Want to join Russia´s (virtual) space project? – Now could be the right time

Last year was quite an eventful time for our happy little office. Amongst many light-hearted events and team-building exercises involving fancy-dressed bowling, trivia quizzes and soccer competitions, every now and then, we sat down and did some serious work (I hope my boss is not reading this :)). A major project in particular, one that involved the revision, translation and localisation of 38 different countries, kept us focused for great part of the year.

Many lessons were learnt – and documented –  on a variety of topics relating to languages and website readability and localisation. But if I was asked to highlight something from that year-long project it would be the amount of research, detail and ¨digital empathy¨required to achieve a website that accommodates to the expectations of audiences in countries like China, Japan. Korea and Russia.

I have previously written about some of the areas that need particular attention when creating a website for JapaneseChinese and Korean audiences. Russia, though, stood out for me because my lack of previous contact with the country and its language. So,here are some of our findings:

cyrillic typewriter at work

To start with, a caveat. Although Russia tends to conjure thoughts of vast territories and a large population in most people´s minds, this does not immediately translate into widespread Internet usage. Out of nearly 140 million people, approximately 60 million were  using the Internet in 2010, a percentage unlike Korea´s, for instance, where the number of web users is more than 81%.


What´s most remarkable about Russia though, is that in 2007 the number of persons using the Internet was less than 30 million. In a very short span, and  even though most Internet users still concentrate in major cities like Moscow and St Petersburg, this growth rate could well place this nation within the next three to five years in the top five worldwide Internet markets  side by side Germany, Brazil, India, Japan, the US and China.

Even in the area of e-commerce and despite having quite a lot of catching up to do in terms of consumer credit – an expected consequence of decades of government-controlled availability of goods and disposable income – development has been fast and steady. According to com-Score Russia showed the highest growth in online retail penetration in Europe in 2011, a rate nearly twice as fast as that of Europe as a whole.

Search engines  

Yet ANother inDEX, or Yandex, is the dominant search media in Russia, with 61% market share traffic in 2011 shared with Google 25%, Mail.ru 7.1%, Rambler and Bing both with 1%. A full-service portal providing a variety of additional services to users (real-time search, email, mapping, comparison shopping, etc), Yandex generated nearly 11 billion page views per month already in 2010 for Russians and Russian speakers in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus.

But Yandex is crossing borders fast and it opened a US office in Boston, creating Yandex.com to allow searchers to query for sites in other Latin characters, mainly English.

And yet, when you approach Yandex for the first time, as is the case with many other local search engines, you need to take your Google hat off and begin taking into account the local specifics and the structural elements of the Russian language. So, I´m going to reiterate what I´ve already insisted on before:


Do NOT merely translate from English using an automatic translator. It does not work. Whether you simply want to put an ad in Yandex or whether your intentions are to establish a more in-depth presence, you need to get a native Russian speaker, preferably one with copywriting and SEO local knowledge.

And another thing. As silly as this reminder may sound to you: do NOT attempt to make your way into Russia by writing  your copy in English. As you can imagine, that does not work either as only about 5% of Russians speak English.

A good place to start is by recognising Moscow and St Petersburg as major civic, cultural and financial centres and realise the preferential treatment they receive from Russian search engines because of their prominence. So, you are more likely to get it right by geotargetting those two cities because the Internet service providers have more accurate data for them than for other parts of Russia.

Remember that Yandex rates sites using a system similar to Google´s page rank called a ¨citation index¨, which ranges information found from 0 to 150,000. The higher a website´s citation index, the more authority it has. Organic ranking in Yandex favours good-quality, rich content. So, if your aim is to reach Russian audiences, you need to remember that despite its expansion into other languages, Yandex needs to satisfy its native speaker searchers first and foremost. Have your content written in Russian and use a Russian country code top-level domain (.ru) in cyrillic characters and Yandex will recognise your site as relevant to its customers.

Unlike China, getting a Russian domain is simple. If you produce some form of  ID, almost any registrar will allow you to register .ru domains (both in latin and/or cyrillic characters). Getting your site indexed is not complex either. The Yandex webmaster tools can help you with that process as well as connect you to Yandex´s API and assist you with keyword search to gain more visibility in their index.

Russian language and cyrillic script

Regional linguistic and cultural differences compound to the already inherent difficulty of the Russian language for outsiders (for instance, the perplexing use of six grammatical cases). This means that search queries will likely be phrased differently in different regions. So, in order to get your keywords right, you need to have someone who understands regional vernacular, idiom and even spelling variations in different parts of Russia.

Because of the language barrier, getting visibility online is not easy. A good way is to associate yourself with online press release  services that include translations and distribution to major consumer, business and trade presses: Sovanet and Ivan-pr.com specialise in online copywriting, translating and public relations for the Russian market and they are worth your initial investment.

For those interested in crossing virtual borders, the Russian online market presents loads of opportunities. As crucial as it is to have a firm understanding of the role that cultural, linguistic and regional differences will play when establishing an online presence in Russia, don´t let the grammatical impossibility of the language and its alphabet discourage you. It might be a race well worth joining.

Translation industry forecast for 2013 – The AAA (Africa, Arab, Asia) and AT (Automated translation) moment

The translation and localisation industry has been defying economic trends for quite some time now. While the world´s economy insists on slowing down, the language industry continues its steep ascent with a 12% growth expected in 2013.

If you are a freelance translator, though, trying to make a decent living, these figures might contradict the struggle you face to get a job booked, late payments from demanding clients or the ever decreasing rates you get awarded for a job well done.

So, what are the trends we need to watch out for to ensure we get a fair share of the approximately US$35 billion the language industry turns around per year?

A triple A moment

Menit tribe man - Tum Omo Ethiopia

Hans Fenstermacher, CEO of the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA), indicates that the rapid spread of the Internet in what he calls the Triple A markets ( African, Asian and Arabic) compounded to the economic growth expected in Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East is accelerating the demand for more translation and localisation services for languages in these regions.


While markets everywhere are suffering the effects of a severe economic crisis, Africa is  experiencing its longest income boom for over 30 years, with gross domestic product growth rates averaging about 5 per cent annually over the past decade. The IMF forecasts the continent’s income to increase by around 4.5 per cent and seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies to be African. Nations like Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria are expected to expand by more than 6 per cent a year until 2015.

The mobile phone industry is reaping the rewards of the economic progress now felt in these countries. Africa is the fastest growing region for mobiles in the world, and the biggest after Asia, according to the GSM Association. There are now an estimated 700m sim cards in Africa.”What happened in the UK and US at the turn of the century is now happening in Africa on the mobile platform¨, explains Gareth Knight, a 35-year-old South African based in London, founder of the series of Tech4africa conferences. ¨The market is much bigger than the original one in the UK and US. More and more people are going to get online in the next couple of years and they’ll want all the same things.”

This unparalleled economic growth has created an enormous demand for translation into African languages. Companies wanting to establish their presence in some of the wealthier nations like Angola and Mozambique are in need of Portuguese translations, for instance. In Nigeria, whilst the official language is English, telecommunication or pharmaceutical companies will consider having their marketing material translated into at least one additional local language or possibly even two or three of the most widely spoken tongues dependin on the nature of the product and the demographics of the target market and the speakers´disposable income.

Finance and insurance, mining, tourism, legal, government departments and life sciences are also fields that will require translations into African languages and vice versa.

The Arab world

Arab is widely used in countries that present sound business opportunities for foreign investors like the UAE, Dubai and Qatar. Trade and import/export liberalisation have made some of the countries in the Middle East very attractive investment havens and this has resulted in an ever increasing demand of Arabic translators capable of translating mainly into English but also into other languages like French and German.

Interestingly, a report compiled by translation supplier The Word Point also noted a dramatic increase in English to Arabic and Arabic to English translations during and after the outbreak of popular uprisings in Egypt and Libya. Demand for Arabic – English translations (in both directions) increased in 2011 by 31%. , with media and communications and financial and business related translations seeing the areas where the increase was most felt. Demand for French-Arabic services increased 20%.


Members of the Translation Association of China participating in its annual conference in May 2011 agreed that the current Chinese translation industry is short of professional training and emphasised that only a small portion of the one million people who are providing translation service in China hold professional qualifications.

Lost in translation #2

Before the extensive demand for qualified Chinese translators and localisation experts the government of China approved in 2009 forty training programs for professional translators and interpreters in leading universities throughout the country. However, no matter how many native Chinese translators are produced in China, the fact is that globally speaking, there are fewer than 10 qualified interpreters whose mother tongue is English (or any other language for that matter) and who can translate between English (or any other language) and Chinese.

William White, an experienced freelance interpreter who used to work for the Delegation of the European Union to China, attests to this. White is now based in Beijing, and his daily fee has been increasing at an annual rate of about 10 percent in recent years thanks to the tight market. “In peak seasons like April and September, it’s really hard to find professional interpreters, as there are many international conferences and qualified interpreters are all occupied.”

So, if you have the time and patience to get involved in the apprenticeship of the Chinese language, the demand for professionals capable of translating into English and other European languages is definitely out there. The same can be said for other Asian languages, Japanese to some extent, but also languages from countries that are slowly taking the manufacturing relay from China, like Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia.

Automated translation

To quote the words from GALA CEO Hans Fenstermacher, “despite the advent of the most advanced automated translations in a generation, businesses increasingly need professional translation services to maintain their brands. To sell worldwide, businesses must look and sound as if they’re right next door”. The economic downturn experienced by the developed economies means that it is that much more important to communicate to customers regardless of their geographical location. Transcreation and localisation become crucial, as I have already discussed elsewhere.

Automated translation might have replaced some of the very basic communication needs that result from a number of intercultural and interlinguistic exchanges (the likes of the very handy Google translate or Bing translations). And yet, it is the same automation, technology itself and the ever increasing content that keeps on being uploaded onto the net that create new opportunities for translators and for the language translation industry.

Robot Joe

The rapid increase of language combinations and the faster delivery deadlines, professional project and quality management have already become and will continue to be more significant in future. Technology will allow translations to be performed directly in the client’s CMS system. Translation agencies will adopt further project management tasks, which currently are performed by the companies themselves. I have also discussed in earlier articles how this change is affecting the nature of the tasks performed by translators.

Effective Data Management System (DMS) and Content Management System (CMS) will be basic prerequisites to enable cost-saving and terminologically consistent translations in a translation industry where the quantity of documents to be translated becomes a concern. The application of CAT tools is imperative to create terminology databases, glossaries, etc.

To ensure terminological consistency and to simplify terminology work companies are now making their translation databases accessible to other companies. Skrivanek, together with 42 other leading companies, recently founded the
so-called TAUS Data Association (TDA), which enables its members to share translation files. All members load their language combinations onto a server in the form of Translation Memories or multilingual glossaries and can in return download the language pairs of other members. This creates an immense volume of linguistic data. (Source: http://www.tekom.de/upload/alg/tcworld_608.pdf)

Educational institutions churning the translators of the future have to make a concerted effort in order to adequately prepare them for this continuously changing industry. Poetry translation classes are indeed vary valuable but technology and localisation needs to become core subjects in the curriculi of tertiary institutions. So are business and project management subjects that prepare the younger generations for a profession that every time more will require them to deal with clients and agencies all over the world.

As Einstein once said: “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”  Technology is making the translation industry change at a very fast pace. So, we either change the way we understand the profession or we´d better look for a new one!

Professionalism: Code of Ethics, Standards of Practice, Commitment to Privacy and Confidentiality

 Reblogged from 21st Century Global Village:

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On December 21, 2012, at 9am EST, I will be presenting a session to the members of the Certified PRO Network in ProZ.com, on yet another topic for professional translators and interpreters working in the Global Village of the 21st Century: professionalism, from the standpoint of codes of ethics and standards of practice.  This time I will place the stress on behavior, rather than technical knowledge or abilities.

Read more… 2,242 more words

Is there a word in English to describe the frustration I feel before my wandering train of thought? – Defining culture-specific emotions

As always, I sit myself down in front of this old computer with the intention of start talking about A and somehow my train of thought just can’t stay in A – in a matter of seconds, it takes a life of its own and starts travelling from D to N, making a stopover in H and even going as far as Z. If I’m lucky, it brings me back to A but not without carrying a heavy load of scrambled thoughts and ideas that I then need to work very hard to make any sense of.

I get excited about many of them, I trash many others but ultimately, I get exasperated by this very testing, independent, self-absorbed entity in my brain that I try want to subdue by any means. And I wonder, is there a term for this emotion in the English language? Or in any other language for that matter? Is there a term that captures the frustration of a writer struggling to restrain a wandering, straying train of thought that refuses to stay in one and only one topic? There should be because I reckon this is an innate, genetically determined predisposition. At least in my case. I have always suffered from it, many of my teachers and supervisors had diagnosed it (and I thank them for their patience and support :))

Runaway Train of Thought

How do I call the emotion I experience when I can’t control my very irritating wandering train of thought?

Anyway… (that’s one of the words I use to try to bring my extremely tangential mind to A and remember where I wanted to start), the question here is whether the aggravation I feel in the case I explained above can be described in a single word in a particular language. Just like whether, as questioned by American essayist Pamela Haag in her article  Relationship words that are not translatable into English , is it possible to find words in the English language that describe emotions such as the Bantu word Ilunga – the willingness to forgive abuse the first time, tolerate it the second but never the third? Or, is it possible to find an English equivalent to the feeling expressed by the Polish words tgsknota (noun) and tgsknic‘ (verb)?.

Anna Wierzbicka’s work on defining emotions in different languages

Australian linguist Anna Wierzbicka has spent many years putting some thought into this and has come to the conclusion that although the above Polish terms have no simple, monolexemic English equivalents, it is possible to explain in English what the relevant feeling is, if one uses semantic primitives to decompose the complex Polish concept(s) into parts whose names do have simple English equivalents:

X tgskni do Y (“X feels ‘tgsknota’  to Y”)  =

X is far away from Y

X thinks of Y

X feels something good toward Y

X wants to be together with Y

X knows he or she cannot be together with Y

X feels something bad because of that.

In her 1986 essay “Human emotions – Universal or culture specific?,” Wierzbicka sees some potential similarities between the Polish tgskni and several English words such as homesickmisspine,  nostalgia, but maintains that they all differ from one another and from the Polish term as well (and I quote her directly just to illustrate the magnitude of her understanding of the different nuances of the terms):

“For example, if a teenage daughter leaves the family home and goes to study in a distant city, her Polish parents would usually tgsknic’, but one could not say that they were homesick for the daughter, that they felt nostalgia for her, and one would hardly say that they were pining  after her. One could say that they missed her, but miss implies much less than tgsknik. One could say to a friend, “We missed you at the meeting,” without wishing to imply that anything remotely similar to pain or suffering was involved; and yet tgsknit does imply something like pain or suffering (in fact, the best gloss I have come across is “the pain of distance”).  The word miss implies neither pain nor distance. For example, one can miss someone who has died (“My  grandmother died recently. You have no idea how much I miss her”).  But one would not use tgsknic’ in a case like this, because tgsknic’ implies a real separation in space. In this respect, tgsknic‘ is related to homesick. But of course homesick implies that the experiencer him or herself has gone far away from the target of the emotion.

The exact similarities and differences between tgsknic’ and homesick can be seen if one compares the explication of the former concept, given earlier with the explication  of the latter, given here:

X is homesick  =

X is far away from his or her home

X thinks of his or her home

X feels something good toward his or her home

X wants to be there

X knows he or she cannot be there at that time

X feels something bad because of that.

Pining differs from tgsknic‘ in its single-mindedness and its, so to speak, debilitating effect:

X is pining after Y  =

X is away from Y

X thinks of Y

X feels something good toward Y

X wants to be with Y

X knows that he or she cannot be with Y

X feels something bad because of that

X can’t think of anything else because of that.

Miss, as a form of emotion, can perhaps be explicated as follows:

X (Jane)  misses Y (Sally) =

Y is not with X

X thinks of Y

X would want to be with Y

X thinks that being with Y would cause him or her to feel something good.

Universal emotion terms?

It seems natural to assume, then, that each language will have it own set of emotion-words that are used to define those emotions that the members of the culture recognise as important to them. We can assume that these language-specific sets overlap and, perhaps, that the closer two cultures are, the greater the overlap between their respective sets of emotion words. But we can also assume that the more distant apart a culture is from another in space and conceptualisation, the harder it would be to share specific emotions. And that is certainly a challenged faced by translators and interpreters and professionals of intercultural communication.

But is it equally natural to assume that there may be a set of fundamental, universal, presumably innate human emotions shared by all regardless of culture-specific idiosyncracies?

According to Izard and Buechler (1980: 168), the fundamental emotions are

( 1)  interest,

(2) joy,

(3) surprise,

(4) sadness,

(5) anger,

(6) disgust,

(7) contempt,

(8) fear,

(9) shame/shyness,

(10) guilt.

I, like Anna Wierzbicka, am not happy when I see English-centred claims of this kind. The fact that the English language seems to be perfectly capable of encapsulating supposedly human universal emotions makes me feel quite uneasy. I look at the list and I have a pretty certain (although I’m in no way able to prove it) that quite a number of ethnic groups will not share the feeling behind the English terms contempt or disgust. Wierzbicka, in fact, explains that the Polish language does not have a word corresponding exactly to the English word disgust or that the Australian Aboriginal language Gidjingali does not seem to distinguish lexically fear from shame.

If Izard and Buechler were Polish or Gidjingali speakers, we might have a different list of “universal emotions”. Ethnocentric research is a risk we are accustomed to, we just need to be able to question it and challenge it when necessary. Producing a list of ten shared human emotions is a pretty big claim and certainly one that needs to be carefully considered.

This ridiculous train of thought of mine, though, is still frustrating the bejesus out of me and I have no word to call it. If you experience the same, in whatever language, and have a name for it, share it, please. 🙂

Multi-hatted professionals – Translation project managers

In my earlier post on Transcreation, I discussed the fact that as professional translators today we are asked to wear many hats in order to ensure our survival in the field. One day we localise, the day after we proofread, we transcreate, we train others, we handle a wide range of CAT tools, and most importantly, we are often asked to step up and manage translation projects.

And yet, not everyone is cut out to or has had the adequate training to manage a group of clients, translators, tasks, tools, datelines, rates, human errors, technical problems, levels of expertise and jargon, glossaries, style guides, workflows, software, validation tools, quality analysis, and many other common factors in the life of a translator/project manager.

In this article I will try to briefly clarify the duties of the translation project manager and introduce some of the translation management software available out there to facilitate your task. So, if your career path is taking you in this direction, or if you are thinking about giving your translating career a new twist, this could interest you:


1. Initial project planning. Set up a briefing session with your client/department (in person or over the phone/net) to discuss the requirements of the project.

2. Resource mapping.  Your main task is to optimise allocation and implementation of staff resources to make sure the agreed budget and delivery dates are attained in the most cost-effective manner. So, taking scope, time and budget into account, you need to determine what type of human resources the project will need. Consider:

  • the number of team members that are required based on the size and time frame of the project,
  •  the number and type of languages involved -are they minority languages or are they commonly translated language?
  • the type of resources that will be required for the project -linguistic, engineering and/or production (desktop publishing) and the requirements expected from each of these type of resources: expertise in a specific field, industry, level of translation skill, specific knowledge.  Are the resources easily available or do they need to be contracted from outside the company/country?

All of these will need to be factored into the project schedule.

3. Task sequencing. Decide priorities; what needs to be done and in what order. A simple mistake here          can cost you, the company or the client quite a lot of money.

4.  Project proposal development.At this point, most project managers will make use of their project management software in order to track the project budget according to calculated requirements and resources. They will also need to set up a project schedule and define the client’s expectations within the project specifications.

5. Set-up a project management file. You and your team of experts will need to establish how are text and graphics formatted and what type of software and resource will be needed for production and multilingual desktop publishing. For instance, are files formatted in unstructured FrameMaker, or XML? Are there any typographic specifications for different languages, i.e. Japanese, Chinese, Arabic (or other languages which are not scripted in a Latin-based alphabet).

6. Create a set of project instructions for the resources involved and instruct your team. Your plan needs to have clear, well-written instructions and milestones for your team to refer to.  Provide examples, glossaries and other useful documentation.  In the briefing, ensure that subject matter experts and specialists on the team may identify and flag technical issues that need to be brought to the client’s attention. Pay particular attention to common and more specific localisation issues and bring up any ideas that the client might have missed and you, as the expert, need to make him/her aware of.

7. Project issue escalation. As translation project manager you are the person responsible for escalating any problems that may hinder the scheduled delivery of the project and propose which resources will be able to achieve the resolution swiftly.

8. Client/team communications. Project managers also need to keep clients/senior management up-to-date on project progress either through automated status updates or personalised project reports, etc and are often expected to interpret and discuss highly technical issues based on feedback from team members and remote linguistic vendors.

9. Project delivery and quality assurance. Project managers will ensure files are ready to be delivered to clients through the initially specified channels.

10. In-country review.  Many translation projects require a client’s internal review or even in-country review (ICR). The client might come back with various edits and it is your job to collate any requested changes and circulate the comments and corrections back to the translators. After revisions have been implemented, you will be tasked with returning the final updated files to the client.

Client feedback, as always,  is essential. If something went wrong along this fairly complex process, you need to ensure that clients’ opinions are appropriately documented and redressed in future projects.

But don’t worry, you are not necessarily alone and at the mercy of the elements in this competitive environment driven by shorter product lifecycles and faster product launches. Technology, as much as it can certainly make our life very complex, and it does, in this case, it comes to the rescue of the translation project manager  and becomes our ally.  So, I have put together a list of translation management software that could be useful in helping achieve the hard metrics you and your team are supposed to deliver.

1. ClockingitA simple,  free project management tool, which allows you to set up translation vendors and assign them tasks, track file status, set deadlines, track tasks time, see graphics, etc.

2. Projetex, an efficient low cost solution, best suited for small to middle-size agencies. It presents server-client architecture and  Firebird database.

3. QuaHill: Sold in sets with different modules, this web-based project management solution is best suited for middle-size to large translation agencies.

4. Project Translation: Suitable for all translation agency sizes, this web-based project management system features  free and open-source (PHP) system core and a range of extensions such as the Freelance or the Financial Reports extension which have to be purchased separately.

If you are experienced in other Translation PM software and would like to recommend it, please feel free to comment below.

Thank you.