Would one common language help to keep the peace?

In a recent on-line debate the question was asked “Should there be one global language?” and one of the arguments delivered under the yes vote read as follows:

“If there was to be a single global language that all the world’s citizens would have the ability to communicate easily with individuals from different countries thus creating more equality. If the world was better able to understand each other than there would likely be a reduced amount of conflict because there would be no loss of communication when being translated. A single global language would also prove to be more efficient in the global economy because the worlds businesses and corporations would be better able to communicate.”

Reading through a number of both the Yes and No votes that followed there seemed to be a theme about global harmony and global peace being the result of a common language, countered by a number of others highlighting that many wars were waged despite a common tongue.

So what is it we want to achieve with a global common language?  Is it simply a way to communicate with another without having to contemplate too much about the language we use?  because if that is the case then there isn’t a language out there which is fit for purpose.  Is it to drive efficiencies into the supply chain? because if so this language already exists and it is in Bits and Bytes.  The problem here is everyone reaching an agreement on standards, ANSI X12, Tradacoms, XML, CIDX, PIDX, etc. not to mention the multiple transfer protocols, ERP systems, constantly evolving pack sizes….. and the list just goes on and on.

I can’t honestly answer this question because I personally do not believe that a single language will be able to deliver the expectations which everyone is already placing upon it.  I don’t think that by taking away the different ways to express yourself in different languages would in any way harmonies the world, in fact I believe it would have the total opposite effect.  Speaking again from a personal point of view, I find that there are much better ways of expressing certain things in Swedish than in English or German, similarly I find I can find better ways to express my sentiments in English than in German or Swedish, and yes let’s go full circle, I find many ways to express myself better in German than I do in Swedish or English.  To somebody who isn’t blessed with the ability to speak more than one language this probably doesn’t make much sense so let me offer you an example or two.

The word “lagom” in Swedish is, for me, the single most perfect way of expressing satisfaction, be it quantitative, temperate or otherwise.  “How warm was it in Greece last June? It was “precis lagom”; is that enough fish? it’s lagom, thanks…. we do not have a single word in either German or English which has such a powerful but simple way of expressing personal satisfaction, and yes, what is lagom for me, is probably not going to be lagom for my wife or anybody else for that matter.

So my favourite German word has to be “doch” it is next to impossible to give a direct translation, in fact I don’t believe that there can be a translation for it, despite some dictionaries using the word “still”.  Es ist doch nicht Wahr? (it’s not true) Aber sicher doch! (but it is!) although depending on how this appeared in the source text, and to what age group I was translating for, I would possibly take a little more “linguistic license” here and write (No way?)…. (for sure!).. but then that edges into the world of transcreation and requires a well written document brief, which is a whole new subject matter, one which I’m not about to embark upon today.

These are just two very strong but perfect examples as to why we need a plethora of languages to cover all cultures, sub cultures, dialects, genders, generations and here too the list is endless.  In our industry it is only those who understand how subjective and complicated these things can get who are in a privileged position to be able to guide their clients into understanding a single common language and that language is multilingual communication, or as we call it Localization.

So could one common language keep the peace?  Probably not but true Localization will go a long way to helping more people communicate with one another correctly and that really can’t be a bad thing can it?

Keep smiling

Keep smiling – The interpreter at my sister’s wedding in Italy earlier this year, ensuring that we all understood what they were signing up for 🙂

Quality Resolution Handbook for the Localization Industry

In some of the follow-up conversations I’ve been conducting since Localization World I have come across a huge disparity between what is acceptable quality from a linguistic point of view and what is acceptable quality from a client’s perspective.  The disparity widened even further when we opened up the conversation about the subject matter and further still when we moved on to “in company reviews”.  As a result of this it got me thinking about how we, as an industry, could resolve this contentious issue.

My thoughts brought me back to a business conversations I had whilst working in the Oil & Gas sector as a B2B consultant.  The company I was talking to explained that for the purposes of speeding up dispute resolution they had a company handbook.  It was, in fact, much more than just a handbook,  it was carried by every single employee within the company and at any time when a difference of opinion couldn’t be settled through discussion or mutual agreement the correct section was located and the company line, with regards to the differences, was quoted and that was it! End of discussion.

Now this is an extreme variation on how company/industry conflict can be managed using a set of defined rules, but there are much simpler versions out there.

Three Laws of Robotics – Isaac Asimov:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

As you can see these three simple laws give robots clarity and this is all they require to be able to cohabit in our world.

Over the years, within the Localization industry, the LISA QA became a “de facto” standard which all LSP and Linguists alike proclaimed to adhere to.  It listed mistakes over a range of categories as Minor, Major or Critical  and points were accumulated accordingly.  If, for some reason, the quality of a project was called into question an independent LISA QA assessor could be asked to validate the work of a Linguist/LSP using these standards.  There are some who would say that this system was also far too subjective and, over the years, it also became too complicated but nonetheless it was a standard, and we all like standards don’t we?  Regardless of your view on this LISA unfortunately closed up shop in 2011 and as a result our industry no longer has a governing body or up to date standard upon which it can be measured.

So I believe that, as an industry, we are now in need of a Quality Resolution Handbook. I would therefore like to open the discussion door which leads to the creation of a quality benchmark for simple conflict resolution from within the localization industry.

I say this because:

  • There is still a need, and a thirst, for a standard and/or “standards organization” for the localization industry
  • Both users and providers alike would benefit from a universal standard

And these are the guidelines we should adhere to when creating it:

  • It should be simple and easy to use
  • It should be subject matter specific
  • It should be independent
  • It should be the universally accepted benchmark upon which we are ALL measured

The result of all of the above would enable us to manage expectation for the common good of the customer and our industry.  It would serve to increase quality and it would reduce the subjective nature with which the industry is currently being judged.

Should your content be more personal?

As the digital revolution continues to move on, even Moore’s Law is beginning to struggle to keep up so want chance have we got?  In reality though it is no longer the speed of the hardware, or in fact the speed of your internet connection, (although I would question the latter on most days) but it is in fact the speed with which we communicate these days which is the most difficult thing to keep up with.

The latest victim of this increase in desire for immediate news is Google’s Reader.  When questioned as to why they closed this service down they said that it was rarely being used and that people were getting their information much faster from other sources shared on social media.  Personally I was a quite annoyed about this decision as I liked to have a small pool of articles to read on my phone during breakfast but technology found an answer to that too and I just flipped over to another reader which gave me this and much more (sorry Google your loss on this occasion).

Back to the point though; in this ever-increasing on-line population how important is it that what you read is tailored to you?  Well if you read this blog on CMS Connected written by guest blogger Thom Robbins it would seem that it is not only important but considered the best way to market your products and/or services.

So what about the future generation of users?  The Times of India talks about the next 1 billion users possibly not being able to speak English, in fact in my last Blog there is a link to the world internet users and population statistics which corroborates this statement.

Tie these two together and suddenly the importance of having personalized content in your mother tongue is the utopia of marketing.  In fact Willy Brandt knew this quite some time ago when he said  “If I am selling to you, I speak your language. If I am buying, dann müssen sie Deutsch sprechen”

So without a doubt “Content Marketing” is where the future lies and delivering this content in a personalized a localized format is going to keep you, and your company, one step ahead of the rest.

Where should I concentrate my localization efforts?

According to recent statistics from HM Revenue and Customs there has been a significant shift in the UK in the regions we export to.

The following are all the countries with an increased export activity from the NW of England from 2011 to 2012:
  • UAE up 17.5% to £0.363 bn
  • Saudi Arabia up 25.7% to £0.274 bn
  • China up 9.8% to £1.57 bn
  • Japan up 6.3% to £0.793 bn
  • South Korea up 8.8% to £0.271 bn
  • India up 1.1% up to £0.361 bn
  • Netherlands up 10% £1.310 bn
With that said over the last 3 years 2010-2012 exports from the whole of the UK have pretty much flat-lined but what is interesting is to see the shift to where we are now exporting.

This information coupled together with “World Internet Users and Population Stats” proposes a significant change of focus required for exporters if they want to remain competitive.

If we take Asia as our leading example here; Asia contributes to 44.8% of the worlds internet users but has a mere 27.5% of regional penetration.  Along side Europe Asia is the only other continent where most of the countries within it use their native language as their official language, which is why this shift in export trends and internet usage has a huge bearing on our industry.  Previously it has been stated that with just 13 languages you could reach 90% of the internet world but with these changes this figure will rise to above 50 different languages in a very short space of time, so choosing the right ones for your market is now, more than ever, extremely important.

So in answer to the question, “where should I concentrate my localization efforts?”  The only way to establish this is to have a thorough consultation with your LSP, talk to them about your own export ideas, your product and its target audience.  Talk to them about their expertise in these regions, market verticals and what other services they can offer, Transcreation, Multi-lingual SEO and website testing to name but a few.  Only once this consultation has taken place should a go to market strategy be drawn up and then the marketing material localized accordingly.

My personal advise to any company out there who has the intention of exporting their products or services; is to engage with your LSP right from the start.

This could save you a significant amount of time, stress and money.