Archive for November, 2011

Social Networking in Any Language

Allowing businesses to create their own content to meet their customers’ demands is essential in today’s world, and social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn have helped companies reach their clientele more directly than ever before.

Recently, the Financial Times reported that Google has moved to broaden the appeal of its social network, Google+, by adding a Pages feature for businesses. Although this feature is only a first step towards making Google+ competitive with deeply entrenched Facebook, it shows how the ongoing drive to connect companies and their customers online is becoming stronger and stronger.

Business are eager to connect with some of Facebook’s 800 million users or the younger Google+’s 40 million, but without localizing content, social marketing misses out on reaching foreign customers. Social networks, like the people in them, are international. Facebook and Google+ are available in well over 40 languages.

SpeakLike provides services in fast, business-quality translation, allowing companies get the most out of social network marketing. Check out our Facebook page, which shows examples of our Twitter translation in action. Coming soon, our Google+ page will be ready

What’s New in SpeakLike?

The SpeakLike team was quite busy over the summer making lots of improvements to help our customers get the right language translation when they need it.

Choose what’s most important: quality, speed, or price.
SpeakLike now provides choices for each translation request. Balance requirements for the quality level, turnaround time, and price.

Pick your quality level.
With SpeakLike you get human translation, not machine translation. Still, the quality of human translation can vary. Some translators use better sentence structure and spelling. Other translators address more subjective requirements, typing just the right phrase for a particular meaning. Now with SpeakLike, you can choose the level of quality you want, from good enough to ready-to-publish.

Discount price, good enough quality
Choose our lowest priced service, as low as US$0.06 per word for language translation, for good enough quality not required for business communication. Because this service accesses our largest pool of translators, one will often see really fast results (our average turnaround is only 1 hour). Although sometimes the wait is longer, so if a translation is needed in a hurry, choose a faster option. For marketing content or other important business communication, please plan to review and edit this content or ask for a guaranteed double-pass.

Request a review and edit for better quality.
Select double pass to have a qualified SpeakLike reviewer edit the document before it comes back. A slightly higher price and some additional time provides higher quality.

When do you need it?
A SpeakLike order can also be configured based on how fast you need your translation. Each level takes a higher priority in our automated system. Our team monitors translation activity and makes sure urgent work gets the attention it needs.

SpeakLike specializes in fast translation, including real-time chat translation (in seconds, not minutes) or customer support email messages in minutes or hours. Customers can even partner with us to process more than 10,000 – 15,000 words per day, in hours.

Use our select group of professional translators.
Access a select group of our most highly rated and trusted translators available for many of our languages, but these requests might take more time. For special language or content requirements, such as marketing or financial language, we can put together a custom translator group.

Try our new translation form right on the homepage for an instant quote on your next translation. For each option there is listed a price quote and estimated delivery time, and you pay only for what you purchase (US$5.00 minimum).

Call us at +1 212-497-7590 or email us at for any questions on these options or to learn more about how to configure custom services that meet your company’s on-demand language needs.

Localization and Mistranslation

Two weeks ago we discussed how the sound and “design” of a name can affect the success of a product or service. Since then, we have found a few more examples that hit home. Today, presentation and first impression in a new language or audience is so vital in international business today and very heavily determines how brands are perceived. Companies looking to grow in new markets need to localize for success.
This article, about differences in Latin American Spanish dialects, illustrates how important it is to make sure your message is tailored for your audience. Accidentally using words or phrases that have different local meanings, like telling a Texan and an Englishman you left something in your boot, can lead to humorous situations. When it comes to work, however, it’s best not to take chances.
Likewise, many companies are working hard to rework their brand names when entering the Chinese market. In China, as in many countries, the names and the sounds are important. According to this article, businesses like Tasty Fun (Coca Cola) and Precious Horse (BMW), among others, have worked hard to make their brands sound appealing to local consumers. Having high-quality, localized translations and resources to help translators use consistent phrasing, like those that SpeakLike offers, can help you avoid embarrassing mistranslations and faux-pas in front of your customers. If you’re produce cleaning products, you don’t want to accidentally call yourself Mr. Chicken Meat!

Rise of the Machines

Common Sense Advisory released a report on “Trends in Machine Translation” today. Their key findings are:

  • Customer experience and engagement mandate more translation. Common Sense Advisory’s research has repeatedly shown that both consumers and business buyers prefer reading information in their own language. (Nothing earth-shattering in either of those statements.)
  • The vast amount of content makes MT inevitable. (Ditto – how many of you have relied on Babelfish or Google Translate in a pinch?)
  • Over the next few years, every organization’s content strategy will rely on some type of machine translation. Displacing each percentage point of the current spending on human-delivered translation could double the number of words delivered in a foreign language through editing of the output by professionals. For post-edited MT, quality is already equivalent to human translation in many cases. Taking the next step to high-quality trained MT at microcents a word could increase translated content by orders of magnitude.

    I disagree with Common Sense Advisory’s third assertion regarding the quality of machine translation. From my observation of the marketplace, MT is just not there yet, regardless of the algorithm used to translate words and phrases. There is still a stunted, choppy awkwardness to more complex phrases and sentences that make it not quite ready for prime-time. Personally, I would rather challenge myself to read a website in the original language rather than stumble through text that feels like a person thumbed through their grammar school English textbook to rewrite.

    SpeakLike’s translation engine runs on people power. From experience, the human touch in applying style and elegance to the written word still reigns supreme. In fact, the system has some checks to flag text that appears machine-translated, providing some assurance that the customer did not pay for an important document to be run through some webpage and spit out a mediocre translation courtesy of AI. This is the key value added from SpeakLike. It will be interesting to see what the future holds, but for now, machines do not reign supreme.

The Translation Gap

I found an interesting blog post in the Korea Times about South Korea’s lag behind Japan with respect to translation. There are many similarities between Japanese and Korean, mainly grammatical structure and geographic limit of the language to their respective countries of origin. While Koreans claim their English skills are better than the Japanese, the lack of quality translation skills has led to some embarassing situations on the international scene.

SpeakLike recognizes the prevalence of both Japanese and Korean and has many well-qualified translators to help us provide fluid translations within our clients’ requested turnaround time.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Are Signs

Has this ever happened to you? While traveling in a country where you don’t speak the language, you come across postings, menus, signs, and other printed material that you can’t read. And, alas, there is no translation available. Well, stranger in a strange land, fear not! Have iPhone, will translate. Simply download the iPhone app SpeakLike Photo Translator before you leave, snap a picture of the text in question, and an army of translators will decipher the text. You can also use the app to translate snippets of text, which you can copy and paste into a form. This can come in handy if the point-and-grunt method of communication fails.

Even if you don’t have an iPhone, is accessible in all browsers, including mobile devices, for text translation at your fingertips.

L10n vs. I18n – ???

In our truncation-obsessed modern world, it can be tough to keep up with the acronyms and abbreviations tossed around. Two such that have been around longer than IDK and outlasted Bennifer are l10n and i18n. No, these are not new Pantone colors or top-secret pharmaceutical code names. Rather, localization (l10n) and internationalization (i18n) are two methods for providing products, services, or content in multiple language or cultural formats. The official W3C definition for each is:

Localization refers to the adaptation of a product, application or document content to meet the language, cultural and other requirements of a specific target market (a locale).
Internationalization is the design and development of a product, application or document content that enables easy localization for target audiences that vary in culture, region, or language.

L10n and i18n go beyond translation and can include time and number formatting, currency, graphics and symbols. Internationalization allows for easier and more flexible localization, especially in the future, but requires more up-front planning to do so. It may require a significant investment to internationalize an existing product or service, hence why some companies may find localization easier.

Regardless of which approach your business chooses, SpeakLike can support both. In particular, SpeakLike’s Strings offering is an easy and fast way to translate website and software into multiple languages.

Would a Rose Really Smell Sweet If It Had a Funny-Sounding Name?

Over four hundred years ago, Shakespeare penned the oft-misquoted line, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.” Not so fast, Juliet. Here’s an interesting reflection on language from a design perspective. There is a lot of power in names and the sounds of words to make or break a product, and more attention is being given to multilingual compatibility. When Andersen Consulting rebranded as Accenture in 2001, which was derived from “accent on the future”, it researched any derogatory or awkward meanings in many languages before selecting the new company name. Besides the trademarks listed in the article, I can think of a couple others through history. Coca Cola transliterated in Mandarin means “bite the wax tadpole.” (huh?) Ford Pinto did not fare well with its fuel tanks causing injury and death in accidents, and in Portuguese-speaking countries it was hampered further since “pinto” is not a horse or a bean but a rude anatomical reference. SpeakLike is derived from our goal to help you “speak like a local.” As far as we know, there are no known connotations of SpeakLike that would sway one to think otherwise.

The Joy of Translating

Throughout history, translation has generally been viewed as the identification of equivalent words in other languages (also known as nomenclaturism). This has disappointed some literary critics in the loss of emotion that results. David Bellos would like to change this. A professor of French and Comparative Literature and the director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton, his new book, “Is That a Fish in Your Ear?” explores the history and sociology of translation and challenges the conventional wisdom around its practice. Rather than strictly and literally interpreting a text, Bellos proposes interpreting the style and context so that the reader gains more insight into the artistry of the literature. This stance could have great impact as the earth’s population, aided very heavily by the Internet, becomes more interconnected and more people speak English as a second language.

While the Wall Street Journal questions the validity of this anti-nomenclaturist stance and the weight of Bell’s theory, The New York Times reviewer of this book sees this as a great opportunity for Google Translate, with its pattern matching algorithm. However, one may disagree with Thirlwell that machine translation as it stands today can accurately provide the context and flavor of colloquialism and idiom in most literature and poetry. Dr Bellos himself wrote an editorial a year and a half before his latest release in the New York Times stating that machine translation can get the job done in a pinch; he acknowledges the limitations of human interpretation yet still finds it preferable to the often clumsy and unreadable output from Google Translate and other computerized services.

SpeakLike recognizes the value of “the human touch” in its on-demand translation service. Not only are translations routed to people, the completed work is reviewed and monitored to ensure smoothness and elegance in flow, with potential machine translations being flagged. In an increasingly globalized world, being able to understand one another is fundamental. SpeakLike’s aim is to make that process easier while still preserving the lingustic flavor and creativity of the text itself.