By Michael Metzger
The year 2003 saw a series of conferences, seminars, and workshops in the localization industry and I watched them all carefully to see what they had to offer. One event, the Localization World conference held in Seattle, caught my attention and excitement as the program seemed to round up all of my “pet interests:” terminology roundtable, localization metrics initiative, tools presentations … what more could I ask for?
When I learned in Spring 2004 that the Localization World conference was coming to San Francisco, there was no doubt in my mind that we, the NCTA, needed to be there. Who else but translation professionals could make a positive contribution to such an event with industry insight and experience? Is it not true that no matter how lofty the terms become to describe this industry, it always begins with translation?
The plan was simple: NCTA, representing the translation and interpretation industry, would become our profession’s ambassador through our contributions to the conference’s programs. We would realize the vision, excitedly debated at ATA conferences: a public relations promotion of the trade, an outreach to end clients whom translators usually never meet – in short, a way of putting a human face on this service called translation.
But this was just the idea; what had to follow was contacting the organizers and hoping this idea would fall on receptive ears. And in Donna Parish from Multilingual Computing and Ulrich Hennes from Localization Institute, we found people with the vision to match ours. Over the course of several months we shaped a proposal that could only spell success: NCTA would become an official participating sponsor of the event, contributing with workshops and individual sessions. We would furthermore represent the translation industry with a fully staffed table throughout the event with one clear objective: to engage conference attendees in professional discussion, and to educate and inform them about the work of translators. At the same time, NCTA would participate in the planning of the program with a seat on the advisory committee of the conference.
Our contributions were all extremely well-received, from the workshops, to the “standing room only” session with Christoph Niedermair and Sabine Hathaway, to Frank Dietz’s presentation on game localization and Anna Schlegel’s coordination of round-the-clock volunteers for the NCTA table.
Next year’s conference will be back in Seattle. We hope another local group will step in and represent our trade!
By Anna Schlegel
Kaimeng Huang is a Senior Program Manager at Adobe Systems Inc. in San Jose, where she manages the enterprise-level internationalization and localization program of Adobe’s Intelligent Document Business Unit – the developer of Adobe’s flagship product, Adobe Acrobat. A native of the People’s Republic of China, Kaimeng speaks Mandarin and English and is a United Nations-certified conference interpreter.
Where did you grow up? How did your background influence you to enter the field of language and translation?
KAIMENG HUANG: I grew up in Beijing, China. In this wonderfully aesthetic and symmetric city which has been the cultural and political center of China for over 500 years, I acquired all my formal education from kindergarten to university. My father is a nuclear physicist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and an editor-in-chief with the Standards Press of China; my mother is a physician with a local hospital. Both learned Russian in college.
Because of my father’s passion for foreign languages, I started to learn Japanese and English when I was about five years old. Since China was closed to the rest of the world in the early 1970s, I got my first Japanese and English lessons from listening to the radio. I began to take language more seriously when I entered Beijing University in 1988.
In 1992, I applied for the United Nations-sponsored Training Program for Translators and Interpreters at Beijing Foreign Studies University, and received my Master’s in Translation and Interpretation the following year. As one of the first dozen professional conference interpreters in China, I took on an extensive range of assignments, working as an interpreter for many world leaders visiting China, as well as for international organizations including political, economic, and educational institutions. This eye-opening experience made me believe in the need for communication and understanding among different cultures, countries, and peoples.
How did you get started in the globalization business?
By accident. In 1995, I applied for and was awarded the prestigious Stilwell Scholarship at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS). The timing couldn’t have made a bigger difference in my choice of a career and life, as when I received my Master’s from MIIS in May, 1997, Silicon Valley was just booming, and the MIIS campus was swamped with IT companies looking for new graduates to fill an explosion of openings. Within a month, I got four offers because of my business, technical, and language degrees although I knew almost nothing about working for American companies! I even declined an offer from a San Diego company called Qualcomm because I thought it was too “far away.”
I took an offer with Adaptec Inc., of Milpitas, as localization coordinator, and six months later, through the referral of a fellow alumni, I joined Adobe Systems. Little did I know then what a tremendously rich and rewarding experience working for Adobe would mean to me over the next seven years; and that I would be going through so many ups and downs as the IT industry went from boom to bust, and from depression to recovery again.
What type of translation and localization agencies do you look for and like to work with in your projects?
Because of my passion for language, technology, and culture, I like to work with agencies that share this passion and are willing to invest in tools and processes; with knowledgeable people who know how to strike a balance between these influences and deliver a high-quality localized product. Companies that neglect to capitalize on the emerging global potential will be blindsided, while those who find ways around obstacles and prepare for next stages will win out.
Can you describe what is happening in China as far as the translation business goes?
The translation business is going through a transition in China, becoming more integrated with the rest of the world as China strives to maintain its extremely strong, 8% economic growth over the past two decades. In spite of this, most locally based translation companies are either workshops that are outgrowths of the publishing business or small-scale software companies. Despite the enormous talent pool and low labor cost, they lack process maturity, professional human capital, and cross-disciplinary expertise, as well as exposure to international communication. The more promising ones are those that have been injected with foreign capital, with direct links to U.S. software clients, as well as to vertical industry domain knowledge.
Corporations have a CEO, and CFO; would you like to see a CGO (Chief Globalization Officer?)
Sure, why not? The CGO should be the one to define globalization’s full potential for his company. To realize it, organizational change is required. The bottom line is, globalization should be part of any company’s corporate strategy if it is to become a truly global company.
By Anna Schlegel
Christiane Bernier is a Senior Globalization Consultant with Merrill Corporation in San Francisco. She started her career at small, regional translation companies in the Midwest, and came to the Bay Area in 1998, where she managed the San Francisco operations of Lionbridge Technologies, a worldwide provider of globalization and testing services. She can be contacted at Christiane_Bernier@yahoo.com.
Did you grow up speaking different languages?
CHRISTIANE BERNIER: Yes, I grew up with different languages with a French-speaking Canadian father and an English-speaking Canadian mother. My mother was very much of a Francophile, and she insisted we speak only French at home. I remember her still taking French classes, when I was little, and I recall correcting her on the gender of nouns and on verb forms. This was not surprising then, but now, I think how odd that my mother tongue is not my own mother’s mother tongue! Needless to say, I developed an awareness of language very early on, and was curious about different languages and cultures. The language bug had bit me in a way that would not become clear until later on.
How did you get started in the globalization field?
I took translation courses at University and did some freelance translation work throughout my studies. I was nearing the end of my Ph.D. studies and the job prospects in academia being very poor, I jumped at an opportunity to work inhouse at a small translation services company within a larger advertising agency in Minneapolis. That was in 1993. I started realizing then that I liked the management of translation projects, and this is how my career started. A couple of years later, I moved over to another company, and ended up managing their large inhouse team of linguists. I found I enjoyed managing teams of people. In 1998, I moved to San Francisco and joined DLC, then about to be acquired by International Communications, itself acquired a year later by Lionbridge .
From a globalization perspective, what is the importance of Silicon Valley?
Silicon Valley is still one of the most important centers of globalization activity worldwide. It continues to create lots of opportunities and drive innovation in our industry. Certainly, what has happened is that localization, the tools, the processes, but especially the talent, have matured over the last few years. This, together with the new financial performance and profitability standards companies are being held accountable for, has meant that translation and localization budgets are scrutinized much more carefully, and buyers of these services, who are much savvier now, expect more for less.
What globalization challenges do corporations face today?
Continuing challenges, in addition to the financial performance standards that shareholders are holding companies accountable for, include whether to integrate and migrate to a single platform for multilingual content or keep English and the rest of the world languages in separate systems.
As well, multilingual service providers today need to evolve their offerings to the new realities: mature localization talent on the client side, but also maturing tools, technologies, and processes. But at the core as always—probably more so today than in the past—are high quality translations.
Information technology has evolved and now easily supports many, many languages. Tools now work with ever-increasing formats. Standards like XML are gaining wide adoption fast, and are removing a lot of the problems service providers solved in the past of English-centric formats. Content Management Systems are providing authoring platforms with built-in text recycling, reducing the amount of text needing to be (re)translated. Multilingual service providers also continue to face the challenge of finding and retaining good professional (external) translators, as well as good project managers and technical staff.
This means terrific new opportunities for freelance professional translators. To be sure, the translators that will benefit from this will be the type that also enjoy some amount of project management and can work technologically and otherwise, directly with clients. Our industry continues to fascinate me at its every turn and change.
In your opinion, what makes a great globalization team?
People: you’ve got to start with good, thinking, and experienced individuals. Processes: you have to have ground rules for working together, and everyone needs to know his or her role and tasks intimately well. Tools: you have to provide the team with access to as many tools as possible. And leadership: you need to make sure the team knows where they’re going, how success will be defined, and what the stakes are for each and every team member.
Interview by Anna Schlegel
John Yunker is the founder of Byte Level Research (www.bytelevel.com), a consulting firm focused on Web globalization and wireless technologies. His firm has helped a wide range of companies improve their global websites, including John Deere, Intel, and Giorgio Armani. John is the author of the widely acclaimed book Beyond Borders:Web Globalization Strategies (Pearson, 2002). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What led you to work in the globalization industry?
JOHN YUNKER: About six years ago, while working for a startup translation firm, I began managing Web globalization projects. I soon realized that Web globalization was not only inevitable for most companies but a competitive advantage. I founded Byte Level Research in 2000 to focus specifically on this emerging field. We were the first firm to rate the quality of global Web sites across a number of metrics, establishing best practices along the way. Our ongoing goal is to help companies develop localized Web sites that are usable and effective in their target markets.
How did your business get off the ground?
Word of mouth has been essential to our success. The Web globalization industry is close knit; I find that past clients often refer us to new clients. The book, Beyond Borders, has also been a good source of contacts.
Did you learn different languages as you grew up?
I learned Spanish in high school and spent the subsequent years forgetting everything I learned. Now that I’m based in San Diego, I plan to dive back in. I’ve also had some basic training in Chinese and Arabic.
Do you work with translators directly?
I keep in close touch with a number of freelance translators and translation firms. I also help translators and firms improve their Web globalization skills. Byte Level also publishes The Savvy Client’s Guide to Translation Agencies, a resource designed to help companies make wise translation purchasing decisions.
What are a couple of “no-nos” in global Web navigation?
Using flags to denote languages and locating the “global gateway” at the bottom of the home page. In general, companies tend to underestimate the importance of navigation for non-English-speaking Web users, yet navigation can make all the difference when it comes to traffic. There is no single solution to global navigation. I advocate four overlapping techniques that include local domain names, splash pages, and permanent global gateways. A few good sites to check out include 3Com, Ikea, and E*TRADE. We have additional information on our website.
What do corporations understand about globalization?
Multinational corporations understand that they cannot afford to overlook emerging markets such as China, India, and Eastern Europe. Companies are investing heavily in establishing local offices or partnering with local companies to expand their presence and get up to speed in these markets. Companies are also doing a much better job these days of localizing products and promotions, although there is still room for improvement.
What do corporations not understand about globalization?
Companies typically underestimate the costs and complexity of Web globalization. In a recent survey I conducted, we discovered that most companies spend less than half of what they should on Web globalization. And the major reason for this comes down to viewing localization as a “nice-to-have” rather than “must-have” attribute of a website. This attitude is fading fast.
Centralization or decentralization; what do you recommend?
It really depends on the company, its management structure, and its goals. To save money and convey a consistent global image, companies need to centralize content and some controls. But local offices also need the flexibility to tailor their websites and promotions to their customers. In the end, it’s about striking the right balance and ensuring that this balance evolves as the company evolves.
Why do we have CEOs and CFOs but don’t have CGOs (Chief Globalization Officers)?
There is a sense in many companies that there are too many C-level positions already, so adding a new position is not a trivial task. I do believe that globalization is a C-level issue, but it doesn’t necessarily require a C-level position to match. In a sense, every officer should have globalization responsibilities and awareness. Companies that have created effective global websites, such as IBM, Ikea, and Dell, often do not have CGOs; they do, however, have CEOs who value the importance of truly global websites and invest accordingly.
Tell us what you are reading now about globalization.
I’m now making my way through “The Power of Language: A Natural History of Language” by John McWhorter. I’m also reading “Sea of Glory,” a book about the Charles Wilkes expedition, which charted over 1,500 miles of the Antarctic coast.
By Andrea Bindereif
At the May 2003 general meeting, Anna Schlegel, Global Content Manager at Xerox and long-time member of NCTA, presented a Q&A session about the localization market for translators. Originally from Spain, Anna had made the exciting transition from freelance translator to in-house translator and then project manager during the boom years, in the mid- and late 1990s. She has worked for some of the biggest companies in the industry, such as Cisco Systems and Xerox, and has experienced the transformation of the translation field firsthand. We captured Anna’s view of the localization industry in an interview.
TL: Anna, tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, when and why did you come to the US, and how did you start as a translator in this country?
AS: I am Catalán. I come from a little beautiful village called Olot, at the foot of the Pyrenees, not far from Perpignan. I came to the States in 1992, and I had already started my own little translation business in my head flying over in the plane, thinking what I would do in this country if I were not accepted into an MBA Program.
TL: How was the translation industry when you started working here? And how was it in Spain back then?
AS: When I started here in the States I had WordPerfect, there were no translation tools, and I was already being paid 11 cents a word. Localization and Globalization were really scary words to me at that time, but I already wanted to learn more about them.
In Spain, I had worked at a software engineering firm, translating manuals into English, and I was being paid the equivalent of $5 an hour. That was in 1990. That was also my fifth year of studies in German philology, and I needed the cash to survive in Barcelona. Then I came to the States. To get by, I also had to teach English and German. I didn’t know how to get into the translation market back then.
TL: How did you make the transition from freelance to in-house translator at one of the biggest tech companies?
AS: I got a phone call one day from a desperate HR employee at Cisco saying, “We hear you are good, can you start tomorrow?” The next day I got an anxiety attack, but I started anyway. It was awful. I was sitting in a conference room with all these corporate folks with paradigms, visions and objectives, Q1s and levels of effort, suits and PowerPoints full of acronyms. I thought I would die.
I found out later that a Silicon Graphics employee for whom I had done telephony translations had recommended me for the position. He was Andreas Ramos. I will always remember his name, and I don’t know if I would ever have worked in these powerhouses otherwise.
TL: How important was translation work for high-tech companies in the 1990s, and how much respect did translators enjoy?
AS: The work was very well paid, we were already able to telecommute, and we learned TRADOS and other tools. It was fun, but also scary because we were just translators trying to navigate the bureaucracy in these really big corporations.
TL: How has your own role as an inhouse translator for high-tech companies changed over the years?
AS: I started as an in-house translator and was promoted several times in the course of three years. Those were the good old days… I went from consultant to in-house translator to project manager to program manager II to leading a small team. And now to leading the globalization effort for a bigger operation of 28 websites.
TL: Can you tell us a bit about the development of software localization and globalization?
AS: It is key to be part of the very first stages of whatever software application you’re working on, and you need to raise your concerns right at the requirements phase. You want to follow its development all the way until implementation. Some companies, or should I say groups, are better than others in engaging the global folks at the outset of software development. Globalization really happens through education of software developers and close collaboration with your stakeholders.
Also, you need to find the kinds of people who can bridge technology and the business side of why you need a global tool. Communication and being at the same level is key.
TL: Do you remember the early translation tools, and can you tell us how they’ve developed over the past few years?
AS: I remember working with TRADOS. I still own it, but I rarely use it anymore; I am more on the management side of globalization now. Our current vendor is moving away from creating an internal tool and going back to TRADOS.
I am still surprised to see all these companies spending humongous amounts of money trying to create tools that don’t integrate well.
TL: What is required from a translator today in comparison to the mid-1990s? What is a typical profile of a translator specializing in localization?
AS: I don’t think that much has changed for the profession in itself, other than the tools we use are better and computers are faster. What has changed in the newer versions of translation memory programs is that nowadays we have better tools to freeze tags. I can remember destroying all kinds of code…
I’d say that a typical profile would describe someone who uses computer-assisted translation tools, understands the business he/she is working for, asks about terminology, has a good relationship with the project managers. And is someone who understands what the project entails, who needs to know what not to touch in a translation, who knows about HTML, XML, or whatever format is needed. Although now we do have good file processing that can freeze code.
TL: What does a typical workday look like for you?
AS: As a Global Content Manager at Xerox, I am in meetings all day with translation project managers, web managers and my senior managers, trying to coordinate 28 countries. I am on the phone with South Africa, India, France, Egypt, Brazil – you name it. We brainstorm about what countries need to have, content-wise, to make their business successful. Most projects start in the US, then we follow up for other regions.
TL: How important is knowledge of translation tools for a translator today? And what is a good way of learning to use CAT tools?
AS: To those not familiar with translation tools, I would suggest downloading demos from TRADOS and IBM. I would start there. I think a translator who is here to stay in the profession and wants to go into localization needs those kinds of tools.
I am not talking here about translating resumes or fliers or business cards. I don’t think you have to have CAT tools for those, but it definitely helps on those bigger projects.
TL: What would you recommend to a translator to stay competitive in the field?
AS: Market yourself, get ATA-accredited, put yourself out there even if it is scary. And take those jobs that scare you; you can always take a partner in crime. Learn by doing, write to corporations, or take tests with translation firms that are looking for freelancers.
Keep evolving with whatever is needed.
TL: Where do you see translation five and ten years from now?
AS: More and more, US corporations are leaving globalization up to the foreign countries. I see less being paid from the US and more being relegated to other countries: it is up to them if they want something translated. That is where things are heading, to my mind. This is a tough business. Budgets are tight, and things get translated only if they will bring in money and are key to the success of the business. I also see less centralization. Globalization customers within the corporation are not forced to use a particular vendor or another corporate unit; it is preferred, but not mandated, in most of the corporations I know. This hurts the business, in my opinion. I am for a centralized approach, if it is well leveraged and well run.
TL: Thank you for talking with us, Anna.