In Linguistic QA, Context is Everything

by Alison Toon

Nobody likes something they’ve said being taken “out of context,” yet we ask our translators, and our in-country reviewers, to work with words that are out of context all the time. We ask them to translate single sentences, or worse, fragments of sentences and single words, completely outside of the context in which they are being used. We want our website to be translated, and so we send the translator a set of navigation terms one day, advertising banners the next, a paragraph of text here-and-there, and never do they see the complete picture. It’s only when the page is published that everything is put into context—fingers-crossed that it all works out!

Take the word “support.” On a commercial, medical and wellness website, for example, it might be a navigation link to the website’s technical assistance service. It might be a one-word title for an article about obtaining help for post-traumatic stress. Or it could even be an online catalog description for a type of undergarment!

Each of these usages of “support” is likely to require a different translation. If the translator does not know the context in which “support” will be used, oh how wrong the translations might be! In French alone, the words used to translate “support” include soutien, support, appui, soutènement, subvention… and many more. Without context, we are asking the translator for a best guess. Mistakes can, and will, be made, despite the very best effort of professionals.

Context is not only important for word usage; it’s also essential for correct presentation and layout. When content is translated, it expands, and takes up more space. A five-word sentence in English might be rendered as a five-word sentence in German, but each word might be double the number of characters. What does that do to the way the translation looks? Does it put the beautiful page layout into disarray? If the translator does not see the sentence in the context in which it will be presented to the reader, they just do not know.

And when it comes to in-context review… a lack of context not only makes a review more difficult, it often simply means that the review is never done. Reviewers are frequently company volunteers who have no idea how translators work, nor any tolerance for the traditional tools with which translators work. They want to see what the customer will see when the translation is published. They want to do the review, effectively, in a very short time, without the frustration of having to ask lots of questions. They want to see a web page, not a pile of unrelated sentences.

We say, let’s give our translators and reviewers the “support” they need to easily do an excellent job. Let’s provide them with the exact context in which each word and sentence is used — and allow them to provide the best-possible translation, without any question or doubt. For these reasons and more, in-context translation has always been an important part of Smartling technology. We’ve learned it’s one of the key factors that enable our users to produce high-quality translations with speed and quality — the very things that make Smartling stand out from the rest. In the simplest of terms, in-context means: what you see is what you get. And when you work with Smartling technology, it’s a pretty incredible view.

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Global is the New Black

VP of Market Development Nataly Kelly at Fashion Digital UK

VP of Market Development Nataly Kelly at Fashion Digital UK

This week, Smartling attended the UK Fashion Digital conference in London. The event attracted hundreds of attendees who focus on digital marketing in the fashion world. Smartling was fortunate enough to host a panel on going global called “The Next Trending Jetsetter: Strategies for Cross-Cultural Expansion.”

Here are three things we found fascinating while attending this event:

  1. Most fashion brands and retailers become “international” the minute they go online. Once a fashion company creates an online presence, it’s nearly impossible not to accommodate requests from customers who raise their hands and want products shipped to them all over the world. Digital content, which can be accessed from anywhere, is global by its very nature.
  2. Cross-cultural + cross-cultural = complex. Most of the challenges that companies face relate to the fact that marketing across diverse channels has made their job more complicated than before. Add other geographies and languages into the mix, and things get even tougher. Many of their challenges do not even relate to language. For example, one speaker shared challenges of wanting to display swimwear for Australia during summer, which is winter in the Northern Hemisphere.
  3. It isn’t about whether or not to go global, but how far and fast to go. We heard the phrases “international” nearly as often as we heard the word “digital” at this event. Perhaps it was the fact that London is such a cosmopolitan place to begin with, but we found that the attendees of this conference were not questioning whether it’s wise to go global or not, but simply figuring out best practices and timing for going to market.

Luckily, as we’ve seen from the fashion brands and retailers that work with Smartling, these problems have all been solved before — not just by companies in the fashion world, but by companies in other sectors too. You can check out our guide, 6 Best Practices for E-Commerce Websites to learn more!

So what’s our biggest takeaway from Fashion Digital this week? Fashionistas are fast-becoming globalistas.

Tell us what you learned at Fashion Digital! Tweet us @Smartling @FashDig using #FDUK.

Smartling in Harvard Business Review: Do You Really Need Spanish?

Image courtesy of Harvard Business Review

Can you get by with just English, or do you really need Spanish? As the sheer size and purchasing power of the Hispanic population in the US grows, speaking the language of your customer becomes increasingly vital.

In her post on Harvard Business Review, our VP of Market Development, Nataly Kelly shares tips for marketing effectively to the US Hispanic market online.

Read, “Will Spanish Help You Reach the U.S. Hispanic Market? It Depends” here.