Globalizing Your Business? Here’s Why You Should Translate Your Content Into French

More businesses than ever before are looking to move away from a strictly English-speaking audience. When companies attempt to move into markets in other countries and continents, it’s essential that they translate their documents into the target languages. Today, we're taking a closer look at why companies should translate their web content into French.

More than just the language of one specific target market a business wants to reach, French is a what we consider a base language — and a French translation is crucial to your success if you want to reach the widest audience possible.

Even though it is a popular language around the globe, many people don’t quite understand how vital French is to their consumer audience.  Let's take a closer look.

French Speakers are Proud Consumers

If you visit a website that isn’t in your mother tongue, your ability to purchase obviously depends on whether of not the site content is translated into another language that you do speak. Otherwise, there's simply no way for you to understand and conduct the transaction. But basic comprehension isn't the only factor that influences your purchasing decision. Even if you can understand the site, you may prefer to give your business to a company that had the courtesy to offer the site in your native language.

This is generally true of French speakers, who are proud of their language. Many French consumers do speak English, but they are much more likely to support a site that does offer services and products in their native language.

French is Spoken Globally

Many people associate French with the country itself and perhaps French-Canada. But in reality, French is a hugely popular language all around the world. In fact, French is the sixth most widely spoken language on the planet. Here are some facts from the French government site Diplomatie:

  • There are 220 million French speakers worldwide.
  • 39.87% of the French-speaking population is in Europe, 36.03% reside in Sub-Sarahan Africa and the Indian Ocean, 15.28% are found in the Middle East and North Africa, 7.66% are found in America and the Caribbean and 1.16% are found in Asia and Oceania.
  • French is the second most widely learned foreign language in the world.

High Income Markets Speak French

Many different countries in Europe are considered high-income markets. With French as the second most commonly spoken language in Europe, it stands to reason that these high-income market countries contain a lot of French-speaking citizens. Countries with large French-speaking populations like Belgium and Switzerland contribute massively to the growing economy of Europe, and 45% and 20% of their populations speak French, respectively. When you translate your content into French, you cater to European markets with a lot of purchasing power. The country of France and other French-speaking countries around the world account for about 20% of world goods trading — a surprisingly high number.

French is a Language of International Institutions

Not every world language is a working language of the United Nations — but French is. It’s also one of three procedural languages of the European Union, and European broadcasting systems will often translate important broadcasts into French. French is also the sole official language of the Universal Postal Union.

French is also the working language for other important institutions, like UNESCO, NATO, FAO, UNICEF, FIFA and ECOWAS to name a few.

The Time is Now

It should be apparent by now that courting a French-speaking demographic is important for business globalization and creating profitable global sales leads. However, many site owners don’t have the power to translate their sites on their own — a complex task with a number of pitfalls that calls for an experienced, professional translation agency.

If you’re interested in translating your site into French, visit BeTranslated for a quote. We can help, and we’d love to introduce your website to a French-speaking audience.

Social media just got more social. Just in time for the U.S. 2016 presidential election.

Whether you are a Trump supporter or not -- and whether you care about the U.S. 2016 presidential elections or not –- the sign is funny, no?

“Donald Trump can’t read this, but he is scared of it.”

Not being fluent in Arabic, I would not have known what it meant. Except for the endless social media posts about it, and The Guardian’s coverage.

How many other election jokes and serious debates are we missing due to language barriers? A lot. Especially on social media, where thousands of tweets and Facebook posts in foreign languages fly right on by.

A new translation tool called Bridge is going to let us read those indecipherable posts, however. Bridge is making social media even more social.

Twitter translation

Bridge translates twitter and other social media platforms into multiple languages. This way, us digital humans can communicate – even more. Bridge uses only real humans for the translation of social media.

Bridge goes one step further.

According to mediaonline, Bridge “applies journalistic principles to curate and translate social media conversations among global and minority communities as a way to broaden the discourse.”

Roughly translated: Bridge hires journalists or people with “journalistic sensibilities who either come from the relevant community or understand the minority group well” to do and review the translations for accuracy.

Bridge has a special project for the U.S. 2016 presidential elections, as you can imagine.

U.S. 2016 presidential elections and translation law

The U.S. has a “Minority Language Provision” law which requires all federal documents to be translated into “minority languages” of the local population. The system is not without its kinks.

Recall the translation blunder for the U.S. 2012 presidential elections, when Chinese-speaking voters were directed to enter their “last 4 nuclear submarines” instead of the last 4 digits of their social security numbers. Good one, Illinois.

Another blunder occurred in Maryland. The summary of the ballot question concerning the same-sex civil marriage referendum completely misled Spanish-speaking voters.

The Minority Language Provision law requires ballots, voter registration, polling information and other logistical information for voting. Of course it does not require that the plethora of information, debate, accusations and promises made on social media be translated.

As digital beings, we know social media affects our thinking and possibly our voting choices.

For the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, some politicians are translating their own social media. Candidate Hillary Clinton has her official twitter feed translated into Spanish on a separate account.

Whether voting, supporting, arguing or trying to ignore the U.S. presidential elections, thanks to Bridge, you can now better navigate the social media around it and other topics.

AT&T used to tell us to reach and touch someone. Bridge is letting us reach out and understand someone. Or insult them. Or support them. Social media has never been more social.

The Paralympics Win the Gold Medal for Promoting the Translation of People-First Language

Katie Ledecky (left) and Jessica Long (right). Credits: Fernando Frazao & Clive Rose

Katie Ledecky (left) and Jessica Long (right). Credits: Fernando Frazao (l) & Clive Rose (r).

Olympics and Paralympics

We have all heard of Katie Ledecky, but what about Jessica Long?

Long is also an adorable athlete with an infectious smile. At 12 years of age she was the youngest competitor on the US 2004 team. She has held several world records in swimming.

The difference between Long and Ledecky is that Long is crippled, disabled, living with a handicap. However you say it, Long is missing both of her lower legs. She is a paralympian, competing in the Paralympics held several weeks after the Olympics.

Most Americans would say Long is “a person living with a disability.” This is known as people-first speech, invented by advocacy groups in the USA in the late 1980s. People-first speech rejects references such as “disabled person,” “deaf person”, etc. The idea is to focus on the person as a human being before any qualifiers or adjectives.

People-first language

I was a teenager in the USA at the time that people-first speech proliferated. I later worked under the guidelines of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) in museums and schools. So I shudder each time I hear someone in German refer to Jessica Long as “eine Behinderte” – literally, “a disabled”.

Germans often convert adjectives into nouns, a convenient shorthand for an otherwise verbose language. This mechanism is in stark contrast to people-first speech. It not only puts the qualifier before the noun, it uses the qualifier as the noun. The same is true in German for entire groups of people, so “die Behinderten” means “the disabled”.

Of course, saying “die Behinderten” is snappier than translating the people-first phrase “people living with disabilities” into German. “Menschen mit körperlicher Einschränkung.” Even snappier, Germans use diminutives such as “die Behindis” or, for people using “Rollstuhle” (wheelchairs), “die Rollis”.


Is it just my American political-correctedness and brainwashing by the ADA, or is there something more to using people-first speech? And how much attention should translators give to it?

Language shapes our ideologies

According to the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, language significantly shapes our ideologies. Therefore, use of the German plural noun “die Behinderten”, or worse the diminutive, “die Behindis”, may belittle the people to whom it refers. This use of a qualifier as a noun may cause German speakers to incorporate people living with disabilities differently into their world view than if they were using people-first speech.

When translating people-first language, it is of utmost importance that a translator be familiar with this concept. A translator should consult the guidelines of disability acts, advocacy groups, or an institution's policies.

For the Paralympics athlete Jessica Long, translators should refer to her as “a person living with a disability.” This is according to the publishing guidelines of The International Paralympic Committee (IPC). The IPC online glossary commands use of people-first speech in English, French, and Spanish – no matter how long-winded for the latter two.

“This was indeed a conscious decision, as we wanted to focus on the person instead of the disability or impairment,” I was told by Eva Werthmann, the Media Operations Senior Manager at IPC. I was impressed. But with only three languages in the IPC glossary, what about German speakers and German media?

Will Germany embrace people-first language?

Times may be changing in Germany. At the 2016 Paralympics exhibit at the Ottobock Science Center in Berlin, the qualifier-as-a-noun shortcut was excluded from all text. Instead, the German text took up far more white space than the English text. This is because it used the lengthy words necessary to conform to people-first speech. Good for Ottobock!

Not only had the exhibit designers clearly not used machine translation (which in my experience never gives a people-first option), they had worked with translators aware of people-first speech and its promotion by the IPC. Whether or not those translators or exhibit designers buy into the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, we do not know.

While some advocacy groups still debate using people-first language, it is clear that the IPC has chosen to promote it. So watch for Paralympics headlines like, “Jessica Long, swimmer living with a disability, steals hearts and beats records at Rio 2016 Summer Paralympics”.

Translation Error Raises Stakes in Real Estate Legal Battle Between Katy Perry and California Nuns

katy perryA translation error plays a key role in an ongoing legal battle between pop singer Katy Perry and a group of nuns, the Los Angeles order of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At issue is the $15 million sale of the order’s villa-style convent in California.

It’s not every day that a mistranslation of a Latin document has such high stakes real estate and legal repercussions — but in this case, a protracted legal battle hinges on the translation of a Vatican decree that was used to convince a judge to clear the sale of the luxury property.

The property in question is a stunning convent villa near Los Feliz, a prime piece of real estate — but the question who controls the property is still up in the air. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles was planning to sell the complex to Perry for $15 million, but newly filed court papers on behalf of two nuns state that the Vatican was still examining the sister’s claim to the villa.

"Katy Perry and others will learn: you don’t mess with these nuns," said Margaret Cone, an attorney for the nuns.

A hearing has been scheduled for June 20.


Translation News Roundup, May 6

Aaaaaand — we're back, with the most interesting news stories from the world of translation. Here's what's been going on:

Google Translate turns 10 years old

Does this make you feel old? The search giant's translation platform has been around for ten years, boasting 500 million users and translating 100 billion words a day. During the last decade, the service has grown from support for two language to 103, and it can now translate text in photographs, facilitate live conversations, and supports offline translation.

The service has the most heavy users in Brazil, and the most common translations are between English and Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese and Indonesian.



Translation from the High Valyrian for Game of Thrones fans

Melisandre Game of Thrones

One language Google Translate doesn't yet support is High Valyrian from HBO's hit TV series Game of Thrones, based on George R. R. Martin's series of novels, A Song of Ice and Fire. Luckily for fans of the show, the Internet has taken it upon itself to provide its own English translation of important passages from the show, such as as the Red Priestress Melisandre's prayer on the most recent episode, in which — well, if you haven't seen it yet, we won't spoil it...

After one intrepid Reddit user had attempted his own translation, the creator of the language, David J. Peterson, offered his official version. If you're studying Valyerian, here is the translation of Melisandre's prayer:

Zȳhys ōñoso jehikagon Āeksiot epi, se gīs hen sȳndrorro jemagon.
“We ask the Lord to shine his light, and lead a soul out of darkness.”

Zȳhys perzys stepagon Āeksio Ōño jorepi, se morghūltas lȳs qēlītsos sikagon.
“We beg the Lord to share his fire, and light a candle that has gone out.”

Hen sȳndrorro, ōños. Hen ñuqīr, perzys. Hen morghot, glaeson.
“From darkness, light. From ashes, fire. From death, life.”

Translations from Spanish and Portuguese Win Best Translated Book Awards

herreraYuri Herrera's novel Signs Preceding the End of the World, about a young woman crossing the Mexican border into the US, and Angélica Freitas’s collection of poems Rilke Shake have won the ninth annual Best Translated Book Awards last Wednesday in New York.

The four winning authors and translators will receive $5,000 cash prizes thanks to funding from the Amazon Literary Partnership program. Lisa Dillman translated Herrera's book from Spanish into English and Hilary Kaplan translated Freitas's from Portuguese into English.

See the University of Rochester's Three Percent blog and The Guardian for more.


How Translation Project Management is like Air Traffic Control

10720103175_bfeced04bd_zI was on a flight from New York to Dakar, Senegal, working on translating a pitch for a German TV series, when it hit me that translation project management and air travel share a lot of striking similarities.

Both air travel and translation are functions of globalization: the first in a physical sense, literally bringing people together and making distances between countries and continents shrink, the second through bridging linguistic divides, connecting individuals and businesses by translating and localizing their content and communications.

The more I thought about it (I had plenty of time: the flight from JFK to Dakar's Léopold Sédar Senghor airport takes 8 hours), the clearer the parallels became. Let's look at it step by step:

Ready for Take-Off: Translation Project Preparation vs. Pre-Flight Routines

Translation projects and commercial airline flights can't be launched on a whim. Both need meticulous, careful preparation to make sure they come off without a hitch.

The first thing any flight requires is a flight plan. The two crucial considerations are fuel calculations to ensure the plane can reach its destination in the most cost-effective way and the best choice of a route by selecting airways and waypoints that comply with air traffic safety regulations and ensure a successful and efficient flight.

Similarly, once a translation project has been commissioned, the project manager has to create a project plan that guarantees the successful completion according to the client's specifications. The right translators for the required language pair(s) have to be found. Deadlines and project milestones need to be identified. Estimates have to be calculated in much the same way a flight planner calculates the minimum necessary fuel load to guarantee a safe flight.

Now the client can send the files (and the ground crew can board the aircraft) -- but even with the passengers in place, the plane/project isn't quite ready to get off the ground yet.

Before take-off, the captain goes down his pre-flight checklist and mechanics will conduct one or more "walk-arounds" -- the so-called physical external check, looking for impact damage, fuel, oil or hydraulic leaks, or blocked ports.

Before a translation project can get off the ground, the project manager also conducts a number of mission-critical checks. Depending on the file format the source texts arrive in, text has to be prepared, segmented, and aligned. Terms have to be extracted and researched, glossaries and term databases created. Translators may need special instructions about file formats, naming conventions, or special project terminology.

In both cases, launching the flight/project without taking all necessary precautions can be fatal.

Cruising Altitude: Executing the Translation Project and In-Flight Monitoring

Once our translation project/transatlantic flight has  taken off, it enters a new phase. The role of the translation project manager, which is to say, the air traffic controller in charge of the flight, changes. With all the appropriate planning and preparation completed, they are now more concerned with monitoring and controlling during the flight/translation itself.

In a modern aircraft, flight management systems handle a wide variety of in-flight tasks -- to the point where they don't even any longer carry flight engineers or navigators

It's tempting to compare the so-called "auto pilot" to modern CAT (computer aided translation) tools. And while translation memories and machine translation can make any translation project easier, they can never replace human translators -- much like you wouldn't send a commercial civilian airliner on its way without a pilot and a computerized flight management system alone.

During the duration of the flight, en-route air traffic controllers monitor the flight and stay in radio and radar contact with the aircraft. They can direct the route, instruct it to climb or descend, provide information about weather conditions and handle unexpected events, such as emergencies or unscheduled traffic.

During this stage in the project, translation project managers often feel like they are sitting in an air traffic control tower as well. Like John Cusack in the 1999 comedy Pushing Tin, they have to multitask to the extreme, dealing with changes in project scope, translators no-shows or delays, additional files, delayed deliverables and time-zone management without succumbing to the stress inherent in juggling incoming and outgoing files in countless languages and formats at all times of day and night.

Whether it's turbulence or corrupted files without proper backups, this stage of the project/flight is about dealing with unexpected complications while keeping the clients/passengers as happy as possible and bringing the flight/translation in for a smooth, on-time landing. Often, this involves having the cabin crew go around one more time with appeasing smiles and free alcoholic beverages while the flight goes for another "go around" in a holding pattern and the final document is sent for one more round of proof reading.

A Safe Landing

18227917006_a55104f2f3_zAs my flight landed on schedule in Dakar, I was grateful once again for the smooth cooperation between flight attendants, in-flight and ground crews to assure a safe and pleasant trip. These days, we take air travel almost for granted, forgetting how much work, attention, and care goes into even the most routine flight.

In the same way, the smooth, on-time delivery of a translation project owes much to meticulous planning, translating, and proofreading that often goes unnoticed by the client. As the plane descends on its final approach and local air traffic controllers take over, translation project managers run final consistency checks, missing word detection, grammar checks and test advanced file formats for compliance.

When everything goes well and the project arrives safely and on time, we barely notice any turbulence and perhaps even took a little nap that keeps the worst effects of jet lag at bay. On our way to claim our luggage, we thank the crew who waves and says, "we hope you choose to fly with us again in the future."

Like any airline, a good translation agency aims to build a long-term relationship with its valued customers, project by well-executed project. The only thing missing are platinum "frequent translator" accounts that grant clients access to a VIP lounge while we prepare their next project for take-off.