FaceBook localization sends out strong message

Over the last decade the internet has experienced a dramatic roller-coaster of a ride. Looking back at when the .com bubble burst seems like an age ago, and ever since people, businesses, investors, all of them had their doubts about the internet. Business models and strategies were rewritten overnight, not to mention the value of the companies which were wildly over exaggerated.

Today the internet is a somewhat different story. Compare the internet now to ten years ago. The first thing that might come to mind is having to dial up using your 56k modem and wait an eternity for any kind of progress. Nowadays you are either jumping on a wireless network or perhaps in an office they may be using Ethernet connections. With both, getting online takes a second.

However this is not what the internet is about. The connections speeds were inevitably going to improve, and will continue to do so. Now internet providers in the UK are offering fibre optic internet connection which will give users lightning fast speeds. In addition to this more people are using the internet as their primary medium for entertainment and broadcasters are making more content available online, such as the BBC’s iPlayer or 4OD.

Since the bubble burst a lot has been learnt. The capability and dynamism of websites has improved dramatically and has lead to certain websites becoming synonymous with the generation of today. Sites like FaceBook, MySpace, YouTube, to name a few, are more than websites now, they are part of many people’s lives, daily routine, and consciousness which has altered the way we interact with each other.

To imply this is how everyone feels about FaceBook wouldn’t be accurate but ‘generation Z’ is growing up with the internet and their experience and expectations are very different to those of a decade ago. Kids and teenagers around the world are accessing the web and sites like FaceBook are in high demand from people around the world which includes many languages.

It was just over a year ago that FaceBook started localizing itself for the world. The company utilized outsourcing to spur its translation efforts. And though volunteers aren’t the only people translating content, a year later, FaceBook has done an impressive job of going global.

Some recently reported key stats from FaceBook’s global expansion efforts include:

  • 40 percent of FaceBook users are not using English.
  • More than 70 percent of FaceBook users are outside the United States.
  • It reaches more than 10 percent of the total national population in 26 countries.
  • FaceBook is available in 43 languages and is in the process of being translated into another 60 languages.
  • 25,000 volunteers helped translate FaceBook into Turkish last year, and there are now 9 million Turkish-language users signed up for FaceBook.

In conclusion, we have seen FaceBook recently overtake Google in the USA as the most popular website. Does this mean sites in other countries will be knocked of the pedestal? At this stage it is hard to say. In the UK the most popular website is Google, but not too far behind is FaceBook, which will continue to grow and chase. But this is not the optimum acid test for FaceBook; instead it will be to see how successful FaceBook are in non-English speaking countries by the year 2012.

Google and Microsoft enter Translation Wars

Right now there is a titanic battle occurring, but not over land, politics, religion or money. In the 21st century two of the world’s largest and most influential companies are going toe to toe. It has often been said in the past ‘to the victor goes the spoils’. The winner of this battle will win something that may seem like nothing but has become increasingly important in recent years, our time and eyes.

Google and Microsoft are arguably two of the biggest companies in the world and they make money with our time and clicking mice. The price we as users pay is to have to put up with a few adverts on your screen, which is a small inconvenience for the vast majority of people, who are for the most part quite apathetic. The most important thing users want is a good service and for it to be free.

United NationsHave you ever considered the difficulty language can play in the world of business and politics? Consider the United Nations for a moment and the cost of translators and interpreters. If the United Nations wants to send all 196 of its members a memo it would take an age to do it each countries native language. As a result the six official languages of the United Nations, used in intergovernmental meetings and documents, are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. The United Nations Editorial Manual states that the standard for English language documents is British usage and Oxford spelling, the Chinese writing standard is Simplified Chinese.

These six different languages will make the organisation of the UN hard enough, but there are still so many languages out there. Perhaps it would be best if there was a machine on the internet that could translate any document from one language to another, which brings us back to the raging virtual battlefield. Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are all competing for that coveted title, best online translation machine.

There are however a couple of factors which will prevent anyone ever achieving the perfect online translation machine. The first and most important point which will remain part of language forever and what makes it so special is that it is constantly changing and evolving, as is the way we use language. Another key factor is that the smallest mistake can make the biggest difference. Grammar is the organisation of words and if the grammar is wrong the words don’t make sense.

To get a better understanding of the different translations machines research was carried out on Bing Translator, Google Translate and Yahoo’s Babel Fish. The same phrase was typed into each machine and the results were analysed for accuracy.

Professional interpreterIn conclusion the different translation engines had different results to one another and none were completely accurate. Each translation has its peculiarities, certainly, and this comparison isn’t intended to show that one machine translation service is better. What this demonstrates is that if you need something translated and you want it to be accurate and professional, you would be much wiser using a specialist translation agency.

Foreign footballers face fresh challenges in Premier League

Foreign footballers from outside the EU will be barred from joining Premier League clubs from October unless they can speak simple English under new immigration rules.

The English test forms part of a points-based system that will cut the number of immigrants entering Britain by about 20,000 a year. But ministers have decided to exempt performers at specific festivals, including Edinburgh, Glyndebourne, Glastonbury, Wimbledon and the London Marathon.

The new rules will apply to all skilled workers — including footballers and managers — from non-EU states. The Government planned originally to insist that they understood English up to GCSE level but this was changed amid fears that it would rule out too many players, such as Manchester United’s Ji-Sung Park, from South Korea, and Carlos Tévez, from Argentina, and Arsenal’s Denilson, from Brazil, who have struggled to master the language, and man will have no choice but to use language interpreters.

Favourite training ground expressions being taught includes ‘pick your man up!’, ‘don’t let him turn you!’, and ‘take him on, beat your man!’ Eleven hours is the average time it takes to educate them from zero English to being able to function on the field.

Instead of the usual textbook approach, however, one of the top teaching tools is the Subbuteo miniature soccer game. It is used to re-enact an actual game so the relevant phrases come to life making the language as pertinent as possible to what they’re going to be doing on the field.

‘There’s no point in teaching him to say ”my uncle’s pen is in your auntie’s bureau’, or how to buy a first class train ticket,’ said Dr Kettle-Williams.

‘We need it to be real, so he can function on the field. There’s no time there for hesitation, or stopping to think ”what do they mean?”

‘We teach them these phrases and then, in the next game, they are alert and switched on, understanding instructions from the sidelines and playing better.’

The Home Office document said that workers would need to demonstrate “an ability to understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases, to introduce themselves and others and ask and answer question about basic personal details”.

Liam Byrne, the Immigration Minister, said: “I am afraid they will have to speak English. We do not want people coming to work alone. We had originally suggested requiring everybody to have English to GCSE level, but a lot of people thought that was going over the top.”

Multi-Lingual Customer Service is a Must

Source: Mark Tapling, CEO of Language Weaver.

Being able to sell to a diverse customer base is one thing, but it’s just the first step in an ongoing process of fostering successful customer interactions if winning loyalty is your goal. It might be daunting to engage call centre representatives with language translator skills, but many customers are thrilled to find support information in their native tongue online. Self-service is the ticket.

Consumers are gearing up to acquire more high-tech gadgets from big box stores and online retailers at highly competitive prices. This is a great time to consider how companies can ensure customers are satisfied and successful with their purchases and how they can plan ahead for 2010.

Picture this: Manuel waited in line for hours to get the best sales deals. He gave up dinner with his family and battled cold temperatures through the night so that he could be the first person in line at his local big box technology retailer when the doors opened at 5am It was worth the long wait, because he walked out with a new 50-inch television at a rock bottom price — complete with features in Spanish, a requirement of his family and friends.

Now — the moment of truth. It is time to set up his prized possession — his reward for his long wait in line. Manuel carefully unpacks the TV and strategically places it in the family room of his house for all to enjoy. Now all he has to do is figure out the setup and programming.

However, Manuel makes a horrifying discovery: The programming menu is stuck on the English main menu screen and won’t advance to the next menu screen or switch over to Spanish. The manufacturer did provide the quick start guide in Spanish to help with the setup, but it offers no help in troubleshooting this error. The support manual is available as a PDF on the company’s Web site, because the company had the vision to be provide a translated version, created by a professional language translator, however – Manuel doesn’t know this …..

All of a sudden, the time spent in line, the cold weather, and the frustration of missing dinner come flooding back and are aimed squarely in one place: the manufacturer of the TV.

21st Century customer service will require companies to provide customers with the same depth and quality of information for self-service, regardless of the language they speak.

Providing a self-service option on your site is great, but if you are selling globally or to diverse groups in a particular region, remember that customers prefer to interact with companies in their native language. Manuel prefers Spanish and would have been thrilled to know there was a self-service option available to him in his native language.

Oftentimes, companies will translate product information required for pre-purchase into many languages but stop short of professional language translation because of the cost. This sends a signal to customers that they are important enough to sell to but not important enough to support. Manuel was starting to wonder if the company’s Spanish-speaking customers were less valuable than its English-speaking customers.