mexicans and their Aztec language or we can even go as far back to a time when spoken language hadn’t fully evolved and humans would communicate with cave paintings. And now, the dawn of the digital age- with its plethora of revolutionary technologies -has brought with it a new pictorial language: Emoji.

In 1999 Shigetaka Kurita was inspired by the symbols found around him, like in weather reports, and created Emojis for Japanese mobile operators. Since then, thanks to the social media revolution, Emoji has gathered pace and momentum, with current estimates indicating that usage is prolific: up to 6 billion are sent every day. No wonder it is starting to affect international communications. Emoji use in international communication.

Nowadays, you can almost guarantee that you’ll find some form of emoji when using social media or blogs, translating online transcripts, designing online marketing campaigns or conducting market research online. They are even creeping into the most formal of emails as a way of adding to or changing the tone of a sentence.

‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ The initial stumbling block is having to translate a relatively new, constantly-evolving, pictorial language that is for the most part unregulated by dictionaries or grammar books. For anyone with enough fame and money, there is even the possibility to create bespoke Emojis. To complicate things even further, cross-cultural and platform-based variants exist within this new language as well–some examples below.Platform-based differences




Examples of different cultural interpretations
Throw all the aforementioned challenges into the multilingual, culturally-sensitive hot pot of international communication and it’s worth asking “will this ever be a truly global language?”. Will the thoughts, feelings, emotions, intentions ever be interpreted consistently by people all over the world?


Well, step aside Esperanto-some headway has been made in making Emoji a competing universal language. In 2010, the Unicode Consortium (UC) incorporated Shigetaka  Kurita’ssymbols into Unicode, allowing them to be used outside of their country of origin, Japan.The UC currently sets Emojis and their meanings, which are being standardized across different languages and cultures, as well as various operating systems. This truly is history in the making.

The reality of a universal language, however, is still just a twinkle in the UC’s eye.

Emoji remains a linguistic minefield where communicators, agencies and translators alike have fallen foul of the intended meanings, which can easily be misconstrued or seen as insignificant across the wealth of languages and cultures we have on our planet.

It is crucial in the Digital Age that a translator has a full understanding of the different meanings of Emoji in any source AND target text, taking into account the cross-cultural nuances of the thoughts, emotions and feelings that are changing every day in the online world. This is probably where the super-power of the professional human translator brain comes into its own –machine translation alone is not currently known for being able to accurately extract inferred meaning from Emoji symbols.

Thinking ahead

It looks like Emoji is here to stay for the foreseeable and there are at least 6 billion reasons a day as to why we will have to find ways to adapt tothis new language phenomenon. The hard facts are these -Emoji is HUGE. Emoji is GLOBAL. Yes, there are indeed challenges that come with it and it is going to need more work before it is fully multilingual. However, dare we go as far as saying that it could be the revolutionary global language that we have all been waiting for? For you to decide.






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Did you know French is the world’s third most important business language?


It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why. With more than 220 million French speakers worldwide (along with 70 million partial-speakers), it’s Europe’s second most widely spoken mother tongue, and is in the top 10 most popularly used languages on the internet, too. Furthermore, French is the official language for about 29 countries, including countries that account for 20% of world trade in goods.

You’d be right in thinking that this positions it as one of the most useful languages around - and one that, certainly, qualifies for further consideration when you’re looking to translate aspects of your business.

 Grab your passports - let’s explore the idea a little more, shall we?

Other businesses are there.

French was the common “international language” for business and diplomacy for many years and remains an official language of the UN, NATO, World Trade Organisation and the International Olympic Committee. Ensuring your business communicates in French, then, implies that you’re in very powerful company!

The proof is in the pudding - businesses worldwide are using it, from pharmaceuticals to media publications to all sorts of marketing disciplines and - crucially - to tourist-centric companies, too such as Get My Boat, a boat rental service that connects boat owners and operators to customers worldwide. Employee Jess Segraves commented:

“French has enabled me to work easily with the Canadian and French media, website owners and webmasters quickly and efficiently. It’s extremely important for our international reach - a global marketplace does not just serve the English-speaking world!” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

“The whole of Paris is a vast university of Art, Literature and Music… it is worth anyone’s while to dally here for years. Paris is a seminar, a post-graduate course in everything.” - James Thurber

France has around 30 sites on Unesco’s World Heritage list (it’s fourth on the global rankings list) and it’s also home to the famous Louvre, which houses roughly 35,000 artifacts and attracts nearly 10 million visitors a year - more than any other museum in the world.

These are just two examples out of a list of many. France is very famous for its links to many of society’s beloved cultural disciplines, including fashion, cooking, art and architecture. You’d be hard-pressed to find a creative niche that the French haven’t famously excelled in, in fact - a proficiency which has bought them linguistic dominance, in turn, among many academics, creatives and tourists.

French isn’t a language that just has positive practical implications, therefore: it pulls at the heartstrings, strikes a chord - and ultimately makes you memorable.

“50% of current English vocabulary derives from French.” - France Diplomatie




It’s an easy language to learn, for one (particularly when pitched against others like Mandarin!). It’s also one of the world’s most popularly shared official languages, spoken in Belgium and Luxembourg (Europe), Cameroon and Madagascar (Africa) and North America (Canada) - to name but a few, giving it real global scope. Not only that, a lot of people feel inspired to pick up French recreationally due to its cultural symbolism (as aforementioned); the “fashion” of the language helping spread its reach even further.

When you’re communicating in French, you’re not simply speaking to those who are native to France - you’re speaking to the millions of people who’ve picked it up or adopted it in other countries where it lives as an official language. In picking up French, thus - you join a global community.

“The French air cleans up the brain and does good – a world of good.” - Vincent Van Gogh

Not only is French one of the world’s most popular languages, France is, too, one of the world’s most popular destinations in terms of business and leisure.

The largest country in Western Europe and bound by the North Sea, English Channel, Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, France borders six other countries, which makes it ideally suited for international trade and tourist accessibility.

Not only this, according to the French government’s website, last year the amount of Asian visitors coming to France increased by 22%, and American visitors by 15.2%. France isn’t just ideally positioned for European visitors, then, but possesses significant global draw; placing it very much in the international spotlight.

There’s a reason why people are calling it “The Language of the Future”.

The French-speaking global population is growing so rapidly, research by investment bank Natixis suggests it may be spoken by 750 million people by 2050 - overtaking both English and Mandarin.



 Theorists suggest that this might be in part due to the fact that Mandarin, one of the world’s most spoken languages, is excruciatingly hard to learn and may shift with “China’s certain demographic slide”. In contrast, French is easy to learn, present on all continents, in the global spotlight and one of the primary languages spoken on a continent projected to be economically prolific by 2050 - Africa.

“French is a language that makes those who speak it both calm and dynamic.” - Bernard Pivot, French journalist

 Mark Robinson Alexika Ltd


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It is no secret that machine translation (MT) technologies are becoming an increasingly widely implemented feature in online messaging used by customer service departments of transnational companies, and in b2b communications.
At their core, live MT systems usually operate based on a trained machine translation memory (MTM) in a way very similar to the use of TMs in CAT tools. Upon translating the customer’s query based on its memory, the machine offers the employee a suitable answer to use in conversation.
While the main purpose of such solutions is clear and their benefits include hugely reduced waiting time for the customer and a significant cost saving opportunity for the company, system’s implementation and maintenance are quite labour-intensive. Instead of hiring a language proficient agent, the company will still have to train an employee to use the software. Also, the MTM will need to be constantly updated and synchronized. It is very important to keep its contents up to date and reliable since the user will more likely be unable to read the machine-translated text.

Taking into account the wide variety of customer queries, specific terminology, slang, abbreviations and other language quirks, the system could easily drive the online conversation off-course and even affect the customer satisfaction (CSAT) level. For example, a Russian word «Хорошо» can be translated as “Well” in English (as in “You’ve done well”), but is often used similar to “OK” in conversational speach. If a Russian customer contacts an English-speaking customer service rep. who asks them to wait for a moment or two to check something, the machine might translate customer’s «Хорошо» as “well” (instead of “Ok”), making the customer look impatient or irritated. This is one of the many actual examples of small miscommunication incidents that might happen while using live MT software. However, if you compare their language barrier breaking capabilities as well as the Service Level Agreement (SLA) benefits for the companies utilizing them, it becomes clear that the overall value of MT engines is enormous.

A range of such solutions are employed by different companies and implemented into various live communication tools (e.g. liveperson , or Geofluent). There are also solutions more oriented on b2b communication, e.g.

On the other hand, we see an increasing demand for online services where live translation is performed by remote human translators rather then MT engines. Platforms such as SpeakUs or Cloud Interpreter focus their effort on facilitating “live interpretation from any location via browser or application” with the help of professional interpreters from all over the world.

In one way or another, technologies helps us all stay connected. And we hope that with the aid of NMT (Neural Machine Translation), live MT systems will only improve CSAT.

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A recent project concluded by Multilingual Manchester ( has identified more than 50 languages on signage throughout the city.  This signage included everything from business signs to posters and leaflets.  The most common languages other than English were Urdu, Chinese, Arabic and Polish.

The diversity of the languages in Manchester is just a sampling of the diversity in the United Kingdom.  Signs in multiple languages popped up not just at retail establishments but public services, and even on public buildings themselves.

This diversity of language in everyday life points to ever-growing diversity in workplaces around the UK.  Organisations are take inclusivity and diversity policies from the basic “sensitivity training” to the next level: integrating it into their organisational culture and practices (

However, this is just one piece of the multilingual workforce puzzle.  This organisational culture must be communicated to employees, and in order to preserve the diversity of today’s workforce, language services must be integrated.  Here’s how:

From the Beginning
The first step is identifying the languages in which you need information translated.  Your organization likely will not need 51 different translations, but it could be close.  If English is the second language of any employee, an organisation should provide translation services of important information for that employee.
One of the benefits of incorporating translation services ( into an organisation is the improved communication.  Nothing gets lost in an employee’s own interpretation.  This is important when drafting policies such as new human resources policies and especially diversity policies.  It also removes the burden of translation from the shoulders of multilingual employees.

To the Roll-Out
Once it’s time to communicate information to employees, there are a variety of ways to do so.  The most common, of course, is the ubiquitous email.  Yet again, without language services in place, this can leave some employees in the dark about what’s being shared.  This lost in translation phenomenon ( is most prevalent in written communications that include sarcasm and colloquialisms.

It is more difficult for organisations to offer translations and interpretations of emails.  That’s more emails than servers can manage, let alone a language services provider.  Instead, communications strategies can be combined with translation strategies to equip employees with the necessary information and tools.
Visual communications are beneficial to any workplace ( because they can be customized for individual audiences.  This allows an organisation to transmit information in multiple languages, tailoring each broadcast for a different language audience.  Targeted communications are going to lead to more engaged employees.

Additionally, investing in language services to foster diversity can make your organisational culture inviting, one of the many things that attracts new talent (  It will also attract new customers and clients and continue to engage the ones you already have.  If you haven’t integrated language services yet, now’s the time.

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Over the past few years translation management systems have evolved into complex tools that strive to maximise process efficiency and optimize bottom-line performance. Their development is a continuous quest for self-improvement, influenced by integration requirements and established business practice of a given market.

While developing our own customised TMS at Literra, we surveyed different types of users across Russia and "neigbouring countries" and  other TMS developers and wanted to share the key points to the ATC conference attendees.

Automation in LSPs 2013-2016

Statistics of the past 4 years tell us about an increased interest in automation. In 2013 only one out of two companies used some sort of TMS. Now we have companies that use up to 2 or even 3 systems simultaneously.

Over 50% of the LSPs surveyed have noted that their customers’ loyalty increased after they started using TMS. Proprietary solutions and enterprise-level commercial TMS have made managerial accounting completely transparent, as well as slowed down the project handling process.

Among TMS apparent advantages are; the users state transparency of business for owners and management, translation quality monitoring, task monitoring, cost control, plan-fact analysis, and these are only some of the many points.

We asked users of commercial and proprietary TMS to evaluate them against a set of criteria, 4 key parameters of which are implementation, result, support and expectations being met.

Survey results

According to delivered data proprietary solutions, 1C-based tools and cheap systems with limited functionality are in the lead. Some of the more popular European TMS are at the end of the spectrum due to high costs, complexity of customisation/adaptation and service level, based on the responses we have received.

Using our automation expertise and the results that we obtained through the survey we have made a list of recommendations for those who have not chosen a TMS yet:
·      Appoint a dedicated implementation manager with director-level authority;
·      Indicate key requirements for the future system;
·      Do not budget to the last penny, there will be unforeseen costs;
·      Make it official in-house;
·      Implement in functional units;
·      Be prepared to alter business processes in the company;
·      Take time to provide necessary support.

About the company

Literra has been on the Russian and international markets since 2006, providing a comprehensive range of translation, localisation, interpreting, SEO and translation training services. In our work we use a TMS based on Russian accounting system 1C which is also integrated with SDL Trados and Memsource.

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It was a pleasure and a privilege to represent careers in Modern Foreign Languages at the recent careers fair at one of our local secondary schools, Ermysted’s Grammar School in Skipton, North Yorkshire. A huge ‘well done’ is due to the organiser, Careers Advisor Yvonne Lang, on such a superbly organised event – I spent a full 2 hours talking solidly to mainly 15 and 16 year old linguists, and most of the other professions represented seemed to be very busy too.

After a few minutes, it became clear that the young people and their parents had just one question in mind initially – what careers can you follow if you study languages at university? I chose to speak from very personal experience, and I was quoting 3 initial thoughts:

-        As recommended by my university careers service after my degree in German Studies, you can be a teacher. I have every admiration for teachers, and they make a real difference to the lives of young people and widen their horizons through languages – but that is a special talent and was not for me.

-        -    You can, as I did, join a company that sells things in the country where your studied language is spoken. On joining a company in the plastics industry, I was sent immediately to Germany to work at trade shows and exhibitions. I then became the export contact for the company, and was sent to France and Holland. After a few years, I became an export manager at other companies and visited many countries on business including South Africa, Korea and Saudi Arabia. A qualification in languages is a passport – and a head start - into the fascinating world of international business and travel. You can be a one man or woman boost to your country’s balance of payments balance!

-        -    You can, as I did after 10 years of the above-mentioned exporting life, enter the thriving translation and interpreting profession. You generally need a post-graduate qualification to open up a number of career possibilities including translation of written documents (Legal? Technical? What could be your specialist subject?) from your studied language, conference interpreting to and from your mother tongue or translation project management. Your role is enabling companies and people to communicate and do business.

But just talking about all this reminded me of others who have used their languages in other careers. I know a chartered accountant who has a degree in Russian and French – and has been sent to audit his firm’s Russian and Bulgarian officers. I know a UK patent attorney who uses his fluent German to act at the European Patent Court in Munich….and I know a Spanish-speaking solicitor who specialises in Spanish property work….

So there are many options. But I tried to explain too that learning languages is great just for itself – for giving you a window into another culture, for helping you to understand what others are thinking and why they behave as they do…

I’d love to hear from other linguists on this topic. What have I missed? What other career ideas are out there? And why are more people in the UK not studying languages?

Mark Robinson, Alexika Ltd


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  • Geoffrey Bowden
    Geoffrey Bowden says #
    The UK government needs to ret...
    Evidence from award-winning organisations such as Business Language Champions ( who have spo

Translation business profitability was, arguably, the most appealing topic of ATC 2016 Language Industry Summit discussions.

From size to essence

Growth for traditional translation services slows down year to year. It’s getting increasingly difficult for LSPs to win new customers and increase revenue, and marketing is getting more competitive. According to the 2016 bench marking survey and accounts for the latest financial year, at least five out of 20 if the UK’s largest translation companies did less business in 2015 than in 2014, or stayed flat. The number one company based in the UK, SDL, stayed on more or less the same level of revenue since 2012. RWS, the second largest LSP, grew 2% organically last year, but added about 25% via an acquisition of another organisation, CTi in the United States.

In a few years organic growth might grind to a halt.

Some managers of mature companies have already switched the focal point of their efforts to cost control and profitability. They are looking for ways to make their businesses more profitable, rather than just bigger.

How translation business owners control and optimise costs

Topics concerning profitability permeated a few key speeches at ATC Summit.

Roberto Ganzerli, the founder of one of the top Italian LSPs, Arancho Doc, presented a set of metrics his company uses to make costs transparent, expose hidden expenses, and track EBITDA. Roberto outlined how planning, metrics and procedures help AD become more efficient.

Ruth Partington of RP Translate spoke about communicating value to customers and maintaining margins. She called business owners to deconstruct their offers and identify individual services involved in making content multilingual, for example document engineering and file preparation. She advocated creating a pyramid-like hierarchy, with the highest-value added services on top, and communicating the value to customers this way, service-by-service, according to the value they represent. This solution approach is more rewarding.

Andrzej Nedoma of XTRF advocated process automation. His presentation suggested that margin erosion is a problem for 80% LSPs. To fight it, he suggested replacing manual project management with automated workflows, which would reduce in-costs and make the business more efficient.