Monday, February 20, 2017

How to communicate on international exhibitions #1: Choosing the right language

It may be once in 5 years, annually, or twice a month, but no matter how often you promote your company and products on international events, such as trade fairs or industry exhibitions, presenting internationally and transferring your message from the company's native language to the languages of potential target markets is not an easy task to accomplish. Unless, of course, you are prepared. 
How to communicate on international exhibitions #1: Choose the right language

As translation and localization of your content are demanding both on time and resources, it's prudent to evaluate localization priorities and the languages to focus on. Here are few things to keep in mind in this area:

1. Have all your content prepared and maintained in English – even if it's not your native language.

English is the language business of present times, there is hardly any dispute about that. Because of the popularity and extensive use of English in basically all areas of modern communication, the best translation rates you can usually get on the market are for language combinations involving English. Eventually, when the need arises and you need to translate from your not-so-common native language to not-so-common languages of your target markets, you won't pay a fortune for a translation of an "exotic language pair", but a reasonable price of the english-external language pair.

2. English is international, but you want to be local.

No, it isn't contrary to the first point and, of course, this doesn't mean you absolutely must communicate in English, especially not if you've already done your homework regarding the first point. 
It's merely not safe to presume everyone of your potential clients understands English or the even more dangerous idea: that since they do understand, localization of your message to the languages of your target markets is just a waste of resources. Even if your company is relatively small and headquartered in a non-English speaking country, once you decide to step onto the international scene and wish to appeal to other non-English speakers, going the extra mile will pay off. Think of it this way: When you're in a foreign environment, it feels good to stumble upon somebody who speaks your language in the sea of the current lingua franca, doesn't it? 

3. Integrate localization into your marketing strategy.

As translation and localization are closely tied to the company content and overall message, these undertakings typically are handled by the company's marketing department (and/or the documentation department). After all, analyzing the opportunities and preparing for expansion into new markets is what marketers do. Your very presence at international exhibitions or trade events is a direct result of the company's decision to focus on certain markets and clientele. The marketing department should implement localization into all international development strategies and determine the level of localization and its priorities for key international markets. As a consequence, the company message and content should be customized and localized on all communication levels, from native sales reps through localized websites and sales material, even down to paid online advertising.

To learn more about the different forms of multilingual communication and the channels to employ for your next exhibition presence, read our following blog.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Language facts: Romanian

Romanian is a Romance language, primarily used in Romania and also Moldova, being an official language in both countries, as well as of the European union. It is closely related to other Latin languages, such as Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian, and evolved from Vulgar Latin. It is also related and very similar to Moldavian language, used in Moldavia. Romanian has around 24 million native speakers.

Bucharest - University Square

Romanian or Moldavian?

Romanian and its grammar rules were constituted in the second half of the 18th century. Interestingly, the first Romanian grammar was published outside Romania, in Vienna. As with most of the East European and Balkan languages, Romanian also got formed by wars, conflicts, and nationalistic brawls of Romanians and Moldovans and, obviously, the Russian and Ottoman influence in the region. In fact, Romanian and Moldovan are merely two names for the very same language (the only real difference is the script – Moldavian is written in Cyrillic, while Romanian in Latin). 
After the Russians annexed the Bessarabia region (the part of Moldova that used to be under the Ottoman rule) in 1812, "Moldovian" was established as an official language, while the area itself became de facto bilingual, with Russian being the language of the higher class. Romanian was, however, banned from official administrative use and was taught as a foreign language only. This subsequently led to the awakening of a Romanian national movement that asked for the Romanian language to be reinstated in schools as the main language of education.
During the Soviet era, the term "Moldovan" was forced through to describe the Romanian language, which was meant to destabilize the Romanian nationalist movement and try to marginalize Romanian as merely a dialect. 


In addition to the standard English alphabet, Romanian has specific sounds …Ă, Î, S, Ţ.
A Ă Â B C D E F G H I Î J K L M N O P Q R S Ş T Ţ U V W X Y Z a ă â b c d e f g h i î j k l m n o p q r s ş t ţ u v w x y z

Monday, February 6, 2017

Why innovative manufacturers should translate their sales material into Scandinavian languages

Scandinavia is well-known for its highly innovative and progressive approach to society and development as a whole, as well its industry. Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland) are leaders in what is called the green industry. In fact, out of the top 5 eco innovators in the European Union, three of them are Scandinavian countries – with Denmark's industry being by far the most eco innovative. According to 2016 Yale's Environmental Performance Index (EPI), the first 4 ranks in the list of top environmental-friendly countries are occupied by Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and Denmark.

Innovative manufacturers should translate their sales material into Scandinavian languages.

Scandinavians are willing to pay more for innovative products

Scandinavians simply prefer what's transparent and clean, and this notion transfers into the consumer behavior itself, which is demonstrated in an observable tendency to invest more into innovative, energy-efficient and nature-saving products. 
In other words, if you are a manufacturer that has invested a lot into innovative technologies and eco-friendly products in order to set you apart from the competition, Scandinavia represents a focus consumer market where the investment will pay off in a fast and straightforward way. Based on Euromonitor research, Nordic consumers tend to put high relevance to factors such as energy efficiency, durability, design and overall functionality in their decision-making, while the price becomes the significant determinant only if the above-mentioned factors are met. As a result, Scandinavian consumers are willing to pay extra, e.g. for appliances and consumer gadgets in the highest energy class.

Green is good but often off-scale

Even though the demand is there, the supply of eco-friendly products is sometimes limited for small local producers who are often unable to compete against the bigger players supported by multinational capital and economies of scale. For innovative manufacturers and multinational companies who are able to serve the market and speak its language, time for expansion couldn't be better. 
So, maybe it's time to start thinking about translating your catalogs, product information and sales material into Danish, Swedish, Finish, or Norwegian and then head north to try to boost sales?  

Monday, January 23, 2017

Language facts: Norwegian

Norwegian is a Scandinavian language and a branch of the Germanic languages that has slightly more than 4 million native speakers. Two standard varieties of Norwegian exist, Bokmål and Nynorsk (literally "new Norwegian"). 

Oslo, Norway

Nynorsk is used primarily in the western regions and is spoken by around 0.5 million people. Bokmål is used by the rest of Norway and remains the preferred variant when writing Norwegian, although the spoken Norwegian resemble Nynorsk more than Bokmål

Nynorsk vs. Bokmål conflict

Today Nynorsk and Bokmål both have equal legal status in Norway, though the private and commercial sectors of Norway's economy are dominated completely by Bokmål, while all public bodies uphold both variants. Interestingly, both Bokmål and Nynorsk are just writing standards, yet don't provide guidelines on the spoken form of the language. In result, a mixture of dialects is used in everyday (even official) communication and no spoken form considered as "incorrect".
The main difference in the two forms is based in their historical origin. While Bokmål is a Norwegianized version of Danish used by the elite and upper class, as Danish used to be the standard for writing Norwegian from 16th to 19th century, Nynorsk resulted from opposition to the Danish language and tried to established the language on "pure" Norwegian rural dialects. These two writing standards and their use turned into a fundamental political controversy in Norway mainly throughout the 20th century.
The decades-long efforts to merge Norwegian writing standards into one common language (called Samnorsk) failed after series of language reforms, and the policy was eventually abandoned in 2002 due to strong public resistance, keeping this interesting linguistic schizophrenia very much alive.


The Norwegian alphabet consists of 29 letters. In addition to the standard English alphabet, Norwegian ends with … X Y Z Æ Ø Å. Certain letters can be modified by diacritics (é, è, ê, ó, ò, ô and occasionally also ì and ù and ỳ in Nynorsk).

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z æ ø å

Friday, January 13, 2017

Machine translation in 2017: It's getting neural

By November 2016, something happened to the most used open machine translation platform, Google Translate. Users around the globe – mainly those translating in combinations of English to Chinese, Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Korean, Portuguese and Turkish – have noticed a major improvement in the machine translation results which suddenly translated whole sentences, worked with much broader context and got, well, more human. Google itself claims the platform has improved "more in a single leap than we’ve seen in the last ten years combined". So what happened?

Comparison of Statistical Machine Translation vs. Neural Machine Translation results.


In short, neural networks and AI happened. Rather than relying on statistical methods that solve problems "by force" (the more complex databases and computing power available, the better results), neural networks utilize artificial neurons in computing and loosely imitate actual models of a biological brain. Google's Statistical Machine Translation (SMT) methods impressed the world by the ability to translate words and short phrases with more or less acceptable accuracy in over 100 languages (currently 103 to be exact). But the newly implemented Neural Machine Translation goes beyond this. Using deep-learning techniques, it first assumes the most relevant variant for translation that fits the context of sentences rather than just limited phrases, and then transforms it to match human speech and grammar as much as possible (as demonstrated in the picture above).

How good can NMT get

Naturally, neural networks get better over time as they learn and Google's NMT has still a lot of learning to do in order to match professional human translation, mainly for inflected languages (seems like Latin and Greek will be the last to go). But the recent evolution of the technology demonstrates exponential improvements in machine translation. Over next few years, Google will be perfecting their NMT results for all the 103 languages covered and implement the translation feature into the very DNA of "intelligent" online platforms and apps.

As it has been 10 years now since the introduction of Google Translate, it will be interesting to observe where the service will be in another 10 years and how deep will it affect the professional human translation industry. Will human translators become human editors with additional required specialization and skills by 2027?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Language facts: Latvian

Latvian is the official state language of Latvia and an official EU language. There are about 1.5 million native Latvian speakers in Latvia and about 150,000 abroad.

Riga, Latvia.

Latvian is one of the two living languages of the Balts (the other being Lithuanian), a group of its own within the Indo-European language family. Latvian is an inflective language with several analytical forms, three dialects, and German syntactical influence (as the ruling class in the Baltic region were Germans until the 19th century). In German, the language is actually called Lettish, which is also an older English term for Latvian. 

Language as a living relic

It is still a bit of a mystery how the Baltic languages really developed in early stages when evolving from the Proto-Indo-European language, the common ancestor of the largest language family in the world (the Indo-European). Both Latvian and Lithuanian contain linguistic features supposedly characteristic of the early stages of the proto-language, which makes the Baltic branch particularly interesting to academics. In fact, Latvian and Lithuanian used to be just dialects of one common language in the Baltics and started to differentiate more only after the 8th century AD. Mutually intelligible dialects still existed in modern history (estimates go back as late as to the 17th century). 

Apart from German, also the Russian language had its say in modern Latvian language evolution. (It's actually very interesting to observe the outlines of historical conflicts and battles for influence zones mainly on minor languages of Central and Eastern Europe, based on the German and Russian linguistic impact). The first wave of Russification in the late 19th century, followed by almost 50 years of Soviet occupation (from 1941 to 1990) as well as Stalin's intent for Russia to colonize the Baltic region diminished the ethnic Latvian population (from 80% before World War II to only 52% in 1989). After massive deportations of Latvians, the area was populated by immigrants who kept Russian as their mother tongue. After the Soviet union collapsed in 1991, Latvia introduced policies to strengthen the use as well as education of the Latvian language and the number of native Latvian speakers increased to more than 60% in Latvia accordingly.


The modern standard Latvian alphabet uses 22 unmodified letters of the Latin alphabet (all except Q, W, X and Y). It adds a further eleven letters by modification. Latvian spelling has almost perfect correspondence between graphemes and phonemes. Every phoneme has its own letter so that a reader need not learn how a word is pronounced, but simply pronounce it. 

A, Ā, B, C, Č, D, E, Ē, F, G, Ģ, H, I, Ī, J, K, Ķ, L, Ļ, M, N, Ņ, O, P, R, S, Š, T, U, Ū, V, Z, Ž 
a b c d e f g h i k l m n o p q r s t v x y z