Category Archives: Localization Tips


No, not “Whatever” — It Pays to Proof

by Peter Corless

Last week we posted about a poor Welsh translation made by the chain B&Q reported on the BBC. Some might argue the incident doesn’t matter to them because Welsh isn’t a really a broadly-used language internationally. Focusing on the language is ignoring the point. Our point is that a local business used Machine Translation (MT), with all the best of intentions to reach a local audience, yet without doing even basic proofing or editing. It is unsurprising it blew up in their faces. Which harms the brand in all languages, including English.

Today, it’s the Daily Mail’s turn to spot poor results of what was likely Machine Translation. In this case, in the world’s most spoken-language, Chinese, and also, its rendering into English. Their mocking article, whose very title isn’t particularly business-appropriate, focuses on restaurateurs in Shanghai.

The commonality with the Welsh story is this: small business owners are not known for having large budgets for translation, hence the attraction to using free and open web tools, like Google Translate. Yet it might pay small business owners to submit machine translations for proofing and editing to avoid public embarrassment and shaming. And, in cases where you have specialty items and idioms, maybe it pays to have a full human translation done. Such a cost can be seen as an investment up-front to save from the potential of lost business and pain of embarrassment.

One example from the Daily Mail’s article has to do with the Chinese term “随便” (suíbiàn) which an unfortunate Shanghai menu had translated into English as “Whatever.” That is indeed a quite common translation. Though it is unlikely you ordered a plate or bowl of “whatever.”

There are multiple renderings of this word, from “casual” or “arbitrary,” to “as one pleases” to “wanton” (that is, “careless behavior;” not to be confused with the Chinese food wonton). Mandarin House has a whole article about the term, which can range idiomatically or contextually from browsing while shopping (“only looking”), to “you choose for me,” to “make yourself at home” and “please help yourself to eat.” So it can range anywhere from the blithe to the pejorative in meaning.

The subscript below the translation reads “等答巢料” (Děng dá cháo liào), the latter half of which (“巢料”) infers some sort of “nesting material,” so it doesn’t seem to be much help.

So what does it mean in this case? This is something a computer would have a hard time to answer, or even a human who had no context or contact with the staff, but a quick chat with the restaurateur or cook would be able to answer these questions in a heartbeat.

While it is easy to mock and deride “Chinglish,” this happens in many linguistic contexts. An actual solution to the problem of poor translations would be more emphasis on available services for translation and localization for small businesses here and abroad.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever run into situation that would have been immediately improved with a quick editorial or proofing job? We’d love to hear your stories. Email us at and let us know.

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Rydym Wedi Symud — “We’ve Moved!” (but not that far…)

by Peter Corless

Sometimes you can tell an automatic translation job when words are obviously mistranslated. A short word, for instance, can be mistaken for an acronym or abbreviation. This is especially true for the common English word “us,” which can either be a pronoun (the objective version of “we”) or, especially if capitalized, can be an abbreviation for “United States.” The translation should be contextually obvious to a human. To a computer? You might need to train your model more.

This was apparently the case when a Welsh store, a B&Q at the Parc-y-Llyn Retail Park in the town of Llanbadarn Fawr, Ceredigion, posted a sign about closing the location and redirecting their customers to the closest alternate store, as reported by the BBC. The sign seemed to be redirecting people inappropriately across the Atlantic!

In English, it was likely originally “Find us at…” because what follows is an alternate address and website of the company. It might have been rendered as “Dod o hyd i ni ar…” But instead, the sign read, “Dod o hyd at Unol Daleithiau…” When translated back to English, that means, “Find at United States…”

A few problems to note. Obviously “us” (the pronoun) was mistranslated as the Welsh version of “United States.” Yet also note the preposition “at,” which was not translated at all, had a strange transposition in front of the direct object “us.”

The sign will be replaced, but the embarrassment is now historical, due to the BBC’s coverage. So consider this example for your own future. When using machine translation, it may actually pay to at least have a fluent proof reader or editor approve the copy before you run with it.

* The author of this blog makes no pretense to be fluent in Welsh. Comments and corrections welcome.

Startup Graphic

Helping Startups Overcome Localization Hurdles

by Peter Corless

“Why don’t more startups have their content translated?” That’s the upfront question posed by Blazej Szperlinski, head of marketing at Text United in a new article posted on MultiLingual.

He makes the case that, if they are not already, startup founders should reconsider their reticence to working in foreign-language markets. “The English speaking market is becoming crammed with so many viable choices that breaking through requires tremendous effort.” This is true, and we’ve already noted that most global growth today is coming from overseas markets, with Arabic being the fastest-growing language on the Internet.

The most obvious answer is summed up by Blazej’s observation: “Maybe it just doesn’t come to mind.”

Such a mental barrier is perceptual. Startups operating on “lean” and “agile” principles often cannot (or refuse to) perceive anything outside of very, very narrow initial goals and deliverables (the “minimum viable product”) for an initial use case or target market. Scope creep is anathema. Many startups are so ingrained in their own experiences, and hyper-focused on their teflon-coated culture that they do not for a moment try to think outside the box they’ve painted for themselves.

This is not universally true. Adobe has for years championed the idea that software can be agile and localized. “Lean localization” and “agile marketing” have also been facilitated by continuous online translation platforms, such as LingoHub or Transifex.

Yet perceptions and opinions, once set, are hard to shift. Even if it is shown that the most successful U.S.-based unicorns on the Internet are rendered in 20, 30 or more languages. Even if cost really isn’t a barrier. As Blazej quips, “Since a startup’s app is usually solving a single problem, its translation will cost less than hosting a pizza day in the office, and additional updates or consistency checks will only get cheaper as time passes by.” While some content-heavy apps may run contrariwise to this observation, the “pizza day” cost rule will hold for many startups. So it’s not cost. It’s philosophy.

This philosophical difference of whether to even consider localization has been described over the past decade by Common Sense Advisory’s Localization Maturity Model. At the negative end of the spectrum are organizational culture factors that engender antipathy or even hostility towards localization. There needs to be a neutral or positive inflection point — described in lean startup methodology as a “pivot” — at which resistance to localization shifts to acknowledgement of the need, which then leads to actualization of a plan, and, from that, the requisite tools and processes to fully integrate and automate it into corporate culture.

What are your thoughts on Blazej’s article? Are you at a startup? At which stage do you find yourself: considering localization, at a pivot point, currently a work-in-progress, or encountering barriers to move ahead with your plans? Send your war stories and strategies to us at, and let us know how we can help!



WordPress Internationalization & Localization

by Peter Corless

WordPress has grown incredibly since its release in 2003. It is now the technology behind sites like the New Yorker, TechCrunch, BBC America and Fortune. According to w3techs, over 59% of web sites whose underlying content management system (CMS) they can detect are now built on the WordPress platform, or over 25% of all web sites around the world. That is up from 18.9% of web sites in early 2014.

Given its global popularity, the WordPress community has commensurately given a great deal of attention to internationalization. For the WordPress core itself, there are 152 language packs available on Beyond this, the WordPress community provides extensive support for internationalizing the tens of thousands of plugins available. The Meta Handbook has a guide for handling translations in both site themes and plugins. The Plugin Handbook has a whole guide on how to Internationalize Your Plugin, with a large number of basic, escape and date/time functions. The codex is always being improved, and new suggestions are quite welcome.

Beyond the code that drives WordPress is the content. One content localization extension you might want to check out is Transifex Live Integration, which allows you to manage localization and translation across your WordPress (or other CMS) sites by tying your site to the Transifex continuous localization platform. In full disclosure, e2f works closely with Transifex as a leading translation provider. We share a growing number of joint customers.

What is your content management system of choice? If you use WordPress, what are the challenges you face with localization and translation of your content or systems? We’d love to know! Send us your ideas and plans to, and let us know how we can help.

Enu already!

by Peter Corless

With the recent re-opening of relationships with Cuba, it seems timely to revisit an earlier period of good feelings between the countries. So here’s a video from the 1950s series I Love Lucy, wherein Lucille Ball gives Desi Arnaz a lesson in one of the most confusing aspects of English words.

The truth is that -O-U-G-H has at least 8 different pronunciations:

Pronunciation Example
 -uff  rough
-ok (-okh) lough
-ow plough
-oo through
-oh though
-uhp hiccough
-off cough
-awt thought alleges there are 10, differentiating between the “-oh” sounds of “though” and “thorough,” and also differentiating between the “-oo” of “through” and the “-ou” of “slough.” Do you think they are different?

Whether you are translating from all-often-confusing English into a foreign language, or vice versa, e2f can help you overcome the roughest challenges without it ending up like a screwball comedy. Send your toughest tasks to us at

RL10N: Data Science gets Localized

by Peter Corless

RlogoAnyone following trends in Big Data knows that the R language has rapidly gained traction and adherents in the data science community. It has already been translated into 20 languages and has user groups in 50 countries, but many of the packages critical for its adoption have not yet been translated. To further international adoption the R Consortium just announced it will provide a grant to help the project for localization of R, known as RL10N.

The project faces many challenges, such as crowdsourcing, workflow, and rounding up the state of existing translations. The project will rely heavily upon tools to translate code and APIs and machine translation post-editing, and must include both source code and documentation translation.

The grant recipients include Richie Cotton, of the Weill Cornell Medicine in Quatar, and Thomas Leeper, of The London School of Economics and Political Science. You can see a full list of the grants in the R Consortium announcement.


“Localization Matters for B2B and B2E Content Too!”

by Peter Corless


Spotted on the Internet: Bruno Hermann wrote an excellent article for EContent about how localization and globalization matter as much for B2B (business-to-business) and B2E (business-to-employee) content as for B2C (business-to-consumer) engagements. While many marketers and executives presume English is “good enough” for B2B, the Director of Globalization and Localization for The Nielsen Company has a different perspective. He cites Nelson Mandela’s observation:

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Read the article in full, and let us know if you agree. Write to us at if you have any localization projects you want to deliver directly to the hearts of your audience.


Trademarks in Translation

by Peter Corless

ohimlogo_enSpotted over at Slator today: a great article on conflicting EU rulings regarding trademarks in translation.

Marion Marking, in her Slator piece, highlighted how the application for the trademark “The English Cut” was ruled to conflict with the Spanish language version of the same phrase, “El Corte Inglés” whereas use of the English fairy tale character name “Red Riding Hood” would not interfere with the German rendition of “Rotkäppchen.” Suffice it to say, this problem is not going to be resolved overnight.

It’s not a unique case either. Back in 2010, the EU saw the “Golden Balls / Ballon d’Or” case where an English couple with a 2001 trademark for “Golden Balls” went up against FIFA itself. The Bodurs finally won the dispute in 2013.

The Office for Harmonization for the Internal Market has more information on the law and practices involved in getting your brand recognized as a Community trade mark (CTM) across the EU.

This issue of trademark translation is not limited to the EU. If filing at the USPTO, you are generally required to provide an English translation of any foreign terms when used as a trademark.

The Ministry of Commerce for China produced a series of highly instructive articles. Both Part I and Part II highlight different aspects of trademark translation. Interestingly the Ministry of Commerce did not jut focus on the pragmatics of trademark translation, but also the aesthetics, which they refer to as “formal beauty.”

How have you dealt with trademark translation at your company? Do you have any products or services you are planning to localize in the near future? Contact us at We’d love to hear your own war stories, thoughts, and plans.


Terminology Coordination in the EU

by Peter Corless

Flag_of_EuropeThe European Parliament has a hard enough time keeping track of documents in 24 official languages. If language was static, that would be one thing, but it changes every day. Add in on top the evolving world of diplomatic protocols, agency-speak, technical and legal terms, plus a flood of ever-increasing acronyms and never-ending neologisms, and you see it’s an even more complex problem.

From this challenge arose the EU’s Terminology Coordination unit. Their solution was to bring together and harmonize all the lingo, and make it accessible through such tools as InterActive Terminology for Europe (IATE), and the public interface, Public IATE.

Want to know how to say “Improvised Explosive Device” properly in Hungarian? You can use the public IATE tool to discover acceptable, deprecated, and preferable ways to translate it, both in full (“rögtönzött robbanószerkezet”) and in abbreviation (“IED” is abbreviated as “IED“).

They also maintain document-based sources such as a series of glossaries produced by EU institutions and bodies.

While these activities are primarily for use by the European Parliament, these works of linguists can benefit business, media, and academics who want to share a common grammar. Even their processes, such as how they manage terminology, can be seen as guiding process and design patterns for others engaged in similar activity.

managing terminologyPart of the systems and processes set up at the European Parliament to manage terminology.

Unlike many political bodies that can be, at times, quite distant from the public, the Terminology Coordination activity is welcoming of participation, even including a Facebook page. For instance, when they heard of petaloso, which we at e2f also covered in an earlier post, they wrote a blog entitled, Please, do come in! When can a neologism enter a vocabulary? Italian and the case of “petaloso”.

How about your organization? How do you manage your own internal terminology? How much do you welcome change into your global grammar? What sorts of systems or processes do you have in place to manage emerging, current, and obsolescent language? How do you manage it in a multilingual environment? Even if not on the scale of the European Parliament, do you have a project coming up that may require similar types of activity?

If you have any insights to share, or any questions to ask, don’t hesitate to contact us at


Prezi: Localization Using Transifex

by Peter Corless

prezi_horizontalIn a recent interview in Martech Advisor (07 Mar 2016), Prezi CEO Peter Arvai talked about adding localization to their service. Prezi has changed the landscape for marketing and technical presentations around the world. Over 60 million users have created and viewed over 160 million prezis since the company’s foundation in 2009. When asked about how the Korean market spurred Prezi to localize, he was quick to admit the reasons for their shift:

You’re right, localization of Prezi started with our user communities. Early on our users in Korea alerted us to the fact that Prezi did not work with Korean fonts. We had no idea how to solve this then but provided us with the first font sets to get us up and running. Today we have localized Prezi in 9 languages, including English, Hungarian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Korean and Japanese. The Latin American market, in particular, has experienced explosive growth over the last few years. Even before we launched in Portuguese in 2013, we already had the 500 thousand users in Brazil. Two years later, in 2015, we now have over 2 million users in Brazil, four times the amount we had before launching Prezi in Portuguese.

That might lead reader to question: How did Prezi adapt so quickly? What technology did they use to get those kinds of growth results over two years? The answer can be obtained by reading a case study published by our translation platform partner, Transifex. At the time of the case study’s writing (a year into the process), Prezi had been professionally localized in four languages, with others in the process of being crowdsourced. Since then, all the planned languages were released, and Italian added to the list of offerings for Prezi.

transifex-blue-logoLocalization and translation automation platforms such as Transifex are creating a global sea change, making it easier and easier for companies to offer their brands in diverse markets around the world. While not everyone is the size or scale of Prezi (or at least not yet), everyone wants their message to reach the widest possible audiences.

Are you in the planning stages or initial process of moving your company and its content into a globalized, localized offering? We can help. e2f is an Integrated Translation Provider for Transifex. Open an account in Transifex, upload your project, and select us as your translation provider. We’ll do the rest! If you have any questions about getting started, feel free to email us at