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Want to influence the world? Map reveals the best languages to speak

Source: AAAS.ORG
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

Speak or write in English, and the world will hear you. Speak or write in Tamil or Portuguese, and you may have a harder time getting your message out. Now, a new method for mapping how information flows around the globe identifies the best languages to spread your ideas far and wide. One hint: If you’re considering a second language, try Spanish instead of Chinese.

The study was spurred by a conversation about an untranslated book, says Shahar Ronen, a Microsoft program manager whose Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) master’s thesis formed the basis of the new work. A bilingual Hebrew-English speaker from Israel, he told his MIT adviser, César Hidalgo (himself a Spanish-English speaker), about a book written in Hebrew whose translation into English he wasn’t yet aware of. “I was able to bridge a certain culture gap because I was multilingual,” Ronen says. He began thinking about how to create worldwide maps of how multilingual people transmit information and ideas.

Ronen and co-authors from MIT, Harvard University, Northeastern University, and Aix-Marseille University tackled the problem by describing three global language networks based on bilingual tweeters, book translations, and multilingual Wikipedia edits. The book translation network maps how many books are translated into other languages. For example, the Hebrew book, translated from Hebrew into English and German, would be represented in lines pointing from a node of Hebrew to nodes of English and German. That network is based on 2.2 million translations of printed books published in more than 1000 languages. As in all of the networks, the thickness of the lines represents the number of connections between nodes. For tweets, the researchers used 550 million tweets by 17 million users in 73 languages. In that network, if a user tweets in, say, Hindi as well as in English, the two languages are connected. To build the Wikipedia network, the researchers tracked edits in up to five languages done by editors, carefully excluding bots.

In all three networks, English has the most transmissions to and from other languages and is the most central hub, the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But the maps also reveal “a halo of intermediate hubs,” according to the paper, such as French, German, and Russian, which serve the same function at a different scale. More.


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U.S. schools are saying goodbye to foreign languages

Source: The Atlantic
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

Such instruction is in rapid decline despite the proven benefits of bilingualism.

Success Academy Charter Schools is responsible for about 9,000 students in 32 charter schools around New York City.

Eva Moskowitz, the school’s CEO and founder, recently spoke with the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute about how to fit everything she deems important for students—coding, recess, and science—into the school day, five times a week. One of the school’s new “solutions,” she said, was to cut foreign languages.

From the interview:

So something’s got to go. We picked—and you know this may be shocking to this audience—we picked foreign languages. People say “Don’t you believe in foreign languages?” I love multilingualism. I speak French, but something had to go. … We can’t do everything. And by the way, Americans don’t tend to do foreign languages very well. I think if I were doing schools in Europe I might feel differently. But my son took three years of French and he could barely say, “How are you?” … I really believe whatever we do we should do it exceptionally well and I wasn’t sure that I could find foreign language instructors that were really really good and could do it at a very very high level.

(Here’s a video of the interview, in full.)

Indeed, foreign language instruction has been on the decline around the U.S., at least in elementary and middle schools—which is Success Academy’s sweet spot. (High schools remained steady, with 91 percent of them offering foreign languages, and Success only has one high school so far.) More.

See: The Atlantic

See also: Younger Kids Lose Out on Foreign Languages in US Schools

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Why right now is a good time to read in translation

Source: National Post
Story flagged by: Helena Koželj

When Patrick Modiano won the Nobel Prize earlier this fall, the general response in the English-speaking world was a resounding, “Who?” Most of the novelist’s 20-odd books are unavailable in our widest-spoken official language — some out of print but most simply untranslated. How can this be, in our theoretically global village?

The likes of Google Translate are supposedly making the planet’s first-world culture, and much beyond, available at the click of the mouse, from masterpieces to 15-minute memes. But for all the benefits of databases and algorithms, flesh-and-blood people remain essential to the process. “I don’t think we’ll ever be replaceable,” says Toronto translator Jessica Moore, the vice-president (Ontario) of the Literary Translators’ Association of Canada. And translators are subject to editors, who are subject to publishers, who are subject to the market. Outside of prizewinners such as Modiano and big bestsellers, the books that are available in translation can seem random — and their contents sometimes altered in surprising ways.

This year’s International Festival of Authors in Toronto hosted “Found in Translation” panels for writers from Quebec to Myanmar, who discussed the joy of finding new markets and the compromises they’ve had to make to do so. Slovenian writer Andrej Blatnik noted that his English translators often leave out his most highbrow language; in contrast, he recalls hearing how Charles Bukowski became a hit in Serbia when his raw books were rendered in a baroque style. More.

See: National Post

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How to choose an online course (last post of 2014!)

Source: Thoughts On Translation
Story flagged by: Jared Tabor

After tomorrow, the Thoughts on Translation world headquarters will be closed for vacation through January 4, so before we dig into today’s topic, here are a few end-of-year recommendations:

  • Start thinking about taxes as soon as you get back from your holiday break. You can close out your books immediately, so why not do it in January rather than on April 14?
  • If you achieved your business goals for this year, be a good boss and give yourself a bonus. If you need some ideas, I wrote a whole post about bonuses last year.
  • If you’re an experienced translator with enough work and income, take some real time off over the holidays. Put your auto-responder on and put the computer in the rear view mirror.
  • If you’re a new translator, be aware that the holidays are a great time to pick up new clients; end-of-year panic plus lots of experienced translators on vacation equals a potential opening for a newcomer. Today on Twitter, one agency owner commented that at this time of year, agencies are much more likely to take a chance on a new person…which could lead to a lasting relationship. French to English translator Karen Tkaczyk reported that during her first year as a freelancer, she picked up many new clients by being available between Christmas and New Year’s.

But now, let’s talk about something else: how to select an online course. I’m a big fan of this topic, having taught my own courses for about eight years, and having taken several Coursera classes, a couple of writing classes through Gotham Writers’ Workshop, and most recently Ed Gandia’s Warm e-mail prospecting course. There’s no shortage of online courses out there, but the question is how to choose one; while the range of potential courses might be limitless, your available time and money surely are not. More.

See: Thoughts On Translation

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Douglas Ntiwane wins Pan African Languages Award

Source: Times of Swaziland
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

MBABANE – Douglas Ntiwane has a lot of achievements under his belt, but to win the Pan African Languages Award during the legacy celebration of Nelson Mandela last week is a major landmark.

The celebration was held in South Africa.

Ntiwane is former Arts and Culture board member and a former Swaziland ambassador in England to mention a few achievements. Most Swazis know him by the once popular poem he wrote titled ‘Ngibut’imincele’.

The Pan African association is a forum where individuals across the continent that have contributed immensely in language preservation and art are recognised and awarded. More.

See: Times of Swaziland

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New translation of Anna Karenina more in the spirit of Tolstoy

Source: The National
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

Marian Schwartz’s new English-language translation of Leo Tolstoy’s great novel Anna Karenina [] carries an unenviable burden. The number of English-speaking readers who will ever encounter Anna Karenina in Russian is vanishingly small, so translations become the book for the countless readers over the decades who’ve been spellbound by the tragic story of Anna’s unhappy marriage to staid Karenin, her love affair with Count Vronsky, and the unruly passions that drive her to her death. Standing in for an author as powerful and personal as Tolstoy – trying to convey what the American novelist and critic, William Dean Howells, referred to as his “terrible, unsparing honesty” – is a very serious responsibility.

The novel has been getting new translations for 150 years and those translations themselves have developed extensive textual lives and devoted followings. Schwartz notes Constance Garnett’s “much-beloved translation of 1901”, to which we could add such alternate landmark versions as that of Louise and Alymer Maude in 1918, the version Rosemary Edmonds did for Penguin Classics in 1954, and of course the 2000 edition by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, the popularity of which skyrocketed when it was chosen by Oprah Winfrey for her television book club in 2004.

For readers of a more critical bent, the appearance of any new Anna in English will necessarily prompt comparisons with all the previous Annas.

It’s only natural; “By comparison alone,” wrote the Enlightenment philosopher David Hume, “we fix the epithets of praise or blame,” and Schwartz makes the case for her own version immediately, in her Translator’s Note: “What English translations have yet to address effectively,” she writes, “is Tolstoy’s literary style, which can be both unconventional and unsettling. Beginning with Garnett, English translators have tended to view Tolstoy’s sometimes radical choices as ‘mistakes’ to be corrected, as if Tolstoy, had he known better, or cared more, would not have broken basic rules of literary language.”

This admirably gets to the heart of the matter: is the goal of translation to preserve the tics and quirks, the “radical choices,” or to adapt them to the language of your reading audience? If Tolstoy uses the same adjective to describe 10 different things in one paragraph, do you assume, with Schwartz, that he did so as a deliberate artistic choice and translate accordingly, no matter how odd or tiresome your English-­language readers may find it? Or do you assume, with translators like Garnett and Edmonds, that part of your job is “cleaning up” such passages, so as not to alienate your readers from a text you’re trying to get them to love as much as you do? More.

See: The National

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Kazakh language now part of Google Translate services

Source: The Astana Times
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

ASTANA – The Kazakh language is now among the offerings of the Google Translate online global translating system, founder and director of theWikiBilim Public Foundation Rauan Kenzhekhanuly announced on Dec. 12.

Kazakh joins the 90 other languages available through the translation system, which is accessible on computers and mobile devices. WikiBilim is a nonprofit organisation operating in Kazakhstan that develops and promotes online educational content in the Kazakh language.

“One and a half year ago, we started to think how to include the Kazakh language in Google Translate. We addressed this question to the Google Company and were told that it would be necessary to provide the system with a large number of mirror translations from Kazakh into English and back. This would give the translating system an opportunity to seize the algorithm of Kazakh and after a while be able to build its initial translation options,” Kenzhekhanuly said.

The WikiBilim team started off translating Wikipedia into Kazakh, according to Kenzhekhanuly.

“The Kazakh Wikipedia only had 7,000 articles and four people working on the translations before we actively started to translate content into Kazakh. Our task was to assemble a team or a community that would undertake the task to translate and edit articles into Kazakh. Today, we have some 210,000 articles, and 350 people are constantly working on the project. By translating Wikipedia, we created a database and algorithms that allowed us to transcribe the alphabets properly,” he said as he explained the process during a Dec. 15 briefing at the Central Communications Service. More.

See: The Astana Times

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How to communicate effectively in a foreign language

Source: The World Economic Forum
Story flagged by: Helena Koželj

Being able to communicate effectively in a foreign language is a challenge faced by many of us. If you’re a newcomer to a country, conveying a message in a language that is not your mother tongue is often necessary to access vital services, perform well on the job, achieve good grades and integrate into society. But it’s possible that speakers of different native languages face different challenges in making themselves easily understood.

In new research comparing the speaking performances of 60 adult learners of English from four different language groups: Chinese, Hindi/Urdu, Romance languages (French/Spanish) and Farsi, we found dramatic differences between how their use of language determines how understandable they are.

But our study showed that the language-related factors that underlie what makes someone sound accented were very similar regardless of a person’s mother tongue. For example, vowel and consonant errors universally make people sound accented. More.

See: The World Economic Forum

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Skype Translator hands-on: Close but no Babel fish

Source: Gizmodo
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

When Skype announced its real-time translation program back in May, most of us seized on the sci-fi-ness off it all—Star Trek’s universal translator, Babel fish, etc. But the technology is very real, and has been for years, just it separate pieces. Skype Translator is is the commercial culmination of those efforts, bringing all those things, like speech recognition, automated translation, and machine learning, into one program.

This week Skype began rolling out the “first phase” of Translator, a beta version of the service’s live speech translating feature (between Spanish and English for now) and text translation for40+ languages.

The promise of breaking down the global language barrier is a lofty one—solving the human speech puzzle with all its nuance and imperfection would give our machines a skill that has forever been uniquely human. Skype Translator doesn’t quite reach it. Not yet, anyway. More.

See: Gizmodo

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Lost in Translation: The world’s most unique words?

Source: BBC
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

In the introduction to her book Lost in Translation, Ella Frances Sanders writes: “There may be some small essential gaps in your mother tongue, but never fear: you can look to other languages to define what you’re feeling”. The British designer has illustrated 50 words that have specific meanings in cultures around the world, including Mangata, Swedish for ‘the road-like reflection of the moon in the water’. (All images reprinted with permission from Lost in Translation by Ella Frances Sanders, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC).

See the full slideshow of untranslatable words here:

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Merriam-Webster names ‘culture’ 2014’s Word of the Year

Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

According to the dictionary’s editor, it’s a ‘chameleon’ term, which also described many Internet conversations this year.

The wordsmiths at Merriam-Webster have named “culture” the 2014 word of the year.

The word was chosen based upon its high search rankings on the dictionary’s website, which gets around 100 million page views every month.

“This gives us a sense of what people are thinking about,” Merriam-Webster editor Peter Sokolowski says. “We’re kind of eavesdropping on a national conversation.”

Sokolowski says “culture” is a “chameleon of a word” and further explains:

The term conveys a kind of academic attention to systematic behavior and allows us to identify and isolate an idea, issue, or group: we speak of a “culture of transparency” or “consumer culture.” “Culture” can be either very broad (as in “celebrity culture” or “winning culture”) or very specific (as in “test-prep culture” or “marching band culture”).

Merriam-Webster’s top 10 words of 2014 also included “nostalgia” (pleasure or sadness caused by remembering the past), “insidious” (causing harm gradually), “legacy” (something coming from someone in the past), “feminism” (the belief that men and women should have equal rights) and “surreptitious” (describing a stealthy action). More.


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Where will the translation industry be in five years time?

Source: Translators Family
Story flagged by: OlegSemerikov

We take a look at a range of possible developments in the field of translation

The translation industry is a bit of a dark horse really. For many years, translation was a fairly quiet and stuffy domain, populated by grey-bearded grammar fiends with a love of language. But the globalisation of the late 20th century, coupled with the technological advancements of the internet has changed all that. Statistics from Common Sense Advisory show that the market for outsourced language services was worth an incredible £21 billion in 2012, with a compound annual growth rate of 12.17%. Unlike many other sectors, translation has breezed through the recession with ease, and continues to expand. A recent report by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an incredible 42% growth in the industry between 2010 and 2020, way beyond that forecast for any other industry.

So what other changes await us in the next five years and beyond? Will the translation agency of the future be run by robots? Will we all have translation microchips implanted in our brains at birth? Or perhaps we’ll wear glasses that provide subtitles whenever someone speaks another language? From the serious to the silly, we take a look at translation trends, exciting evolutions and future forecasts within the industry. More.

See: Translators Family

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Morocco: Time to abandon French for English

Source: Morocco World News
Story flagged by: esperantisto

San Francisco – The 15th Francophonie summit kicked off today in the Senegalese capital Dakar. Thirty-five heads of state and other government officials are attending the summit, among them our own Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar, representing Morocco.

If you look at the African Francophone countries, you will quickly realize that the leaders of these countries came to power with the help or approval of France, the only country that benefits by keeping control over its former colonies. The question that comes to mind is: Does Morocco benefit from belonging to this organization, which was made solely to serve the interests of France?

For instance, among the primary missions of the Francophonie organization is the promotion of the French language. How does promoting the French language benefit Morocco, or any African state for that matter?

English is the language that the majority of the world’s population speaks. It is widely learned as a second language in schools around the world, and is an official language of the European Union, the United Nations, and in the Commonwealth, which is home to 2.2 billion people.

Shortly after many African countries gained their independence from France, they had no choice but to stick to French as a language. But that was 50 to 60 years ago, and French has long since served its purpose. Moroccan decision-makers need to understand that by sticking to French, they are limiting their horizons, when they could flourish. More.

See: Morocco World News

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Microsoft releases Skype Translator

Source: Skype Blog
Story flagged by: Michael Grant

For more than a decade, Skype has been breaking down geographical barriers to make every day audio and video communications possible. As we enter an era in which computing experiences need to be more personal, Skype has looked at ways to help communities create stronger connections and be more productive. Using innovations from Microsoft Research, Skype is now removing another barrier to make it possible for people to communicate irrespective of what language they speak.

Today, we are excited to announce the first phase of the Skype Translator preview program. The preview program will kick-off with two spoken languages, Spanish and English, and 40+ instant messaging languages will be available to Skype customers who have signed-up via the Skype Translator sign-up page and are using Windows 8.1 on the desktop or device.

Skype brings people together to make progress on what matters to them. Skype Translator will open up endless possibilities for people around the world to connect, communicate and collaborate; people will no longer be hindered by geography and language. More.

See: Skype Blog

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Michele Hutchison: How to improve as a translator? (Part Two)

Source: English PEN’s World Bookshelf
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

Michele Hutchison continues her enquiry into the best ways of developing and improving as a translator. This week, she talks to David Colmer and reflects on her own practice

In my previous World Bookshelf blog, in light of the very difficult translation I’ve been tearing my hair out over for the past six months, I talked to three very experienced translators about the ways they had improved over the years. I learned that improving often seems to be about refining your methods as a translator. It means finding ways to tackle the revisions process more efficiently, locating better resources and reference sites. Time has a role to play too. Prize-winning translator David Colmeroffered some sound wisdom for this week’s blog about the improvement that comes from long-term exposure to the language you are translating: ‘Some translators are quite daring, maybe even cavalier, in their willingness to translate from languages they don’t know that well, but after translating between five and ten million words of Dutch and living in the Netherlands for twenty years, I’m still learning, and one thing I’ve definitely learnt is that my translations are much better when I understand the original. If you learn a language as an adult and translate from it for a long time, you amass a body of work in which your comprehension has grown. Looking back on it there are bound to be embarrassing blunders, but they might not always be evident to the reader as you’ve probably smoothed over a lot of misunderstandings because of your drive to make something of it in English. As your comprehension deepens, what you make of it in English comes closer to what it should be, what the author made of it in the original.’

I must say, as my own experience grew, I stopped asking my Dutch husband for advice on the original – he was too unreliable. Now I am member of a translators’ forum on Yahoo (‘boekvertalers’) with more than 500 members, most of them translating into Dutch. It is the perfect place to post a query about something I’m not sure I’ve fully understood or would like to explore further. I cannot guess what associations certain words might evoke in native speakers and I don’t always spot intertextuality when the references are cultural. I’ve lived here for a decade but it’s still not long enough. I don’t know how translators cope when they aren’t socially and culturally immersed in the language they translate from, when they live back home, say. More.

See: English PEN’s World Bookshelf

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Source: A Word In Your Ear
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky


That is not possible!

There is no such thing as an untranslatable word, anything that can be thought can be expressed. Anything that can be properly expressed can be translated into another language. Into any other sufficiently complex and rich language, as the principle of effability states. Only, I am afraid the situation is not that simple.

The hypothesis of Sapir-Whorf expresses the opposite point of view, stating that each language is different. This, so is claimed, has consequences for the way their (mono-linguistic) users think. This concept is also called principle of linguistic relativity. The semantics and grammar each language has determine in more or less subtle ways what can be imagined, thought and expressed in that language. The way I interpret this hypothesis, assuming it is right, untranslatable words would mark the limits of what can be thought in a given language. So, supposing we find untranslatable words, how would we define them? How could we know they are untranslatable? What could the reason for their untranslatability be? I guess the reasons will vary from case to case, as we shall probably see, but for the purposes of this blog I will argue that untranslatable words are those that sound and feel natural in one language, but artificial and unnatural in another. (Spoiler: The hypothesis of Sapir-Whorf is wrong, especially in its strong form. Language does not limit what you can think about and does not set a limit to what you can not think about. What language can do, however, is to make it easier to speak about things you have words for. It also makes it easier to express sexist or racist ideas: just use one word instead of another and everybody will know what kind of -ist you are.) More.

See: A Word In Your Ear

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Upcoming Google Translate to bring image translation and automatic language detection in conversations

Source: TECH2
Story flagged by: Maria Kopnitsky

Need help reading a sign-board or a restaurant menu in a foreign country? The upcoming version of Google Translate aims to see you through your language woes.

According to a recent leak by by Android Police, Google is working on an updated version of Google Translate, which will not only help you translate spoken words, but will also let you use your camera to translate text in images. The website highlights that the feature comes after Google acquired translation app Word Lens by Quest Visual. The app provides users an instant translation of any portion of text in an image. Looks like Quest Visual’s special augmented-reality based technology has been put to use in Google’s Translate products, presumably across platforms. More.

See: TECH2

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Why save a language?

Source: The New York Times
Story flagged by: Hege Jakobsen Lepri

“TELL me, why should we care?” he asks.

It’s a question I can expect whenever I do a lecture about the looming extinction of most of the world’s 6,000 languages, a great many of which are spoken by small groups of indigenous people. For some reason the question is almost always posed by a man seated in a row somewhere near the back.

Asked to elaborate, he says that if indigenous people want to give up their ancestral language to join the modern world, why should we consider it a tragedy? Languages have always died as time has passed. What’s so special about a language?

The answer I’m supposed to give is that each language, in the way it applies words to things and in the way its grammar works, is a unique window on the world. In Russian there’s no word just for blue; you have to specify whether you mean dark or light blue. In Chinese, you don’t say next week and last week but the week below and the week above. If a language dies, a fascinating way of thinking dies along with it.

I used to say something like that, but lately I have changed my answer. More.

See: The New York Times

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Marketing by e-mail, on paper, or both

Source: Thoughts On Translation
Story flagged by: Jared Tabor

In marketing your freelance services, you may wonder (or at least I do!) whether it’s better to market to direct clients by e-mail, on paper, or both. I don’t have a succinct answer to that, but here are a few thoughts.

For a long time, I was a devotée of marketing on paper: writing out a full-page cover letter, attaching my resumé and a business card, sticking it all in an envelope and mailing it to the potential client. I also did a number of postcard marketing campaigns, and I do think there’s a place for paper marketing materials:

  1. They stand out: most people’s postal mail is 95% ads and bills. So, although your marketing packet is a type of ad, it’s also interesting, and personalized, and shows that you took more than 30 seconds to put something together for this potential candidate.
  2. They stick around: once someone deletes an e-mail, it’s gone. But I’ve gotten inquiries from clients (literally) years after I sent them a marketing pitch in the mail, because my business card was still kicking around their office.
  3. They let you say more than you would in an e-mail: no one is going to read an e-mail that’s the equivalent of a full-page cover letter. But I’ve had fairly good success with full-page cover letters sent in the mail. They let you describe your recent projects, something about the client that makes you feel there’s a good fit, etc.

The downside of paper marketing materials is that they’re time-consuming and potentially costly to create and send, and your prospect has to make a very deliberate effort (in the form of calling or e-mailing you) to respond. There’s no reply button on a paper letter, so the prospect has to be really interested in order to follow up. More.

See: Thoughts On Translation

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Best practices in localization testing

Source: Multilingual
Story flagged by: Florencia Vita

Linguistic testing focuses on discovering both grammatical and cultural issues in translation, so it should be performed by testers with good linguistic awareness, such as native speakers of the target language. The first step for this testing is to choose the right linguistic testing model. There are currently two models, the test-case-based linguistic testing model and the screenshot-based linguistic testing model. In the past, the test-case-based one was more popular, but it requires the linguistic testers to be able to find the corresponding translation strings in the product by following the test cases, which is time consuming. Setting up a product environment and going through the test cases are the skills most linguistic testers are not good at. Also, the payment rate of linguistic testers is higher, so this model is more costly as well. So inevitably, the screenshot-based model has become more popular, since the localization functional testers could help linguistic testers take screenshots with localized builds, and linguistic testers only need to check translation strings by comparing the localized screenshots with the English ones. Thus, the cost of linguistic testing decreases. However, with this model, linguistic testers only focus on the translations in screenshots, and other strings will not be covered.

In most cases, one model is used for this testing, but if your product supports more languages, like Adobe Acrobat, which supports more than 20 languages, the linguistic testing workload may be too much for one outsourcing company within the given time. So you may choose to collaborate with more than one outsourcing company….More.

See: Multilingual

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