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How can translation agencies make the most of online localization platforms? Jan Hinrichs from Beluga Linguistics sheds some light on the subject.

Posted by Estelle on January 16, 2018

Jan Hinrichs, Founder and CEO at Beluga Linguistics

WTI: What gave you interest in the translation business and for how long have you been running a translation agency?
J.H.: I came to translation through my work at XING, a company my brother founded back in 2004. I helped him to translate the website into Spanish first and in the two following years I was actively involved in the management of the translation process into another 15 languages and as a country manager for Spain. In 2006, in agreement with XING’s management, my wife and I founded Beluga after realising that we could run the translation part better as a standalone company.

WTI: Can you tell us what kind of companies your are mainly working with?
J.H.: With XING as our first client we moved ahead and were lucky enough to get in touch over the years with companies like Last.fm, Moo, Bebo, Lookout, Swatch, MyTaxi, Tinder, Adroll and other high profile companies from tech and global brands. Our experience in setting up and running translation teams for fast moving companies has been a perfect match for businesses with ongoing translation needs for their digital content.

WTI: You are specialized in software translation. Which kind of software are you mainly working on?
J.H.: Apps, websites, blogs, dashboards, help center, emails, support content, etc.

WTI: You are our oldest customer, when did you start thinking about using an online localization tool?
J.H.: Online translation tools have been key for companies with ongoing translation workflows ever since SaaS was invented. Social networks spearheaded this development.
At XING we had built up a homegrown editor which helped us to scale easily and run daily updates. When we on-boarded new clients later on, we found ourselves building up editors with our clients internal staff again and again. It was very time consuming and the success depended heavily on the resources our clients were able/willing to dedicate to the process. It was time to get an independent third party tool in the middle.
We briefly launched an open source editor called FIT but this project unfortunately died because of lack of volunteers. 
Through Last.fm - which was our third client back in 2006 and who’ve been trusting us for more than a decade with their localization process - we got to know Edouard, who at the time worked at Last.fm and helped us get the editor working there. When we pitched him to join the project he came up with a better idea: WebTranslateIt! We were lucky enough to be the first ones to benefit from his unique skills and could roll out many projects through this platform.

WTI: How did WTI improve the translation process for you?
J.H.: The support and responsiveness of the WTI team has been just great and has allowed us to solve obstacles in our projects within no time. We can easily set up projects for our clients without any technical personnel involved. When technical knowhow is needed and we can’t help any more the WTI team is always there to solve potential issues.

WTI: How exactly do you use WTI? Do you centralize all of the projects of your customers? Or do you have them open their own account and then handle the translation process for them through their account?
J.H.: We usually help our clients to open their own accounts and onboard ourselves as managers within their account to help them with the setting up. While they connect via api with their repositories we manage the human part of the process.

WTI: What kind of feedback do your translators give you about WTI?
J.H.: WTI is one of those editors that is easy to use, stable and that gives translators most of the things they need. Something what we do miss a bit at WTI is a segmentation on a sentence level to process fuzzy matches better. Currently there are only suggestions but the stats do not bear them in mind.

WTI: And we will certainly be working on that. Because of the way we communicate on diverse media and platforms, the content that must be localized is always evolving and needs to be turned around rapidly, do you have a lot of customers using WTI to provide continuous delivery in localization and what do they think of the process?
J.H.: 90% of our projects are ongoing projects that require a platform like WTI and thanks to the synchronisation tool the process is pretty smooth.

WTI: A growing trend to meet the challenges of the localization of constantly evolving content is machine translation post-editing (MTPE), our platform allows its use as well. Do you rely a lot on MTPE or do you prefer to have translators issue a first translation before proofreading?
J.H.: Machine translation has made a major step forward a year ago when Google launched their Neural Machine Translation (NMT) engine. We have seen a big jump in quality. We can’t use MT for everything but it is already a great help to speed up translation work. We usually enable MT results to be shown in the suggestions from WTI. The translators can then decide if they want to use them or not. Paired with adaptive NMT translators get more productive and can do more in less time.
It is important to understand as well that MT can help translate content that couldn’t be translated by human translators because of time or cost constraints (Microsoft or the EU have been working with MT for years because of the vast amounts of content they need to publish). Today Neural Machine Translation engines do offer in certain contexts very good results a human only need to edit slightly. I believe that in near future many initial translations will mostly be done by NMT and human translators will concentrate on post editing and higher level translations with more impact.

Do you need professional help translating your website, software or app? Or simply want to stay tuned to Jan’s outlook on translation and localization? Follow him on: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Medium.


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An ever-lasting issue for multilingual websites: which language icon?

Posted by Edouard on October 13, 2017

Finding a simple visual cue that can be inserted on your front page to notify your users that your website is available in several languages is a tough problem to solve. Here are 4 classic ways to implement a language switcher, plus a lesser known way.

1. Just listing your languages

The most simple and effective way to let people switch language is to just list the languages you support. This is what Facebook does that and so do we. People expect this list to be in your footer, and the languages should be listed in their original, non-translated names. English for English, Français for French, Deutsch for German, etc.

Pros & Cons

On the upside, your users will eventually find a language that they know if it’s listed there.

The downside is that it takes up a lot of space in your design, so you might be temped to only use this on your landing page. Facebook trims it to the list of the most used languages and adds a “plus sign” to view all their supported languages.

2. A language dropdown menu

You can also insert a drop-down menu set by default on the current language, like English for instance. This is what Stripe does this for instance.

Pros & Cons

On the upside, it takes up less space in the footer compared to the previous solution.

The downside is that it lacks clarity for a user browsing the website in a language that he doesn’t know. As you can see on the image below I would get lost on the Chinese version of Stripe’s website 😅

This is where an icon helping foreign users identify the language switcher would come handy.

3. A language dropdown menu using country flags

Some multilingual websites who make the choice of using an icon often use a country flag which changes with your choice of language. This is how Slack does it for instance.

Pros & Cons

On the upside colorful flags attract attention. They also are universally known and people understand that they might be able to change some kind of regional setting here.

The downside is clear: country flags represent countries, not languages and some users won’t like it. Users visiting your website from the United Kingdom may not like to see the stars and stripes banner. Also, an American user might not like to see the Union Jack banner. Besides, English isn’t the only language spoken in UK. What about Welsh, Scottish, Gaelic? Basically, you may hurt people’s sensitivity.

4. A language dropdown menu using neutral icons

Designing an icon conveying the meaning of “Changing Language” is hard. Popular choices are icons of a globe, or a flag, or a globe in a flag, as Apple does.

Pictures of “exotic” characters such as 文 are popular too. This is what Google and Microsoft use in their user interfaces.

Pros & Cons

The upside is that while these icons are clearly visible, they won’t hurt anyone’s sensitivity.

The downside is that these icons aren’t unified across software vendors so it might be difficult for a user to identify quickly and precisely what this icon means unlike the hamburger button or cog icon which are now known by many people using computer interfaces.

Now, wouldn’t it be nice if there was an widespread, already existing user interface icon that conveys the idea of changing languages? Well, you know what? There kind of is.

The language Icon project

The language icon project attempts to change that. The language icon icon was designed during a competition in 2011.

The initiative is very interesting and the design clever.

Some could argue that this design, if never seen before, might not straight away be perceived as a language icon, but it surely would if it was used more by software vendors.

It is meant to be used for commercial and non-commercial projects. It was released under a CC license with following terms: Relax-Attribution. It means that if you use it, you are suggested but not required to attribute the work to its creator when using for internet or digital use.

If software vendors were to use it more, it would become the norm like our beloved hamburger button, and it would become an obvious choice for any developer when localizing their software.

And who knows, maybe an even better Language Icon or —even better— an Emoji defining “Change Language” will pop up one day?



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Translate large chunks of code with ease

Posted by Edouard on November 16, 2011

Strings sometimes contain quite a lot of untranslatable content. URLs, HTML tags, code… For translators, translating these strings really are a pain, because the content is not translatable, but there also shouldn’t be any mistakes while retyping it.

I just released an update that should make translating strings containing untranslatable content more fun. Let’s have a look at how it works.

Let’s consider this string. It contains quite a lot of code.

Open the string’s form. It makes code clickable.

Click on the code and it will be pasted to the translation box. It’s that easy!

Here’s a quick video showing how this feature works


I hope you will find this improvement useful. Thank you for using WebTranslateIt!

New embeddable charts

Posted by Edouard on October 21, 2011

We’ve had embeddable charts for years now, but it was then only possible to embbed them for public projects (these are projects have all pages accessible to the public and allowing visitors to apply as a translator).

We now have new charts embeddable for just any project. Here’s mine:

You’ll find the new charts in your project settings, under “Goodies”.

Get the most out of developer comments

Posted by Edouard on September 21, 2011

Developer comments are instructions or help for translators left by developers in a locale file.

They are very different from regular comments. Comments are meant to be used for discussion, whereas developer comments as meant to be used for leaving a brief instruction to a translator.

When importing most language files, WebTranslateIt automatically extracts these developer comments and displays them in the translation interface, so they are visible to translators.

You can author or edit a developer comment from the web interface. Click on the “option” button, then “Details” (keyboard shortcut: press the d key after selecting a string).

A modal window appears and lets you type a comment. The length of a developer comment is limited to 140 characters to force you to keep your message short: these instructions should convey the idea quickly to translators.

Advanced features

Did you know you can upload and attach screenshots to developer comments to illustrate your comment? Use it to upload a screenshot of your app to show where a string is located, for instance.

Perhaps the killer feature is that developer comments are formatted using Markdown. The Markdown syntax allows you can create links, display images… the possibilities are almost limitless.

In this example, I used the markdown syntax to display an image inline.

Now, here’s real-life example: one of our users pushed the usefulness of this feature even further. They use WebTranslateIt to translate a list of products for an online shop pulled from their database. They wanted to convey more context to translators: how different is this shoe look compared to this other shoe?

They had the idea of programmatically format their developer comments so a small thumbnail representing their product is displayed on the translation interface for each string. Is there a better way to give context to a translator than that?