25 January 2016

Big content: Emerging challenges and solutions

According to Copyblogger 'content marketing'
means creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.
I went looking for a broader definition, but this will do for the moment.

'Big content' is, obviously enough, content on a large scale.

Like many of the blogs, websites, ebooks and more previously mentioned in these pages, publications like 101 Things a Translator Needs to Know and A French-English Glossary of Naval Technology target smaller language service teams catering for "high-end" clients with small- to medium-scale needs. The solutions are good, but they lack the scalability to meet the needs of big content clients.
Sure, the big translation companies have long claimed to meet these needs, but high-end teams have consistently found that this cannot be achieved without compromising on quality.
Recently, I have observed a groundswell of initiatives to improve the quality of the language services offered to big content clients.
As far as I can determine, the movement is being led by language service providers targeting corporations with big content needs including new approaches source texts in English and translation, transcreation and localisation into several or even many languages at once.
The signs include: (i) Watch Your Tone!, Why Your Company's Tone of Voice Matters and How to Get it Right, (ii) Speak with One Voice, How to Gain Competitive Advantage in the Content Era (register here to download for free), (iii) the Acrolinx Content Optimization Platform and (iv) the Microsoft Manual of Style for technical communicators. (Hardly what you'd call a broad survey, but at least these are concrete examples.)

Although this is not my field — I like to consider myself a small-time supplier catering for a niche market defined by one language pair, one direction and a small cluster of technologies and clients that I believe I understand pretty well — I nevertheless want to record the following observations and comments:
  • First, referring to items i and ii, it's always good to see good writing about good writing.
  • Second, while high-end suppliers have long tried to work closely with their clients to improve the quality of both source- and target-language documents, I have not previously observed a success comparable to that revealed by the way the new Microsoft style guide has adopted the concept of 'voice'.
  • If Microsoft can get in-house and contract communication teams to apply the English-language version of its new style guide, we can look forward to a radical improvement in the quality of Microsoft translations.
  • Scalability remains the big challenge. All of the high-end language service teams I've worked with have consistently found it exceedingly difficult to recruit staff with the mother-tongue writing skills combined with subject knowledge and translation skills to meet big content challenges. It will be interesting to see if the new wave of trend leaders can do better.
  • The challenge of selling the concept of voice as applied to target-language documents is many times larger than that of selling the concept for source-language content creation in English. The fact that Acrolinx has so far failed to reply to the question raised in Acrolinx #3 below suggests that they too may have underestimated the challenge.

MS style manual adopts 'voice'

'Voice' (aka 'tone') now appears to be part of the mainstream terminology in technical communication following its adoption by the Microsoft Manual of Style for technical communicators.

Key quote:
Microsoft style and voice: This chapter highlights the shift toward a lighter,
friendlier tone in Microsoft content, with succinct guidelines for writing in the
Microsoft voice.
It will be interesting to see how Microsoft's language service providers handle this if and when the manual is translated into other languages.

Elsewhere


French government takes bold step in internationalisation

The French government has published a pdf document listing the official designations of French government ministers and ministries in FR, EN, ES, IT and PT. Download it here.

The list is preceded by the following brief explanation:
Le Groupe de travail interministériel sur la traduction (GIT) a confié à son atelier de terminologieadministrative le soin de produire les équivalents en cinq langues étrangères des fonctions et desentités du Gouvernement français, et d’actualiser cette double liste fonctions / entités au fil deschangements de gouvernement et des remaniements.Pour élaborer cette liste, l’Atelier a notamment sollicité les avis de ses contacts dans lesambassades et dans les administrations étrangères, et a procédé à la plus large consultation de lapresse étrangère.
The initiative is to be commended.

I have long recommended that clients provide this type of information in target languages identified by their marketing teams for the benefit of anyone and everyone writing about their company, products, activities, etc. How else can a corporation ensure consistent naming, designations and terminology in key languages?

21 January 2016

Acrolinx #3

On 14 January, I sent the following email to Acrolinx:
Here is a question for Andrew Bredenkamp​ or one of his team, possibly a "tone of voice" specialist at Acrolinx Europe in Germany.

In my recent blog post on Acrolinx #1, I asked the question:

DE-to-EN colleagues inform me that even bilingual DE-EN (but DE mother tongue) executives consider the use of 'you' in EN versions of their annual reports and the like strictly taboo because the equivalent is strictly taboo in German. These colleagues also assure me that this is true even for companies that have adopted the 'one face to the customer' concept and published corporate design manuals and style guides in DE and EN. How does Acrolinx software deal with this?

​And here is a subsidiary question:
Assuming that the Acrolinx Germany team agrees that critical C-suite documents in English for German customers need to consider the use of 'you' when addressing readers, how do they convince German-mother-tongue customers that this is the way to go?

I look forward keenly to your reply.
I have yet to receive a reply. Perhaps someone from Acrolinx will post a comment here ...

Acrolinx #2

First, a snippet of information from :
   In June 2015, we estimated size of global language services market in 2016 at US $40.8 billion.

Some comments on Watch Your Tone!, Why Your Company's Tone of Voice Matters, and How to Get it Right

This ebook by Ann Handley* is distributed via the Acrolinx site. Register for free download here.

Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketProfs and author of EVERYBODY WRITES, Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content.


(SD thinks to self: Why did author Ann Hadley add a comma after 'Matters'?)

Quote: I believe that good writing is something anyone can produce.
Comment (SD): Either this is very wishful thinking or we live in different worlds.
Good writing is rare precisely because most people can't do it. 
See, for instance, Skapinker on Pinker on style
Yes training can help, but only when the trainee has a modicum of raw language talent.

QuoteIn B2B, tone of voice is a story that’s just beginning. Most companies haven’t woken up to the idea at all. A few have taken great strides. But almost none have successfully transformed the way they use language — and that opens up a huge opportunity.
Comment (SD): Sounds promising.

QuoteYour customers see all your communications as parts of a whole, so you should too.
Comment (SD): Serious over-simplification. Different types of readers seek different types of documentation and have different expectations. Anyway, who can afford to have their best writers working for months on end on 'for information' documents for engineers and technicians.

QuoteGood jargon signals that you’re part of a community, and saves time too.
Comment (SD): Agree entirely. I have blogged on precisely this several times. Most online advice on writing concerns general journalism for lay readers resulting in ill-thought-out guidelines making it more difficult to develop and apply a consistent tone or voice.

QuoteThe prescriptive view is that we should respect and obey the rules of grammar whether we agree with them or not. The descriptive view is that the right way to use language is the way people actually use it in speech and writing, not as reflected in rules created by academics.
Comment (SD):  Agree entirely. See The one grammar rule that really counts.

QuoteFor example, English and other Northern European languages put a strong emphasis on logical structure. In French or Spanish, however, this style can sound dull, because digressions are seen as a sign of intellect rather than disorganization. In Asian languages, because of concerns about losing face, people talk around the subject to present all sides of the issue without explicitly stating their conclusion*. * The Little Book of Transcreation, p. 14. Free download from transcreation agency Mother Tongue.
Comment (SD):  Now you're dealing with issues that rightly suggest that translation and transcreation often call for a different voice in a target language from that adopted in the source language, which, in turn, calls for additional skills and significantly bigger budgets.

QuoteSince tone of voice is flexible, some documents may need more localization than others. High-profile marketing and advertising, which is much more likely to use tactics such as puns or cultural allusions, almost certainly needs localization. But even purely informational content, such as technical documentation, may suffer if translated literally, because motivations and attitudes differ so much across cultures. For example, while US training tends to be interactive and hands-on, French people tend to prefer more information, less participation**.
** The Little Book of Transcreation, p. 31
Comment (SD):  Same as above.

14 January 2016

Plain language revolution in Portuguese

Here's a link that should be of interest to anyone writing for the general public in European Portuguese or buying translation services into PT-Eu, again for the general public.

Portugal now has a company specialising in plain Portuguese or Português Claro. For more information (in European Portuguese) go to Português Claro.

Sandra Fisher-Martins' excellent TED Talk The right to understand was filmed at TEDxO'Porto in March 2011.
Her TED Talk bio reads:
Sandra Fisher Martins helps Portuguese businesses and government agencies introduce clarity to their communications. After seeing a Plain English campaign in England, she was inspired to establish Português Claro — a consulting and training firm that works to ensure that people are not disenfranchised by what she calls an "information apartheid" that keeps the majority of her fellow Portuguese from fully understanding documents they need for their daily lives. She is working to develop Euro-clear, a European diploma in clear communication.

13 January 2016

Translation Journal "interview"

Translation Journal has just published a piece on your truly as part of its Get to know our community series.

Here is the link: Get to know: Steve Dyson

Many thanks to the TJ team.

Acrolinx #1

Acrolinx makes some striking claims.
Today, the home page carries the headline:

OUR SOFTWARE HELPS
THE WORLD'S GREATEST BRANDS
CREATE AMAZING CONTENT.
…in fact 7 of the 10 most valuable brands in the world trust Acrolinx
(we’re working on the other 3)
followed by a very impressive collection of client logos.

(Thinks to self: Why did they write '7 out of 10' and 'other 3' instead of 'seven out of ten' and 'other three'? Perhaps it's standard in the US ...)

That's quite a claim!

The next block reads:
Introducing the Acrolinx Content Optimization Platform
The Acrolinx platform helps the world’s greatest brands create amazing content at scale. Content that’s on-brand, on-target, and drives results. Built on an advanced linguistic analytics engine, we have the only software platform that can actually “read” your content and guide writers to make it better.
This is powerful stuff!
Overall the copy is well written; very well written indeed. Interesting, however, that the team did not pushed their own concepts of 'voice' (or 'tone') and localisation to ensure that readers based outside the United States see a version with their preferred spellings, capitalisation rules and other locale-specific tweaks. Even the top all-caps headline yells, IMHO, in a voice born in the USA. Surely these details come under the broad concept of 'voice'.

Acrolinx offers several free ebooks, two of which will be of special interest to writers and translators:
SPEAK WITH ONE VOICE, How to Gain Competitive Advantage in the Content Era (register for free download here)
Watch Your Tone!, Why Your Company's Tone of Voice Matters, and How to Get it Right (register for free download here) by Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketProfs and author of EVERYBODY WRITES, Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content.
(Thinks to self: Why did Ann Hadley add a comma after the word 'Matters'?)


The concept of 'voice' in the context of 'content optimisation' raises a number of questions in the mind of this humble translator, including:
  • Several romance languages are undergoing or have recently undergone huge changes with regard to pronoun usage. Schematically, the older forms can sound hopelessly old-fashioned to the young while the newer forms can be a huge turn-off for older readers. How does Acrolinx software deal with these issues in these languages?
  • DE-to-EN colleagues inform me that even bilingual DE-EN (but DE mother tongue) executives consider the use of 'you' in EN versions of their annual reports and the like strictly taboo because the equivalent is strictly taboo in German. These colleagues also assure me that this is true even for companies that have adopted the 'one face to the customer' concept and published corporate design manuals and style guides in DE and EN. How does Acrolinx software deal with this?
  • Even assuming that Acrolinx software does everything the company claims, well written copy like that on the Acrolinx site is expensive to produce, especially on the scale required by large corporations. The localisation of this type of documentation into target languages written to the same high standards regarding style, voice, clarity, etc. is also very challenging, especially at scale. This challenge is compounded by unrealistic client expectations as to cost and turnaround, which, in turn, are often based on the unrealistic claims of the leading high-volume suppliers. So far, the Acrolinx site has failed to convince me that this has been thought through with sufficient rigour.
I will continue to study the Acrolinx site and documentation and post my thoughts as I proceed.

25 January

For further information on the differences between the voices/tones adopted in the annual reports of French and American corporations see Unexpected Differences between French and American Corporate Communications by Amanda Williams for the The Open Mic blog. Amanda also discusses how difficult it can be to sell 'change of voice' arguments to FR-to-EN language service clients in France.

06 January 2016

Recap, January 2016

Approach:                 Translation by emulation, take #1 + Translation by emulation, take #2
• Work samples:           Show 'em what you can do #2
                                      to
                                      Show'em what you can do #11.1
• Top recent post:         "Voice" in technical translation
• Most popular post:     OSASCOMP: Applied analysis
Glossary:                   A French-English Glossary of Naval Technology
• Contributor to:            101 Things a Translator Needs to Know by WLF Think Tank
• Member                      WLF Think Tank
• Member                      Mediterranean Editors and Translators (MET)
• Twitter handle:           @DysonSdc
• Hashtags:                   #NavTechGloss, #transtechjournalism
• Swimming:                 Swimranking

05 January 2016

"Voice" in technical communication and translation

"Voice" is a frequent topic of discussions among literary translators, also at their conferences and seminars. Today, Marcia Riefer Johnston brought to my attention the fact that "voice" is now discussed increasingly among business writers, content strategists, marketers and the like.

I think it is time that into-English technical writers and translators began thinking about "voice". So here are some comments and links to get you started.

Marcia Riefer Johnston — author of Word Up!, You Can Say That Again and the Writing.Rocks blog — has posted an excellent article on Help your organization find its voice. Read the article here or watch the video.


In her introduction, Marcia writes:
I didn’t appreciate the importance of voice in business writing until I discovered content strategy, a discipline that has emerged and evolved in recent decades to help organizations sort out their big, hairy content messes and manage their content as a business asset.
When I was invited last month to contribute a video to the GatherContent Content Strategy Advent Calendar video series, the topic of voice, well, called to me. Since many of you write for companies, I’m sharing the video, with permission, here. The transcript includes some links that I didn’t spell out in the video.
The section on What is voice? reads:
What is this thing called voice, anyway? What does it mean to say “your voice” or “your organization’s voice”? It’s a simple concept: it’s the way people talk. That includes the words that you choose when you’re writing or speaking. It includes the syntax—the order of the words. It includes the length of your sentences, it includes the sentence structures, it includes your punctuation, even. It includes the metaphors that you choose.
[Not included in the video: You might have heard voice referred to as tone of voice, voice and tone, or just tone. These terms are often used interchangeably. Some close observers of language usage consider tone a subset of voice. If you’re curious about this distinction, you won’t be able to stop yourself from jumping over to my full definition of voice—specifically, definitions 2 and 3.]
Marcia also points us to Speak with One Voice, a free ebook on this topic put out by Acrolinx.

******
In various posts on this blog — Quality angel, Customer-centred is the way to go, and (Commercial & technical) Translations that sing, to name but three — I have fumbled my way towards some related ideas, but Marcia and others she links to have expressed them more clearly and powerfully.

InMyOwnTerms goes Delicious

Terminologist and terminology lover Patricia Brenes, author of the InMyOwnTerms blog, has updated her links. Here's the introduction to her post on InMyOwnTerms goes Delicious. 180 links to add to your Favorites!
I finally did it! I organized all of my links for resources in English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish, as well as dictionaries, glossaries, corpora, blogs, and much more.
Check out my Delicious-based IMOT link.

04 January 2016

Dirty Sex Dictionary

While beyond my blog's usual scope, this item may prove useful to translators and interpreters working from or into English in any field where these terms are likely to be encountered, including crime novels, erotica and pornography and film subtitling and dubbing.

The Dirty Sex Dictionary was posted on the Creative Lofing Tampa blog by its Sex and Love Editor on 16 September 2012.


The disclaimer reads: This collection of words is far more offensive than informative. The slurs revolve around a handful of categories: promiscuous women, homosexuals, and anyone who acts like a dick, a pussy, or an asshole. Like wise, most of the absurd sex acts are illegal, impossible, or involve an unhealthy amount of urine, feces, or vomit. The cataloging of these words and phrases is in no way an endorsement of them. Also, the list will continue to evolve, so please add your suggestions for additional words, alternate meanings, or corrections in the comments below.

Glossary of Sexual and Scatological Euphemisms
from FAST Area Studies Website, Department of Translation Studies, University of Tampere, Finland

DirtySlang offers a funny and useful sex dictionary, as well as the largest collection of sexual synonyms on the Internet. Find hundreds of slang terms for dirty words such as penis, vagina, oral sex, masturbation, boobs, erection, and more.


Lucy Kellaway's 2015 Golden Flannel Awards

Once again, Lucy Kellaway has begun the new year with an article on her Golden Flannel Awards. This year, the title is Time to get stoked by the year’s worst corporate guff. The kicker reads; Many entries in the 2015 Golden Flannel Awards made the flesh creep as well as offending eye and ear.

And, if you haven't previously consulted Lucy's Guffipedia, now is a good time to start. If avoiding corporate guff is relevant to your writing and translation services, add the Guffipedia site to the list of resources you consult when rereading.


Guffipedia: Lucy Kellaway’s dictionary of business jargon and corporate nonsense.

Transcreating technical journalism, conference presentation

On Saturday 17 June, I at spoke at the TransLisboa 2017 conference organised by Aptrad . My presentation was entitled  Transcreating techn...