Traveler's Corner: Ben Howdeshell in Israel

April 1, 2010 by Ben Howdeshell
Category: "Spot" on Language

st james street israelOn a recent trip to Israel, one of the things that caught my eye was the interplay of the country's two official languages, Hebrew and Arabic, with the equally ubiquitous but not officially official third language, English.

Before my trip, concerned at the thought of not being able express my desire to find a restroom or, heaven forbid, a bar, I spent several weeks trying to become familiar with basic Hebrew. I got to a point where I could eke out “Eifoh efshar liknot beerah, b’vakashah?”  “Where can I buy beer, please?” which was functional if not absolutely grammatically correct; victory enough despite its glaring inelegance. So what if I had to play the bumbling, awkward tourist for a few days? Phrasebook and dictionary packed, I boarded the plane.

Landing at Ben Gurion airport, I was secretly relieved to see that advertisements for Bank Hapoalim — a local Israeli bank — were painted in both Hebrew and English on the outside of the jetways leading up to the building.

5 Tips for Localizing Your Multimedia

March 31, 2010 by Acclaro
Category: Multimedia, Localization Tips

What is multimedia localization? The word "media" covers a lot of ground. It could mean almost anything that's not text, or that doesn't fit into the usual localization buckets (software, documents, websites).


Here are a few examples of media that you might be looking to adapt to other markets:

  • Sound files
  • Video clips or complex graphics
  • Dubbing and voice-over recording
  • Animation production
  • Computer-based training applications
  • eLearning modules
  • Flash presentations

Before getting started on your project, however, there are few tips that you might want to consider that can save you time and money in the long run.

1. Clean up your files. Define what needs to be localized, remove redundant items and clean up files for easy localization.

Let It Rain – The Fulbe Language of Northern Cameroon

Let’s talk weather — a topic that is neutral and relevant to everyone. In many parts of Africa, the weather dictates people’s livelihoods and determines how much food will be for dinner. So it makes sense that many African languages place additional emphasis on words and expressions related to Mother Nature and all her whims.

speakers of fulbe in cameroon

This is true for Fulbe, the language of the nomadic Fulani people of Central and West Africa. The 27 million Fulani live in the arid, sparsely populated countryside spanning from Mauritania in the west to Sudan in the east.

In northern Cameroon, Fulfulde is actually the lingua franca; non-Fulani also speak it on a daily basis. With over 200 tribal languages in Cameroon, a unifying, local language emerged along with the official languages of English and French. Fulfulde became the dominant language in the north, just as pidgin English became the dominant language in the country’s western areas.

Pepsi's Hispanic Campaign Inspires Slew of Comments

March 30, 2010 by Ana Yoerg
Category: Marketing, Top Ten, US Translation Services

yo sumo pepsi marketing campaignPepsi received some great coverage in AdAge yesterday about its Hispanic-focused marketing campaign, playing off of the multilingual advertisements for the 2010 U.S. census, which urges all Americans to make themselves "count."

But within 24 hours of the story — which was also distributed on mainstream media outlets like Crain's New York — was a hotbed of discussion, er, disappointment, in both Pepsi and its Hispanic agency, Dieste.

The argument? "Yo sumo," the literal Spanish translation for "I count," may not have been the wisest choice for a campaign whose self-proclaimed purpose is to encourage Hispanics to go beyond being counted numerically and to share their experiences.

As Judy from New York put it in her comment:

"Yo sumo" means I add numbers (1+1=2). However, "Yo cuento", can mean either I count numbers or I count as a person. Hence, in this context, "Yo sumo" does not make sense. It works exactly the same in English: it's the difference between "I add" and "I count". What makes sense is "I count". What would make sense in correct Spanish is "Yo ME sumo" (I add/include myself).

Canada is First Step to International Growth for US Retailers

canadian flagU.S. retailers are heading to Canada for growth, the Wall Street Journal reported today. Among those planning to open more stores and outlets north of the border are J. Crew, Limited Brands (Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works), and Gap. 

The move is described as a cautious “baby-step” towards broader international plans — Canada being both literally and figuratively close to home. (Many Americans think of Canada as the same as the U.S., but colder. Most Canadians I know can reel off a longer list of differences…).

Regardless, most would agree that Canada is the most similar market to the U.S., sharing many demographic and cultural traits. Thus it’s a natural first step for American companies, who might be scared off by the idea of different labor laws, shopping habits, body sizes, and fashion tastes in markets like Europe and Asia.

Translating a Website? Ask Yourself These 3 Questions

March 28, 2010 by Acclaro
Category: Website Translation Services, Localization

be prepared boy scouts motto

Translating your website for foreign markets is a bit like heading out into the wilderness: you're armed with just a few basic tools and your own knowledge to use as resourcefully as possible against never-before-seen obstacles.

So what's the best way to proceed? Take a page from the book of the Boy Scouts of America. Be Prepared.

The more you do up-front to prepare your site for localization, the less you will spend, both in time and money, fixing issues that affect your ability to have a fully functional, localized site.

Jersey Shore to Cross the Atlantic - and Beyond

Starting this week, MTV will start showing its hit television show "Jersey Shore" in 30 different countries, hoping that the "narrative" will prove to be "universally appealing," reports Brian Stelter in The New York Times.jersey shore buenos aires ad

If the ads are any indication, foreign markets may at least have some piqued interest. As Adrien Chen observes on's Australian site:

On the poster I see a muscle man who is tan. In our culture, muscles are good – we either want to have them or want to be with someone who does. The man is adorned with flashy jewellery: Perhaps he is wealthy. I enjoy watching wealthy, fit people people flaunt their wealth. The man looks like he is aggressive. He looks both threatening and appealing. Are his hand signs American for “welcome?” or “I will fight you?” I will watch this show.

Would you? As Chen puts it, "As a foreigner, I am fascinated by America." And if MTV is pushing "Jersey Shore" as a prime example of American culture, of course it will attract the interest of foreign viewers.

World Language Map

March 24, 2010 by Acclaro
Category: "Spot" on Language, Language Translation Services

The language DNA of the world, broken down by continent...

languages of the world

Thanks to the language project for compiling this little piece of eye candy.

Dumplings Make the World Go Round

March 23, 2010 by Stephanie Engelsen
Category: Culture

chinese dumplingsAround the world, people eat dumplings in some shape or form — ravioli in Italy, wontons in China, empanadas in Argentina, and pupusas in El Salvador are just a few examples.

Using a broad definition, dumplings are dough wrapped around a filling. Let’s take a quick world tour of dumpling cuisine.

Nepal and Tibet: Available at restaurants and street corners, meat-filled or vegetarian momos are the fast food of the Himalayas. Who wouldn’t love a quick momo after walking several miles to work or school along steep mountain trails?

A Census for All Tongues

March 22, 2010 by Ana Yoerg
Category: "Spot" on Language

us census it's in our hands logoFor the first time in history, the U.S. government has made a concerted effort — nay, a multimillion dollar effort — to reach out to immigrant groups to ensure they fill out the 2010 census forms mailed out last month.

Bilingual (Spanish-English) questionnaires are being sent directly to homes for the first time, particularly in Latino-dense neighborhoods of Los Angeles County, south Florida, Texas, and Utah. Number of questionnaires: 13 million. Cost: $26 million.

In what's being called the most diverse outreach campaign in U.S. history, hundreds of advertisements have been drafted in 28 languages. Shown on television, and print, outdoor, and online advertising, they urge viewers to make themselves "count." In a special effort to include illegal aliens, the ads assure confidentiality in all responses, reports The New York Times. The 2000 census budget? $100-150 million. This year's? A whopping $340 mil.

SuperPower Nation Day

March 19, 2010 by Ana Yoerg
Category: Crowdsourcing, Technology

twitter snapshot superpower nation dayThis week Twitter was ablaze with notifications about SuperPower Nation Day. When I first saw it, to be honest, I was completely confused. SuperWhat?

Turns out, it was a little experiment run by the BBC, a UK-based news organization, as part of its series of programs, online reports and events that examine the "super powers" of the internet.

How it worked: The BBC set up a special website to host comments and responses from people around the world, in their native language.

Google's machine translation software was used to translate each text into six different languages: English, Arabic, Chinese, Portuguese, Persian, Indonesian and Spanish.

At the same time, representatives of the BBC's language services did live translations for those who called in by phone or attended the physical event. (View the complete transcript.)

The 2010 Website Globalization Scorecard

March 15, 2010 by Acclaro
Category: Website Translation Services

best global websites of 2010What it is:The 2010 Website Globalization Report Card is a list of 225 global web sites across 21 industry categories, ranking each one in terms of its global reach (languages), navigation, globalization, localization, and community localization.

Why you should care: As a company looking to share your website with diverse, global audiences, you can use this report to benchmark yourself against "the best." You’ll be able to see established and emerging web globalization best practices and learn what about what to avoid. 

Also, if you're having trouble convincing others in your company to globalize the website, you can pull out some key data points to use in your argument.

Who's rocking at the top: The top 25 companies are raging ahead of the rest, averaging 50 languages — more than twice the average of all 225 reviewed sites. Google came out on top (again!) but just barely; Facebook is hot on its heels.

What are ISO Language Codes?

iso logoSo you need to get your English website translated into German, Japanese, Spanish and Korean. Your globalization team comes back with a document that says:

                  en into de, jp, ko, es

What new language is that? Well, it’s not really a language, but rather internationally accepted abbreviations for world languages. “En” represents English, while “de” represents German and so on. And now to your next question: How did they get “de” from the word “German”? The word in German for the German language is Deutsch — hence the “de” abbreviation.

Disney Localizes Film in South Indian Dialect

March 11, 2010 by Acclaro
Category: Multimedia

roadside  romeoThe Walt Disney Company is filming a new adventure movie for Indian audiences in the southern dialect of Telugu. The Hollywood entertainment giant will also create a dubbed version in Tamil, another southern dialect, to further broaden its localization efforts, reports the Associated Press.

In 2008, in partnership with Yash Raj Films, Disney released a Hindi animated feature called "Roadside Romeo," which was a huge success. The film used the voices of national Bollywood stars to increase its appeal to local audiences.

The storylines of the films are also adapted to local tastes: simple stories, mixed with singing, dancing, humor, and the "in your face" emotion typical of Bollywood productions, noted Forbes at the time of production.

The Dodo's Long Gone - But You Can Still Save a Language

March 10, 2010 by Acclaro
Category: "Spot" on Language

"We all are [responsible for endangered languages]. We all are as a species. If we are interested in what makes us human. If we're committed to understanding knowledge, and where we came from, and where we're going, we need to connect with this, our linguistic past — and present."

- Mark Turin, founder of UK-based World Oral Literature Project

Languages are dying. And unless we do something about it, some are going to disappear completely — going the way of the dinosaur, alchemy, and floppy disks.

Linguists and researchers are already taking the first step: visiting the world's remote regions and documenting the grammar and sound system of native languages.

Multilingual Texting

March 9, 2010 by Acclaro
Category: Mobile

multilingual textingHow does a lover of French cinema invite a friend to the movies using just 11 characters? The savvy texter would type: “6né 2m1? A tt!”, which represents: Ciné demain? À toute à l’heure! (“Movie tomorrow? See you soon!”).

Around the world, users of text messaging (a.k.a. SMS or Short Message Service) have developed a wonderfully witty linguistic subculture that is arguably changing the way we use written language.

In any language, getting your point across in a restricted number of characters, as required by text messages, necessitates creativity. (Just think about how Twitter's 140-character limit has forced us to say a lot with so little.)

Machine Translation is Changing the Game, Not Ending It

As a translation business owner, I come across a lot of industry colleagues who fear Google's machine translation initiative.

It's a natural, but unfounded, response.

kriz translation quoteOur business thrives on cross-border commerce. A great translation tool — whether Google’s or another — will lower the barrier to communication across borders. This should be good for individuals and business while preserving language diversity as a key ingredient to multiculturalism.

Machine translation tools today can inexpensively produce draft translations that (while often inaccurate and sometimes humorous) are useful for personal and even business communication.

Still, the value that B2B translation service firms provide to businesses goes well beyond this basic draft-quality output. Companies hire translation professionals for many reasons that will not go away anytime soon.

Some examples include:

  • Marketing communications where brands are at stake will require refined, nuanced translations.
  • Content where misunderstandings or mistranslations would be costly require clear and accurate human translations.
  • Proprietary and confidential content where ownership is critical is not suited for the Google site in particular — based on my (perhaps erroneous) understanding that they can reuse this content.

Arabic-English Translation Website Aims for Peace

meedan logoMeedan, a new website launched last month, will attempt to cultivate citizen diplomacy between the Middle East and the West by eliminating the language barrier, reports Wired.

Meedan, which aptly means "gathering place" or "town hall" in Arabic, is a project of a five-person non-profit, funded with grants from large foundations (e.g., Ford, MacArthur, Rockefeller, Cisco).

Visitors to the site post stories and comments on featured news stories in English or Arabic, and their text is automatically translated into the other language. Translation "status" is always clear, and Meedan also publishes the full history of each translation to the public, similar to Wikipedia.

3 (In)famous Marketing Translation Errors

March 7, 2010 by Acclaro
Category: Marketing, Top Ten, Translation Agency

kfc bucket with birdSome of our favorite blunders from global marketing campaigns:

  1. Translated literally into Chinese, KFC's slogan "finger lickin’ good" came out as "eat your fingers off." Oops!
  2. Parker Pen's slogan "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you" translated in Mexico: "It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant." We sure hope not...
  3. IKEA, the Swedish furniture giant, decided to call one of its new desks "FARTFULL." Maybe not such a good idea.

How To: Minimize the Cost of Software Localization

localization processAnyone who has ever released a software product to international markets knows that it is no walk in the park.

There's a complex (but necessary!) process that has to take place before your translation agency can confidently deliver those final foreign language versions of your software.

Many companies fear that such a thorough process equals high cost and loss of control. What they might not realize is that this is actually an opportunity to help control costs.

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Smart, fun and useful. Acclaro shares news and tips on translation, localization, language, global business and culture.


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