Thursday, December 6, 2012

Significant Countries in the Middle East to Conduct Business

Many companies shy away from marketing or working with companies in the Modern Middle East. They hesitate because of the political climate, restrictions, culture, and language barriers. However, there may be untapped opportunities waiting if you can be patient, follow protocol and reach out to the many resources for help.

The easiest country to enter is Israel as they speak English and act as a bridge between Asia, Europe and the rest of the Middle East. It is a small market but there is a strong interest in the military and medical industries as well as a large tourist market. Although they speak English, Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages of Israel.

Jordan is almost completely landlocked. Oman is a very Western city and key markets include safety and security, medical, water and environmental. Arabic is the official language, but like Israel, English is widely understood by upper and middle classes. Jordan has more Free Trade Agreements than any other Arab country, including signed FTAs with the European Union, the United States, Canada, Syria, Algeria, Tunisia, Singapore, Malaysia and Libya. Primary imports include crude oil, machinery, transport equipment, iron, and cereals.

The United States’ second most important trading partner is Egypt. Business is stable and has the most diverse economy of the Middle East, with tourism being the strongest industry followed by agriculture. Since Egypt does not have a large industrial base, they import almost all of their capital goods like machinery and equipment. Food represents about 20% of its imports and other products and services include those related to the petrochemical, medical and the pharmaceutical industries. It is one of the most populous countries in the Middle East.

Tunisia is the smallest country in Northern Africa and is very modern oriented with 54% of its population under the age of 30. Agriculture is the main business sector, with exports going to France with whom they have close relations through economic cooperation, industrial modernization, and privatization programs. Tunisia has an association agreement with the European Union and it remains Tunisia's first trading partner. Primary imports include textiles, machinery and equipment, and chemicals. Arabic is the official language but due to the former French occupation, French also plays a major role in the country.

Remember, do your homework, get help, be responsive to contacts and leads, make sure you are understood even if English is spoken, and avoid cultural blunders.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Five Common Website Translation Mistakes

When translating and localizing websites there are many decisions that seem simple enough and you would think they would not create problems. However, depending on how the process is handled, they may lead to unforeseen issues. Here are five of the most common website localization mistakes. Fortunately these are the easiest to correct.

1. Using flags for language pull down menus
  • Some languages cover several countries so there is no unified flag that can be used without being offensive or political incorrect. Two great examples of this are countries that speak Spanish and Arabic.  This only works if you have representatives in those countries, and the website is hosted in that country, or your company only conducts business in a particular country.
  • Using flags can be rather assumptive. Believe it or not, many people would not know their own flag. 
  • It can lead to inaccuracy. In Belgium, they speak French and Flemish. In Switzerland, French, German and Italian.  So, you need to decide what language you use for these countries, or have an additional drop down menu for the choice of language. It gets complicated.
2. Using the name of a country for language pull down menus
  • Again, this could be inaccurate and you may inadvertently insult your audience and create the same issues as using a flag.
  • If, however, you directly sell a product in a particular country like France and do not offer shipments to Madagascar, Rwanda or any of the other 29 countries where French is the official language, then the country name may be best.
3. Using the name of the language or country in English in the pull down menu
  • If you took the time to translate the content, you should be sensitive enough to translate the name of the language or country so end users can easily find the translation.
  • Do not assume that everyone knows enough English well to find their language in English. It is best to be culturally sensitive and inclusive not exclusive.
4. Misuse of foreign language capitalization
  • In the English language, we capitalize language names. However, other languages do not follow the same rules. English speakers capitalize the “s” in Spanish and the translation would be español. Whereas, the “d” in Deutsch is capitalized in German.
  • Foreign languages do not use initial capital letters in headlines.  For example, English:  Sale Items, French:  Articles en vente.
  • Websites cannot be consistent in the use of capitalization or even the treatment of fonts for emphasis without the possibility of the layout changing.
5. Not verifying whether or not foreign language characters will display properly in all applications
  • Be sure to test the localized website content before going live in all viewing applications so that double-byte languages like Japanese or Chinese do not show up as all squares or with random strange characters within it.
  • This may mean that some languages will need to be treated as graphics to make sure they are properly displayed.
For further help and to have your website checked for any issues or mistakes contact Nancy Cardone at Make sure your first impression is a good impression.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dining with One Young World Delegates

One Young World brought more than 1,300 young adults to Pittsburgh from over 180 countries for a four-day summit designed to bring a youthful perspective to important global issues. The World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh did an amazing job organizing the One Young World Pittsburgh Partnership event. Thanks to the hard work of Melanie Gulasy and Steve Sokol the event truly showcased Pittsburgh.

The delegates had a chance to interact at dozens of breakout sessions with their peers to discuss health, education, business and human rights issues, to name a few. One Young World brought global leaders to guide their deliberations, including a kick off on Thursday night by former President Bill Clinton. The summit, held in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, wrapped up on Sunday with a series of speakers, including former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Confluent Translations took part in hosting one of the many community dinners held around the region on Saturday, October 20th. Delegates from Finland, India, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States joined us at Café Zinho for a truly memorable dinner. Their enthusiasm and excitement proved why they are considered the emerging leaders of the world.

The food was incredible and the conversation was lively. There were many different types of fish on the menu and describing them proved interesting. We shared some Pittsburgh fun facts and answered the delegates’ questions on how Pittsburgh was able to reposition itself as a leader in health, education and technology. The delegates shared with us their perspectives on the discussions they took part in, such as business ethics that are common to EC countries and the United States but are non-existent in countries where there is bribery and even death threats.

We asked what surprised them most about Pittsburgh and overwhelmingly it was how friendly Pittsburghers were. The young women from Spain and India marveled over the beautiful colors of our fall foliage. Interestingly, the delegates from the United States and the United Kingdom were surprised by how clean the city was, still having the impression of our steel-town heritage. Special thanks to volunteer Janine Hannan, who was responsible for the group’s logistics. We were affectionately calling her the delegates’ den mother by the end of the evening.

The One Young World Summit will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2013. We wish them continued success in grooming our young leaders of tomorrow. It was a once-in-a-life time opportunity to help showcase Pittsburgh and meet those shaping the course of the world.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


An important thing to consider when establishing any business relationship is trust. No matter what industry, people expect confidentiality of proprietary information, exact quoting and billing procedures, an experienced and honest staff, and feel valued as a customer and that their best interests are being looked out for.

It is a shame that price many times means more than working with the best suited and honest company, which in the end sacrifices the quality of material and quite possibly safety of individuals. 

Is it because of the current economic climate that people can’t see the forest through the trees? Some clients only care about saving money on a key product component. However, over time it could equate to only .00002% of all products sold. What if one person dies from the use of that product as a result of the inadequate component? Would the cost savings be worth it then?

That is the reality when selling and purchasing translation services. Okay, maybe that is a drastic comparison that only happen s in extreme circumstances. Something else to think about is, what happens if people miss use the product, a product gets recalled, your company gets a poor rating, or your company name is in headlines and on YouTube for a comedy of errors? What impact does that have on your brand? Is the cost savings on one component really worth it?

There are many reputable translation companies. Unfortunately, people only talk about those that are “less than honest,”  persuade, entice, agree to poor methodologies, low ball and fudge pricing to beat out competitors, make claims on services, and ultimately deliver poor quality  performed by less than qualified translators.

Why do people go with these types of companies? Are decision makers not given all the facts? Are they not asking the right questions of their vendors? Are they not taking things other than price into consideration when making decisions? Do they think there really is an easier way? Did someone get paid off at some level? Are people tired of doing what it right? Is it truly all about the money? Do they not care about the consequences?

Ultimately, people get what they pay for. It is a shame people listen to this type of guidance, get burned in the end and assume all vendors are created equal. They are not. Luckily, clients still exist that see value in what a reputable translation service provides. We promise never to be discouraged from doing what is honest, fair and in the best interest of the client. It all comes down to trust.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Be Prepared When Going Abroad

Since the economic collapse of 2008 businesses are realizing the need to explore international opportunities. They may become extinct without adapting.

For example, a local manufacturing company with a revolutionary product and virtually no competition for the past 20 years now has a competitor in the Netherlands with a similar product. Slowly this competitor is taking a large portion of their business from China by translating their operator manuals – their differentiating factor. The local company did not want to spend money to translate it and felt the Chinese would understand the English. English is actually third to Chinese and Spanish of the languages spoken throughout the world.

A local consultant to businesses expanding into China was hired after a company made a costly mistake sending an engineer to China to give training on the production of a product without an interpreter. The engineer gave his presentation and everyone smiled, nodded and said yes when he asked if they understood. Unfortunately, he did not realize until the product prototype was done incorrectly and he engaged the consultant, that the Chinese were only being polite and spoke very little English.

Cultural misunderstandings happen frequently because international preparation is always an afterthought. Why aren’t people better prepared? The reasons range from wrongly assuming everyone speaks English, fear of the unknown, it is complicated, there’s no time, or it costs too much money.

There are many companies, not just the fortune 500, who successfully compete globally because they are prepared. They take advantage of local seminars and support or add internal staff to keep abreast of international markets. They may hire cultural trainers to coach employees before international meetings and engage a professional translation company for translation and interpreting services.

Companies getting started should reach out to their local resources such as small business development centers or attend international certification courses. A good place to start is the SBA’s website: Many international programs are now being offered because American products are sought after globally with a huge potential for financial success. Check for federal grant money and other initiatives for trade missions which are a great way to explore international opportunities economically. For example in Pennsylvania, there is a state initiative called the TechExport program where companies can apply for up to $5,000 in federal grant money for translation and trade show missions.

You still need to be prepared when going on a trade mission or looking to expand business internationally. It is important to know local business laws, tax structures, export regulations and product required localization. To communicate effectively, have your business card and a one-page company profile translated into the country specific foreign language in which you want to do business, i.e. Simplified Chinese for mainland China. This shows respect and that you are serious about a business relationship, which will gain trust.

The next step would be to start with the translation of some of your product literature, marketing collateral or a portion of your website for additional sales support. A misconception is that everything must be done at once. Start small and do a little at a time. Once you get a sale you may be able to add in the cost of translation to the actual production cost for any support documentation.

In conclusion, plan ahead, utilize resources, seek grant funding and do research to develop an international strategy manageable for your business size and budget. After all, it's your reputation on the line. What international business is out there for your company?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What happened to client service?

As I am working on coordinating our 20th anniversary party, I have been contacting different vendors to help with the festivities. Most were very responsive and got back to me quickly when I met them at a networking event or sent a message. Unfortunately, one company was not as responsive and left me feeling they were not eager for my business. It is not like I didn’t try. Two phone messages and a LinkedIn request resulted in a return call two and half weeks later. I had to tell them it was too late and I had already found another resource.
It got me thinking about how important it is to be responsive to clients and be customer centric. At Confluent, we do not let prospect or client questions and quotation requests go longer than 24 hours without someone getting back to follow up or confirm. We personally answer the phone and return email questions the same or next day. I know our clients appreciate our responsiveness based on our client surveys. Our responsiveness has also resulted in new business opportunities awarded over our competition. It shouldn’t take 3 to 4 days to quote let alone 2 weeks to deliver a small translation job that should only take 3 to 4 days.
I could not delay responding nor could my employees. Maybe that is the difference. My employees care about Confluent’s image, our clients’ projects, and all of our success as much as I do. To me it is rude not to respond, no matter how busy you are. It only takes a minute to let someone know you have received something and estimate how long it will take to provide some sort of response.
Maybe our competitors’ account and project managers don’t care enough because it is not something emphasized from top down. Maybe they are over worked, understaffed and really can’t get to requests in a timely fashion. Maybe they are too “green” in the industry. Translation agency employee turnover is known to be fast and furious at quite a few top agencies. Not to mention their translator turnover, although they do have a unique way around that going to other agencies to get their client’s work done.
Whatever the reasons are for lack of responsiveness, it always comes back to bite you. Even if you have to deliver bad news, it is better to do it as soon as possible while being upfront and honest.
Personally, it is frustrating to have to follow up on an email, quotation, or job. That equates to triple the work. I don’t know about you, but my time is valuable and I don’t like to be kept waiting, worrying or have to keep track of communications.
Maybe the fact that I consider everyone’s time as being valuable, important and worthy has helped Confluent grow continually with referral upon referral. And, maybe because my account and project managers know that is how I feel, they respond in turn.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Timing is Everything

Recently Confluent Translations received several short notice onsite interpreting requests. Luckily, in most instances resources were available and we were able to supply the appropriate people. However, qualified interpreters are hard to come by on short notice especially if it is a rare language or if travel is involved. This can affect the ability to schedule an interpreter and can also increase the cost of interpreting. Contacting a language service provider (LSP) with as much lead time as possible is essential to secure the proper resource.

Translators and interpreters are contract positions. Their acceptance, and in turn, the ability to provide resources, is based on whether or not the linguists have other assignments already scheduled at that time. Not leaving enough lead time can put LSPs in a position where the most qualified and experienced interpreters are already committed to other projects and are therefore unavailable.

As soon as you think you might need an interpreter for your event, please contact your LSP so they can start the process. It also helps to be able to provide them with any and all information about the event such as:

  • What are the dates of the event?
  • What languages are required? (From what country or countries are the visitors coming?)
  • Will interpreters require any industry or technical expertise or experience?
  • What is the number of interpreters that may be required?
  • Where will the interpreting take place and is travel involved?
  • Will any interpreting equipment, such as headsets or transmitters, for the interpreters and participants be needed? If so how many? Will the facility supply these?
  • Are any video or audio conferencing services needed?
  • How long will interpreters be needed?
As Confluent Translations celebrates our 20th anniversary, we want to use our experience in the industry to help our clients have the most productive and seamless event possible. When it requires the need to schedule interpreters…timing, as they say, is everything.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Benefits of a Coordinated Review Process

After making several follow-up calls to existing clients, a common theme emerged. Clients were sending translations to internal review without alerting us. This was concerning because the translation process needs to be a collaboration on all levels to ensure quality and accuracy.
As with most things in life, you learn from client feedback and find better ways of doing things. Since we see a lack of client communication, we have decided a simple statement on our quotation is not enough. We will add an additional step to the project scope and ask if client internal review will be part of the process. Better communication and sending reviewer instructions on our part with first time clients will help facilitate the process.
Over the years we’ve developed best practices which we share with clients to achieve optimal results with internal review. I'd like to share some of these best practices to implement when sending translated materials to internal review:
  • Clients need to let the translation vendor know when a review is taking place
  • The reviewer must be qualified i.e. native speaker, knowledge of industry or text type
  • Establish a glossary with technical terminology
  • Send the same instructions and source text to translators and reviewers
  • Client needs to send reviewer feedback back to the translation vendor to be shared with the lead translator
  • Translation memory must be updated with preferred terminology so the translation vendor and reviewer are not wasting time moving forward
  • Determine who has the final say: client reviewer? lead translator?
Below is more detailed information on each topic mentioned above should you need more information:
Let Your Translation Vendor Know There will be a Review
When a client decides to have translated material reviewed, he/she needs to let the translation vendor know so the process can be properly coordinated from start to finish. That way the translation vendor can plan the entire process, including preliminary and final deliverables. This even begins with determining turnaround time at project onset. Typically, one to two weeks is given to reviewers for them to fit review into their daily duties, depending on the size of the project. The translation vendor also needs to know if the file should go directly to desktop publishing or to review first, we highly recommend it is reviewed first to save costs on duplicate formatting costs.
A Qualified Reviewer
It is essential that the reviewer must be qualified i.e. native speaker, knowledge of industry or text type AND be fluent in English. Aunt Lydia who speaks some Polish should not review an instruction manual for operating a fork lift. Clients take time to identify a quality vendor to perform the initial translations and should put equal effort into identifying quality reviewers. Otherwise, even though Aunt Lydia tried her best and offered a few comments a majority of her feedback could be riddled with spelling and grammar errors. The goal of review is to enhance the initial translation and not detract from it.
Glossary Development
The best way to resolve the issue of technical terminological inconsistency is to translate a glossary of terms before starting translation during all project phases. Upon completion, the glossary must be sent to the translator and reviewer. Over time if the reviewer wants to change a term he/she needs to alert the end customer so new terminology can be agreed upon with the translation vendor. Otherwise, inconsistencies will arise. While a translation vendor may use the same translation team, it is more common for client internal review resources to vary from project to project and each reviewer may impose his/her own preferences or style. The glossary helps to eliminate reviewer battles.
Everyone on the Same Page
As mentioned above, it is always best to send the same instructions and source text to translators and reviewers. It is crucial for everyone to be on the same page. It is not in anyone’s best interest to allow the reviewer to take liberties and change the translation when they do not agree with the English source. As translators, we must remain faithful to the English source and reviewers should too. We have seen reviewers try and eliminate warranty or legal sections, which needed to be part of the documentation.
Send Reviewer Comments back to the Translation Vendor
Another must is for the client to send marked up reviewer comments to the translation vendor. The vendor must send the feedback to the lead translator to review, learn from the changes, provide feedback to client on exactly what those changes are, implement and update the TM. An engineer could be great technically speaking, but may make a grammar or spelling error because they are not a linguist thus compromising the quality of the overall translation. There needs to be an open dialogue throughout the review process to avoid these types of errors. A client once implemented reviewer comments directly into final desktop published files. After the reviewer received the final version, he asked what happened since his changes were not completely incorporated. Unfortunately, he only marked the first instance of a terminological change and wrote “global” in his native language only. The person incorporating the changes, only put it in the first time, and by the way, with the word “global”.
Translation Memory (TM) Update
Sometimes clients let us know reviewers fine tune technical terminology to better match company and industry speak, which is expected by the client and vendor. However, this feedback must be shared with the translation vendor so the translator can learn from edits and see that the TM is updated to use them on the next project for consistency. Most if not all translation vendors use some sort of software for translation memory. It is vital that it be kept up to date for the client to see cost and turnaround efficiencies over time. If the TM is not updated, you re-invent the wheel with each translation project spending more time and money.
The Golden Word
Once client feedback is sent to the translation vendor, the lead translator reviews the material and provides his/her feedback. Then what? Who has the final say? In most cases the lead translator agrees with reviewer feedback and accepts all changes. However, there are occasions when the reviewer introduces a spelling or grammar error and the translator cannot just accept those changes and must speak up. In those instances, the project manager will let the client know what is being accepted and what is not. The client can then determine if the reviewer should or should not know. In many cases when the reviewer is contacted, they agree and the text is corrected. However, there are situations when the reviewer will stand by what he/she did and not compromise. Typically, the reviewer has the final say, but should they? This is something the end client needs to determine. After all, company image, increased sales, and many other factors can be affected.
For more information regarding the review process and Confluent Translations, please contact Nancy Cardone at or 412-539-1410.