Archive for November, 2010

Some stats

We just got a word that Translated.net came up with an index that, according to them, reflects the market share of each language on the Internet. It doesn’t exactly look very accurate: everything between the input data and the resulting numbers is basically guesses and rough approximations (“if everyone in Switzerland spoke German, and if it were the poorest who didn’t use the Internet, and if personal income equaled GDP per capita with income distribution percentages factored in, then…”). Its value as a tool for choosing languages into which a company website should be translated is also limited: businesses normally pick geographical markets, then provide materials in the local language(s), not the other way around, though we can think of a few exceptions.

Still, the index deserves a thumbs up, if only because someone other than CSA has made an attempt to analyze large-scale data and make conclusions relevant to the translation market. Way to go.

While we are at it, comScore has published some fresh research on U.S. online Hispanic consumers. Stats of interest to those working in the En <> Es pair:

  • More than half (52 percent) of U.S. Hispanics online prefer English as their primary language, with 26.1 percent choosing bilingual and 21.9 percent preferring Spanish as their primary language.
  • When asked about Hispanic-themed advertising, approximately 50 percent of Hispanic online consumers prefer the advertisement to be in English, while 28 percent have no language preference.

Also, The Global Language Monitor’s annual Top Words list is out. Yes, refudiate is there. So, too, is Lady Gaga, which is sad but was predictable.


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This week the translation world has been busy tearing apart Lionbridge for its crimes against humanity, this time in the form of an attempt to fool freelancers into cutting down their rates. Heated discussion is a good thing, and not only as a venting tool: the less confident and experienced among us will find it easier to resist the arrogant move if they know what others are doing. There is a problem though: the emotional conversation is a bit detached from reality.

Most feedback falls into one of two categories. The first is, let’s voice our indignation and the monster will retreat. Let’s see. A universally hated SLA. A widely criticized translation environment. And now you pay to use it. And are required to reduce your rates. And summoned to their offices to wash the floor. Not yet? You will be. These guys would make Stanley Milgram proud. So you believe they’ll suddenly begin to care about whether you are happy because…?

The other suggested approach is grab some popcorn and watch Lionbridge go broke. Would be nice if the world were that fair. Everybody seems to have forgotten by now, but thebigword did exactly the same two years ago. Citing “current climate,” they “communicate[d] a necessary change in the payment terms <…>: your standard rate will be reduced by 6%.” Two years later, they may not be celebrating record profits, but they are definitely as alive as ever and their BB rating is a decent 4.5. (And they “value [their] industry reputation.”)

Importantly, this is not merely a matter of fairness. Many clients don’t care, but many care enough to avoid an LSP mistreating its suppliers, all else being equal. This brings us to the point that has so far been missing from the discussion: while it looks like nobody at Lionbridge will lose sleep over your departure from their talent pool or your eloquent e-mails to their VP of the Universe, if you bite off a portion of their market share they’ll have to pay attention.

Admittedly, you are unlikely to single-handedly ruin their record-profit-reporting, proprietary-software-imposing, discount-demanding empire, but that is not necessary as small steps add up across the market. Broadly speaking, you need to do two things: (1) make it easier for clients to find you and (2) figure out ways to prove your credibility. For most projects that, in essence, is the entire “all else being equal” part.

Clients are not just metaphysically attracted to agencies. Most of them opt for the line of least resistance when searching and try to avoid responsibility when choosing. So put yourself in front of their eyes (go for a niche to make things easier) and give them something persuasive to tell their boss in case they end up with a screwed-up translation and she demands an explanation (you know the translation will be fine, but they don’t). You will then be in a much better position to negotiate with LB, or any other client for that matter, and this includes the look-where-you-can-stick-your-rate-reduction kind of negotiation, too.

By the way, what on earth is in that SLA that so many people find it a joke?

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