Our team members blog about language, culture, technology, marketing, translation and localization, industry news and more.

Starting our Business in Boston

One of my earliest memories is hearing kids speak foreign languages during summer vacations on the Dutch coast. Most of them spoke German. To me it seemed as if they were communicating in a secret language. Confusion made way for intense curiosity: I hád to decipher their code. Now, some 25 years later, I am setting up a translation office in Boston. Our company’s goal is to connect people worldwide through high quality translations. Technology has done an amazing job bringing people from different cultures together, making it more important than ever to invest in effective international communication. Seth Godin wrote a really great blog about this a few days ago. Every day our team delivers translations that make information available to a new group of people who speak a specific language. Whether it’s literary fiction or a major AdWords campaign, we apply our linguistic talents with the same vigor. Textcase has been around for more than 40 years – we used to be the biggest book translation agency in the Benelux in the 1970s, nowadays we are an allround translation partner to both companies and publishers. We know there is a big market waiting for us in North America. Just a few weeks ago we delivered fully translated, localized and optimized AdWords campaigns in multiple languages for Yext, a company based in New York City and number 20 on the Forbes most promising companies in 2014 list. As Textcase is now operational on both sides of the Atlantic, please keep an eye out for our updates via either our newsletter (sign up below, I promise we won’t spam you)... read more

The Challenge of Learning a New Language

On October 22nd, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and co-founder of the social-networking website Facebook, posted a video of himself addressing an audience in Mandarin Chinese at the Tsinghua University in Beijing, much to their delight and absolute surprise. He even successfully conducted and completed a question-and-answer session in his new language.  Zuckerberg has been both praised and criticised for his decision to communicate in Mandarin Chinese. Critics found that his grasp of the grammar and pronunciation, among other things, left a lot to be desired. One major voice of dissent is Isaac Stone Fish, “China expert” and second language learner of Mandarin, who maintained in his reaction to the speech that Zuckerberg’s level of Mandarin Chinese was comparable to that of a seven-year-old Mandarin-speaking child. And yet, it can’t be denied Zuckerberg’s 30-minute speech is, to a certain degree, rather impressive. It’s a considerable accomplishment for someone whose first language is not Mandarin to address an audience for 30 minutes in Mandarin Chinese and Zuckerberg prepared extensively for the occasion by studying Mandarin Chinese every day for a year. It is entirely probable that the interview at Tsinghua University had been carefully rehearsed beforehand, but that does not detract from the admirable feat of clearly learning and absorbing the important aspects (basics) of the language. Mandarin Chinese is a complicated language for Westerners to learn. The difficulty lies in the structure and the fundamentals of the language, which strongly differ from those of Western languages. In Mandarin the pitch pattern of a word – tone and intonation – determine its meaning. A word articulated in a high level tone changes... read more

Frankfurt Book Fair 2014

Last Saturday, my colleague Koert van der Scheer and I visited the Frankfurt Book Fair – the biggest book fair in the world – in just one day (we caught an early train from Utrecht). We met with content distributers, content producers, people who are developing new content platforms, self-publishers and, of course, publishers. Many countries showed off their best books, from Macedonia to New Zealand and beyond. We loved the positive vibe, the cultural exchanges and we were impressed by the beautiful stands of, for example, Thailand: And this was Iran’s massive stand: There was a lot of activity at Russia’s stand: This year, in contrast to previous years, a bigger section of the Book Fair was reserved for self-publishers. Here are a four self-publishers sharing their experiences with a large, interested crowd: We were amazed by the amount of translation grants made available by national governments. At this moment, we are compiling a list of countries that showed great interest in promoting their authors abroad and supporting this with grant possibilities. It is our goal to actively help publishers and self-publishers finance quality translations. Translation is the best way to spread valuable cultural content and to connect people across linguistic... read more

Connotations of Brands and Product Names

‘Fellatio’, ‘pancake’ and ‘waxed mare’: it might be hard to believe, but this is what some product names actually mean in other languages. Many businesses don’t even consider the fact that something as simple as the pronunciation of a product name in a foreign language may conjure up strange and unwanted associations that are sure to raise eyebrows. Introducing product names unchecked and unmodified in another country may therefore lead to extremely painful translation mix-ups. An article from the Wall Street Journal illustrates just how important transliteration may be when translating business texts and product names. The article describes how IKEA in Thailand has its product names checked, and where necessary transliterated by a complete team of interpreters and translators. With good reason, apparently. Many businesses that spread their wings across their domestic borders make mistakes when it comes to product translations. For instance, IKEA learned that the name of one of its beds (Redalen) bears a striking resemblance to the Thai word for oral sex. The pronunciation of the plant pot ‘Jättekul’ also had sexual connotations in Thai. But IKEA is not by far the only company that had incorrectly translated its product names (or rather: not translated them at all). In China, Bing, the name of Microsoft’s search engine, was changed to ‘bi ying’. Depending on the pronunciation, ‘Bing’ in Chinese refers to pancakes and diseases. And as early as 1927, it became clear that rendering ‘Coca Cola’ phonetically in Chinese characters led to words that refer to a waxed mare. Coca Cola subsequently changed the Chinese spelling of its brand, in order to prevent any unwanted... read more

The Effects of Poor AdWords Translations

When developing an efficient, multilingual website, reaching the right target audience is paramount. To achieve this, advertising online with Google AdWords is always a sure way to add strength to your organic visibility. You probably already have an AdWords campaign and think that all you need to do is translate it when you go international. However, this is easier said than done. More often than not, a great deal of money is spent on irrelevant keywords and incorrect targeting, leaving you with no positive results whatsoever. In this blog I’ll explain the pitfalls when translating AdWords campaigns. Global Market Finder A good first step is finding out the potential of the product or service you want to advertise. A very interesting tool is the Global Market Finder, which enables you to enter very specific keywords to see which other search terms people fill in, for example in one of the other 56 languages. When you combine Global Market Finder with your own AdWords account, it displays estimates and recommended bid together with the competitive results for every keyword in your specific target market. This allows you to find out which search terms will find your products or services in the specific country. The right keywords In every language and in every country, different ways are used to search for products. That’s why it’s always a good idea to first perform a local keyword analysis. You can do this with the AdWords Keyword Planner. Here you can look for ideas for keywords and ad groups, gain access to historical statistics, view the potential performance of a list of keywords and... read more

Google Skipped Persian Classes

Sadly, our beloved US Market intern Shabnam is leaving Textcase. After 6 months of hard work, she’ll continue to finish her degree at university. Since she is originally from Iran, I wanted to say good bye in her mother language: Persian. However, instead of asking one of our own translators, I decided to take Google Translate for a spin. Even though Textcase is an official Google Partner thanks to our excellence in Google AdWords, we would never recommend any company to translate their website, documents or mobile application using Google Translate. To support this statement, let’s go back to my little conversion with Shabnam. As I said, I wanted to say good bye to Shabnam. The exact sentence I formulated was ‘see you later’. Since I didn’t want to be too hard on Google, I changed the expression to a full sentence. What I eventually fed into Google’s machine was ‘I will see you later’. It resulted into the following: من شما را بعدا مراجعه کنید Happy as a child that just learned his first word, I showed the above to Shabnam. As soon as she started to laugh I knew what happened. The Persian sentence provided by Google didn’t make any sense at all: “I you come back later” The ‘come back later’ part is even considered to be a formal way of dismissing someone who interrupts you while you’re on the phone. So Google has a hard time translating this basic and actually very common phrase. However, maybe I confused Google by providing a full sentence, while I should have stuck with the shorter expression: ‘see you’. Unsurprisingly,... read more

My Internship at Textcase: Time Flies

After long days at school and many hours spent huddled over my textbooks, it was finally time to put the knowledge I had acquired to the test and spend my eight-week internship at translation agency Textcase. From the very first time I spoke to Laura, project manager at Textcase, I had a good feeling about the company. Although you always have to wait and see whether your instincts are right, after my first day I was confident that my internship would turn out to be a valuable and positive experience. Premature? Certainly not. I now have only three weeks to go and I have to admit that my time here has flown by. Eight weeks isn’t long by any measure, but if an internship is disappointing, eight weeks can seem to crawl by. My internship with Textcase is the first internship that is directly correlated to my major. And so, I was quite nervous five weeks ago, anxious to see what my time there would bring and whether I would live up to their expectations. Thankfully, the people at Textcase had confidence in my abilities and I was soon entrusted with the responsibility for a number of great assignments. As a project management intern with Textcase, my responsibilities focused on translation quality. This entails approaching translators, having editors check the completed translation and making sure that the translation is delivered to the client in a proper and timely fashion. My college mentor asked me the fair question of whether it never becomes boring to do the same thing every day. I understand how someone who is not involved in... read more

Textcase in Dublin: LPMC-diploma, LocWorld and compliments from Google

Earlier this month I earned my Localization Project Management Certification (LPMC) in Dublin. It’s a relevant course, especially because of the importance of project management as a component of translation, optimisation and localization at Textcase. Following the intense two-day course, the city also hosted the Localization World conference. All in all, an inspiring week, brimming with new knowledge, new contacts and applicable ideas. The course was organised by the Localization Institute. The classroom workshop component was preceded by a number of weeks of online self-study. My fellow students were project managers both on the buyer side and colleagues from other translation agencies. We completed a number of case-based group assignments that covered topics such as project planning, agile methods, risk management and quality assurance. We were also treated to extremely interesting presentations by industry leaders, including Vincent Gadani, Localization Manager at Microsoft and Tony O’Dowd, CEO of KantanMT. Our team in Utrecht discussed a number of project management Best Practices, such as the Localization Maturity Model, Work Breakdown Structures and Risk Breakdown Structures. At our weekly Textcase meeting, which we refer to as a ‘huddle’, we share expertise and insights and set out plans to further improve our work. Google: AdWords translation During my stay in Dublin, I also visited the European Google head office to meet up with my former colleagues and exchange ideas. The people at Google were very impressed with Textcase’s Google Partner status (the only translation agency in The Netherlands to have been awarded this status) and our AdWords translation practices: unique in the globalising online marketing field! Read more on the complexities of AdWords... read more

The Benefits of Small Translation Agencies

Whether you’re looking to have a book or document translated, choosing the right language service provider is key. Many clients such as authors, publishers, and corporations believe that larger translation agencies will generally provide better translations than smaller firms. But is that really the case? Brian McConnell, a writer for the Globalization & Localization Association, wrote an impressive article in which he highlights the following: “I generally recommend that customers avoid the big three companies unless they are going to generate six to seven figure annual budgets. The reason isn’t that the big translation companies are bad, it’s just that their incentive is to focus on large accounts or accounts that might grow quickly. You’ll get more attention and better service from small and mid-sized companies, and as noted above, new tools make it straightforward to manage multiple providers, and to do much of the project management yourself.” At Textcase, we welcome Mr. McConnell’s conclusion and would like to illustrate the advantages of choosing a small translation agency. There are four elements that we would like to highlight here, elements that we believe benefit both private clients and companies. 1.    Customer service/more attention and higher service level The main advantage of choosing smaller translation agencies is the superior level of customer service they provide. In today’s market, clients place value not only the products and services they receive, but also look for more personal contact in terms of rapport, accommodating their needs, and offering solutions to any potential problems. Consequently, communication and interaction with our clients is a vital part of being a project manager at Textcase. Each client is... read more

10 SEO Tips for Website Translations

In a previous blog, I discussed domain name selection when creating a multi-lingual website. This time I will take a closer look at the SEO structure that is required for a successful international website. The ten most important SEO translation tips that should be taken into consideration when translating websites are given below. SEO translation tip 1: Define and translate your principal keywords As a website owner, you have become more than familiar with the importance of the right keywords by now. But what about other languages? Don’t translate your keywords literally, but instead, make sure you know what the most popular search terms are in the country where you are planning to launch your website. A helpful tool is the AdWords keyword planner; use it to check keywords in specific geographic areas and to see potentially interesting alternatives. SEO translation tip 2:  Optimize your keyword density A proper ‘keyword density’ is essential for all websites. Keyword density is the percentage of times a keyword appears on a web page compared to the total number of words on that page. First, define the keywords you want to lead to your site (tip 1) and then make sure that these keywords have a density of between 2% and 5%. No higher and no lower, because Google has penalty filters in place for sites that abuse this strategy. SEO translation tip 3: Translate meta and title tags Meta and title tags remain one of the principal factors for Google in terms of ranking. Make sure that your tags match the content of the page and the page URL. You will miss out... read more

From Translation To Localization

The advantages of localization today go beyond opening up national markets. Imagine you earn money by selling your product locally. You have a product description in place, a website, webshop, marketing materials and more. Your business is growing and you are thinking about expanding internationally BUT all your materials are in English. How would you take on this challenge? How do you translate your materials and adapt them to cultures you barely know? Localization is your solution. A few decades ago, “localization” started to become more widely known. In the late 1970s, independent translators joined forces and formed companies in order to offer more diverse language services such as editing, proofreading and typesetting. Recently, the translation industry started to embrace technologies like translation memory to improve services. As a result, localization took off. The Cambridge dictionary defines localization as “the process of making a product or service more suitable for a particular country, culture, or area”. In other words, idiomatic translation is just one of the services within localization. Adapting graphics to the target markets, customizing content, converting to local currencies, using proper formats for dates and time zones are other examples of localization. Many statistics illustrate the benefits of localization in every industry. A few examples: 1. Studies have shown that consumers are five times more likely to purchase goods and services when they are offered in their own language. More than 60 percent of the consumers in France and Japan declared that they purchase only from websites where the information is presented in their own language. 2. According to research conducted by Common Sense Advisory, companies that localize information... read more

Growing Business through Translation and Localization

Less than five years ago many businesses were skeptical about social media. Nowadays, the question What doors would a Twitter account open for my business? Seems awfully old-fashioned. We’ve learned a valuable lesson: It’s always a good idea to get somewhere before your customers do. Time to move on to the next question: What doors would translating content into other languages open for my business? You never know whether you’ve missed out on business because your content was only available in English. The first step is to determine which languages make sense for your business. There is no need to translate your website or marketing campaigns into Danish if there isn’t any link between your brand and Denmark. Read our blog about the most important online languages. Even if you end up translating into Spanish only, you’ve opened up your content to more than 400 million native speakers. Second, make sure that you get it right. There is nothing more humiliating than a terrible translation of the text that you took so much time and effort to create. Enlist a translation agency with marketing, advertising, social media and online content expertise. Choose an agency that translates to and from any language, so that it’s easier if you should decide to add more languages later. Pick a translation agency that knows how to make SEO-friendly translations. Read our tips about localizing your content. Finally, don’t worry about the consequences. Yes, people may assume that since your website is in German, you offer fulltime German-speaking customer service – although you don’t. But translating your content isn’t about that. It’s about trust and... read more

Why Transliteration?

In a globalizing digital market, transliteration is an upcoming service. As a company you can realize growth by providing online content, products or applications in multiple languages through the Internet. These translation and localization projects focused in our region mainly on Western European languages. There’s no transliteration needed in those language pairs. Organizations with specific geographical focus already translate to ‘exotic’ languages with different alphabets. However, I predict this will become more mainstream, also for companies without ties in these language regions. And why not go into these markets? Imagine, in China there are 568 million Internet users and in comparison – 254 million in the US. Website translations to, for example, Chinese, Korean, Russian or Arabic will be more common. The difference in alphabet, writing direction and larger cultural differences cause for more factors in translation work, such as transliteration. But what is transliteration? Here’s a common definition: “To write words or letters in the characters of another alphabet.” (Merriam-Webster) Our translators know the systems and methods that are created for transliteration, such as hanyu pinyin for Chinese. Also for Russian – using the Cyrillic alphabet – there’s a common system in place for Romanization, or the conversion to our Latin writing. The other way around can be trickier sometimes, especially with names. Your company name for example, or products, services, or even the names of certain people involved. These names do not exist in the writing of the target language and so you can choose to keep it in Latin writing or, if you really want to localize well, you can transliterate these names to the local... read more

Making or Breaking a Translation

Translating is a lot like walking a tightrope. When you finally find your balance, you can take a few steady steps in the right direction. Still, you always have to stay focused and make sure not to fall. You can either do really well or fail miserably. Our worldwide network of translators consists of linguists who have passed the ‘Textcase test’. This test consists of a short text that can be translated in an infinite amount of ways. It’s a creative text with multiple layers and pitfalls. I’ve read more than a hundred English-Dutch translations and every single one is unique. (Read this article in Dutch here and in German here) What makes for a good translation? In this article, I will go into the three main identifiable aspects, in order of importance: accuracy, readability and style. 1. A translation must be accurate. This means that the message needs to be conveyed fully, without any omissions or additions or changes to the meaning. In order to do so, a translator must have a profound understanding of the cultures of both the source language and the target language. Examples of challenges: – Cultural subtleties, such as slang, dialects, stereotypes and figurative speech. We use language as a means to manipulate and work with our environment and circumstances. Since both the environment and the people are different in every region, language has borders. Translator Antony Shugaar described this issue beautifully in The New York Times Opinionator last week: “People talk about untranslatable words, but in a way, there’s no such thing. It may take three words, or an entire sentence, or... read more

Domain Choices for International Websites

How do you set up a well-structured multilingual website? This is question pops up frequently, but it’s difficult to answer. The truth is that there really is no right or wrong. That said, I have nevertheless seen a lot of businesses make the wrong choices. An important decision is which URL structure and domain name to choose. I will investigate this subject further in this blog. SEO SEO (search engine optimization) depends on multiple factors. Although these factors change continuously, one of the principle determinants for achieving a high position in the search results is still the URL and path name (everything behind the slash). Exact matches between the URL and the search term will always lead to higher rankings. But how do you use this information for a multilingual website? Do you decide on one domain name with translation pages behind the slash or do you use a separate domain name for every individual country? Below I will describe the aspects to take in account. Determine your target region Setting geographic parameters is important. In which countries and in how many languages do you want your website or web shop to be found? Once these have been specified, first thing you need to do is determine what regions you are targeting. In how many countries and what languages do you want your website or web shop to be found?  Once you have decided, you can determine how large your website needs to be and assess how you will structure your  international website. URL structure Your next important decision concerns the URL structure. Will you use ‘geo-targeting’ and set up... read more

10 Book Translation Tips for Self-Publishers

Self-publishing is exciting, and having your book translated can make it even more exciting. As a translation project manager, I work with major publishers and self-publishing authors. In this article I will point out how the translation process can be both effective and enjoyable. (Read this blog in Dutch here and in German here) 1. Consider language service providers that are specialized in book translations. They have a valuable international network of translators, writers, editors and publishers; they can easily find the right translator for you: someone who is excited about your book. Also, the agency can help you market your book at little or no extra cost.  2. Make sure your manuscript is definite and does not need updating. It is practically impossible and risky to change or even slightly modify the content once the translation process has started.  3. It is worth inquiring about royalty-based agreements. Sometimes it is possible to cover part of the translation costs this way. Another option is to consider crowdfunding – it has been done before. Our translation prices for 10.000+ words, for Western languages, range between $0.09-$0.12 per word, which includes editing rounds and project management. Lower prices could compromise quality and may be too good to be true. Agencies are not always more expensive than freelancers, as explained in point 7 of this article.  4. Before you give the job to anyone, ask the following question to the language service provider: what do you consider a good translation? It’s important that you are on the same page with the language service provider in order to prevent being disappointed. Our professional... read more
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