Category Archives: Daily Questions


Translating the Magic Kingdom

by Peter Corless

When you have one of the most recognizable brands in the world, it may be an alluring temptation to simply presume your global fans know you already, and will understand your meaning. Not so. For a company like Disney, with so many sub-brands of movies and characters established throughout its 92-year-long history, they understand many are more, or less, recognizable in some markets than others. And they take great pains to ensure that each time they make a major step in a market, they’ve taken local language and culture into account.

For instance, with the opening of Shanghai Disneyland this month, every aspect of translation and localization required analysis and, if necessary, rethinking. A Wall Street Journal feature article covered a few of the details. First thing to keep in mind: Disney did not wait until the last minute to do localization. They have been carefully planning their entry for the past six years. They sweated the details, and they made sure to double check by testing it with fans long before the park officially opened on 16 June.

One emblematic example: the iconic Dumbo, who first flew onto American movie screens prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor in October 1941, was relatively unknown to Chinese Disney fans. For the Shanghai theme park, though he is listed on the English language version of their website as “Dumbo,” for local markets he was translated into Chinese in 2016 simply as “Little Flying Elephant.”

When it comes to culture, the world is not flat. Disney cannot take our culture and export it to China.

So said Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of Disney in 2013, as quoted by China Daily. He also said at the time, “There will be entertainment and show elements that will be very Chinese in nature, performed by Chinese, and designed, directed and created by artists from China.” Even the menu is localized, as a “giddy” Iger recently enumerated to The Hollywood Reporter, “We’ve got a Szechuan chicken burger, a Peking duck pizza shaped in a Mickey head… There’s something called siu mai dumplings that are Shanghainese — they’re tremendous!”

This isn’t Disney’s first foray into China either. Their Hong Kong theme park opened over a decade earlier in 2005, and lessons learned there will certainly apply. For instance, in Hong Kong, the “Haunted Mansion” changed its name to “Mystic Manor” and removed the ghosts, since Chinese audiences did not view them as particularly fun. Disney likewise has extensive history in localizing its brands, such as the Chinese version of High School Musical, created in 2009.

Though as that foray shows, sometimes Disney might even take things a step too far, such as wanting to replace a basketball scene with kung fu. (Note: China loves basketball, and has since it was introduced to the country in 1895.)

Thus, the 2016 opening of Shanghai Disneyland is the culmination of decades of efforts involving a very large Disney cast, including Iger, who has been involved with negotiations dating back to 1998.

What are your thoughts for your own company, and its brands? Is localization something you plan out far in advance, or is it something left until late (possibly too late) in the process? Conversely, have you ever over-thought a localization process? We’d love to hear. Write to us at



Which Spanish Should You Choose?

by Peter Corless

There are more than 470 million native Spanish-speakers around the world, and nearly another 90 million who speak it as a second language. Spanish, as a language, however, is not monolithic. There are many different regional dialects. So if you are going to localize into one or more variants of Spanish, which should you choose? Gamasutra recently republished a great discussion on the topic that was originally put out by Localize Direct. But first, let’s look at the context of the global market.

In terms of raw population, Mexico is the single-biggest population of Spanish-speakers, with over 120 million speakers. Columbia is next, with 48 million, and only then Spain itself, with around 47 million, Argentinia with 42 million, and then the United States, with 41 million. (2015 figures as per Instituto Cervantes; the 2010 Census cited 37 million speakers.)

Looking closer at population numbers, if you include bilingual individuals, the United States has more Spanish-speakers than any nation apart from Mexico. However, U.S. Spanish dialects can differ widely, from Mexican to Puerto Rican to Cuban to any of the other Central or South American variants, plus European Spanish-Americans.

As a decision-maker, then, you have to consider many factors in deciding the Spanish dialect (or dialects) you implement in your project. Is it for the U.S. market? Are you primarily catering to a regional market (Central or South America, or the EU)? Or is it for global distribution?

Bungie’s Halo 2, for instance, used a Latin American dialect that didn’t go over well in Spain. While the 2004 press release hailed it at the time as a welcome feature, the Castilian Spanish community responded with negative feedback including an online petition. The 2004 release was the only game in the series to ever lapse in that regard; and the same pain-point resurfaced with criticism at the 2014 anniversary “Master Chief Collection” release.

How different is different? Enough for it to irk the casual player. Nouns (and their related adjectives) matter quite a bit. So do you call it granada fragmentaria or granada de fragmentación? One would go over seamlessly with Mexican translator Manuel Gordillo Gonzalez. The other would set him on edge.

Verbs also diverged regionally and idiomatically, so that you’d want to use coger, “to grab,” in Spain, but the same verb would mean “to have sex with” in Argentina. Not something you want to find out the hard way by having people giggle and post memes on the Internet! Even pronouns are regional, such as the familiar in much of the Latin American world, but using vos (voseo) instead in some nations, and even usted (normally used for formal tone) in others.

Have a gander at the full article over at Gamasutra, and then let us know: how do you make decisions on localization in Spanish? What are your thoughts on how it should be best handled? If you have an upcoming project, and have some thoughts or questions as to what would work best for you, write to us at

Speaking of Spanish translation in Halo, here’s probably the most famous Spanish-speaking character known to the franchise: Lopez la Pesado from Rooster Teeth’s long-running series Red vs. Blue. Enjoy!


Google Translate Turns Ten

by Peter Corless

Google Translate recently turned ten. Their statistical model (based on what people actually speak and write) has won over a great deal of the market from traditional rules-based linguistic models (how people should actually speak and write), though perhaps new hybrid models may win the day in the long run.

The past decade has seen a revolution in the capability for machine translation (MT), with such heavy hitters in the tech world as Google and Microsoft one-upping each other in terms of providing (generally) free and open translation services to the public (while vendors like Lilt, Trados and MemoQ focus on the professional market). Whether embedding MT into social media and apps, such as Microsoft’s alliance with Twitter or its integration with Skype, to immediately translating street signs from pictures using Google’s Word Lens technology. Or enabling developers with developer APIs such as for Microsoft Translate.

Such “overnight success” for the MT industry wasn’t “overnight.” It’s been a series of step-by-step advancement over the decade. Or, actually, multiple decades, if you go back to the advent in 1997 of AltaVista’s (later Yahoo’s) BabelFish.

Google was practically a decade late to the game, but caught up quickly. Like Altavista before it, Google initially began by using SYSTRAN’s engine under the hood. But then, applying a great deal of internal R&D resources, it turned machine translation from a peripheral neato technology featurette to a central — and internally-developed — offering. Along the way they also acquired technology, like the Word Lens feature from Quest Visual, and cleverly integrated open source where appropriate, such as for their wordnets.

Google Translate is still a work-in-progress. And, yes, it still needs a lot of work. We’ve already highlighted how MT can munge timeless prose or lyrics, such as in Google Translate Sings, or how Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda did not mean to say the future will be “bouncing.” While MT has come a long way, it is still not at the same par as a naturally-fluent individual, never mind a professional translator, especially when dealing with nuance, context or even basic grammar.

If anything, though, Google Translate and its other publicly-available service peers have primed the global audience for translation services. People have come to expect web pages to be available in their own language, and do get slightly irked when the information from free and open MT tools comes off sounding odd. Marketers now have distinct choices: to leave their brands and their message to the vagaries of the online translation tools, or to take matters into their hands proactively to make sure their message comes across crystal clear.

What are your thoughts and experiences on Machine Translation vs. human translation? We’d love to know! Email us at

#FF: Transifex: Is Continuous Localization Possible for Dev Teams?

by Peter Corless

transifex-blue-logo#FF is short for “Follow Friday,” a tradition established in 2009 on Twitter to point people towards other interesting accounts your own followers might find of interest.

Today, we’d like to highlight our partners at Transifex. In their recent blog, they put forth the question, “Is Continuous Localization Possible for Dev Teams?” It’s a vital topic. Recent decades have seen the increasing shift towards Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery (CI/CD). It is an essential methodology in the modern world of Agile development and the convergence of DevOps.

To keep from throwing a spanner in the works, such development practices for globalized deployments also require concurrent and continuous translation. In the past organizations often failed to live up to such expectations, because of how traditional tools and processes were lagging the needs of the market. Now, that’s all changing thanks to a modern generation of tools and services like Transifex’ localization automation platform.

For more details and specifics, we also recommend you check out the Transifex paper on localization for agile teams.

As always, feel free to contact us at For CI/CD to truly work, you also have to support “follow-the-sun” operations. At e2f, our worldwide staff is available 24/5, to ensure your latest release is not held up due to a lack of translators, reviewers, and project managers.


PEN on #IWD2016: “Women writers in translation to read right now”

by Peter Corless


For International Women’s Day 2016, English PEN (Twitter: @englishpen) had #readwomen founder Joanna Walsh (@badaude) created a roundup of the best women authors from around the world which can be read in translation. From Latin America to Europe to Asia, she highlights a range of women and women’s perspectives, including the 2004 Nobel-prize winning Elfriede Jelinek.

The purpose of English PEN is to “to defend and promote freedom of expression, and to remove barriers to literature.” Women around the globe often face far higher barriers to their free expression than men, from the basic right to gain access to education in order to read and write, to violence up to and including assassination to keep their voices from being heard.

English PEN is a national chapter; part of the broader international movement, PEN international. The international site features more information about the history, achievements, and barriers that women writers face, and this year has a campaign for three women, two in Iran and one in Egypt, who have been imprisoned for their writing.

Which international women writers inspire you? Which ones deserve broader global audiences through translation? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Write us at

Lilt: faster translation than SDL Trados

by Peter Corless

liltIn a newly-released comparison of computer-aided translation tools, initial research found human translators improved their translation speed using Lilt on average between 13% to nearly 22% over SDL Trados while producing comparable quality output. The translation staff here at e2f played a central role in the study.

The pilot study comprised a proctored environment focused on real-world production conditions for machine translation postediting. It monitored e2f’s team of English-to-French translators at our San Jose offices. Our translation team worked on two datasets to translate: user interface (UI) help files and hotel chain content.

Results in terms of times saved for both were significantly better for Lilt over Trados, while translation quality did not suffer. The fastest translation speed measured using Lilt was a raw 1,347 words per hour, which was a stunning 33% improvement over the fastest comparable work produced using Trados.

One of the e2f translation team members shared verbatim insights in a post-study interview. “The engine improved as we translated. The suggestions got better and better as we used it.”

In terms of accuracy, the translator was satisfied. “It is very obvious when you copy an entire sentence that was translated correctly. You increase your productivity by ten, fifteen seconds or more per segment.” In the end, it was the combination of each of these line-by-line speed improvements that resulted in the large percentage gain over SDL Trados.

Read the entire study and its results, available online at Lilt.


Super Tuesday, But Not So Super Translation

by Peter Corless

HamiltonEveryone politically-active around the country is eagerly abuzz for the results of Super Tuesday. Politicians and populaces alike are passionately urging their communities to get out and vote. For instance, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the talented creator of Hamilton: The Musical posted the following Spanish-language Tweet today:

His Spanish was more than passionate, it was poetic. Rhyming. Yet no sooner had he posted his appeal but his confused English-language fans started Tweeting back, wondering what precisely the future was going to do:

— Kristen (@ThatNerdGurl_) March 1, 2016

Microsoft Bing had the misfortune to mistranslate the message: “If you can vote and you are not voting, the future will be bouncing.” (Emphasis added.)

It turns out that botando has a myriad of meanings. They all stem from the infinitive verb botar, which can alternatively mean to lose, to chuck or toss or launch, or to throw out or away. Or, as Bing seemingly prefers, “to bounce.” Which caused some hilarity.

The expression should have been better translated as “If you can vote and you are not voting, you are throwing the future away.”

This is a prime example of how automated Machine Translation (MT) in social media, web applications and so on help bring us together with more immediacy, but still may not be quite ready for certain high-quality requirements. Fortunately this was a personal appeal, not by a candidate or party. Such high-level gaffes have a tendency to stick around for decades. For such high-quality translations, you have to rely upon human translation. Yet we also have to look forward to a new generation of tools that are in development and testing that would allow each user to see the appropriate human translation in their own browser, such as Facebook’s Translated Pages feature, which we wrote about earlier this year. (So far, Twitter has not announced a similar feature.)

8179175517_07ca0f663d_oBeyond manual or machine translation of the words to ensure proper denotation, there is also the issue of the poetry of the language. Votando/botando as a pairing is aided by Spanish conjugation. A similar rhyme in English is more difficult to produce because “voting” and “thrown away” don’t particularly rhyme.

A better rendering requires a deeper sense of translation and appreciation for the poetry and meter. Here’s an attempt towards such translation:

If you can vote yet cast no vote today
You instead have surely cast the future away.

If you have any projects that need that extra special touch, let us know! Email us your requirements to, and we’ll help you get your message across to your audiences — with no bounces!

Localization: “In 2016, it is a necessity.”

by Peter Corless


In an article in Forbes Entrepreneur, Brian Pontarelli of Inversoft picked five user management trends for 2016. In the middle of that list was “localization.” He cited how “Fifty-five percent of consumers buy only at websites where information is presented in their language.”

“In the past localization has been a low-level item on the development list. It’s no longer just an added bonus. In 2016, it is a necessity.” — Brian Pontarelli, Inversoft

This isn’t just important for trying to parley success in Asia, Latin America, Africa or Europe. Metropolitan areas around the U.S. reflect a global polyglot, with many having over 100 languages spoken within their city limits. Just yesterday our e2f blog noted nearly half of New York City residents speak a language other than English at home, which is sparking the City Council to offer NYC government sites in multiple languages. Given large Spanish-language communities, it is no surprise Los Angeles and Miami actually have majority non-English speaking populations.

Across the U.S., English is spoken at home by 80% of Americans. The other 20% of households speak a variety of languages including Spanish, Chinese, French (and French Creole), Tagalog, Vietnamese, Korean and German — which are each spoken by over a million Americans.

What Brian observed for user management is also true for brand management. In an AlleyWatch article, Smartling’s Judd Marcello talked about how it is also vital for global brands to support localization across the platforms that manage your web and social presence, such as “HubSpot, Marketo, Salesforce and WordPress:”

“…any translation or localization tools that aim to take a brand global need to fit seamlessly within existing (and future) technology stacks.” — Judd Marcello

We also believe this is a vital need, which is why we’re excited by tools like Transifex Live. and Facebook’s new translated Pages feature. Tools like these will enable teams to rapidly develop and seamlessly deliver localized content to their audiences.

What is your strategy on supporting localization within the U.S. and other global markets? We’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts! Contact us at

Partner News: Transifex Appoints Seasoned Executive Team

by Peter Corless

TN-26990_240a97ce2f’s premier localization automation platform partner Transifex recently announced expansion of its management team after successfully landing $6.5 million in Series A funding in 2015. “The Company named Silicon Valley veterans Amy Hawman, Vice President of Marketing, Garrick Jang, Vice President of Sales, and Anita Kutlesa, Chief Financial Officer.” You can read their press release in full on MarketWired.

transifex-blue-logoOur best wishes to our friends and colleagues at Transifex!  You’re assembling quite a team of all-stars.

Augsburg Provides UK Soccer Fan Phrasebook

by Peter Corless

maxresdefaultIt’s rare in life when you need a “Scouse/German” translation, yet that’s precisely what Augsburg has provided the fans of Liverpool in town for the Europa League match.

So don’t worry, Liverpudlians! “You’ll never walk alone.” Not even in Augsburg.

You can read more about it in the Guardian, and also learn more about appropriate Scouse phrases which were suggested to Jürgen Klopp from this article in the Mirror.