Reflections on GALA Istanbul

Last week was the annual Globalization and Localization Association (GALA) conference  in Istanbul, Turkey, and I was able to be there in my new role with Smartling, giving two presentations.

Reaching New Markets: Simplify the Analysis and Minimize the Investment

In the first presentation about exploring new markets, my former HP colleague Francois Richard and I discussed the client-side challenge of proving ROI for a new language market before there is a committed investment and budget for the new language—a vicious circle that is difficult to break. We had fun with a blue-masked “customer,” and the many roles involved when making a decision to add a new language to a company’s portfolio: Brand, Marketing, Finance, IT, and the guy who just says “No!”. It was a very interactive session, with lots of audience participation (GALA members are never shy!). General consensus was that computer-generated translation is too risky to use for an initial launch of a new language: due to the effect on brand. But that it can be used in a way that local marketing teams will see how much their customers truly need their own language. Stealth persuasion! Bearing in mind that customers can already translate a website, using poor-quality “free” CGT, and a company can use higher-quality, purpose-trained CGT but still not achieve full brand quality, this may be the perfect way to persuade others of the need for a professional, perfect translation to penetrate a new market.

Transparency and Trust in Translation Technology

The second presentation I worked on with Nataly Kelly covered topics that have been close to my translation heart for many years. It was all about transparency and trust in the relationship between LSPs and their clients—and how this can be strengthened by the use of technology that makes transparency easy. The majority of the audience was made up of language service providers (LSPs), but the clients in the room applauded the presentation, saying this transparency is exactly what is needed! LSPs were a little more wary about transparency and trusting other LSPs, and clients, not to poach their business. It led to a more general discussion about ethics and work practices in the translation industry, and generated a new project for GALA: a global, industry-wide code of ethics for the industry!

Experiencing Istanbul Beyond GALA

This was my first visit to Istanbul, and my first-ever trip to Turkey. It won’t be my last. As a visitor to a country, and especially to a major city, I know that we don’t necessarily “see” the real city life in just a few days. We see the tourist face, the business face, not the day-to-day everyday human face, nor the way most people live.

My own way is to walk the city, use the public transport, get a little lost and just wander for a while. Oh! and take a lot of pictures. That’s what I did on Thursday. I met some very friendly and helpful people—we communicated in a mix of sign language, terrible German (my terrible German, theirs was better), and a little English. I promise to learn some Turkish before next time! I saw some wonderful, wooden, Ottoman houses in states of preservation, ranging from perfectly-restored and colourful, to totally tumbledown. I sat for a while in the women’s section of a mosque, and enjoyed the peace and silence. I wandered across the Galata bridge where fishermen’s rods are a forest and where you can buy fish straight from the Golden Horn, tiny tiddlers and all. And I drank sahlep in the spice market and sat on some steps and watched the world go by. And then took a commuter ferry across the Bosphorus to Asia and back, at sunset, just because.

In short, GALA is a wonderful organization for triggering conversation and passion. The “speed networking” event and the Knowledge Fest allow conference attendees to network and to truly contribute to discussions and education. It’s a very worthwhile event, and I’m already looking forwards to next year’s GALA conference. Seville, here we come!