In early June, along with 650 other participants I attended the 31st Localisation Conference, known as LocWorld, at the Convention Centre in Ireland’s capital, Dublin. The theme was “Engaging Global Customers” and, as is usual in the LocWorld meetings, the focus was on such topics as computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools, machine translation, client-vendor relations, and quality management.
With the Brexit debate in full swing and an ever-changing business climate, keynote speaker Paul O’Dea’s message that “now is the best time in the history of the world for transformation” sounded particularly plausible. Now that the decision has been made in Britain to exit, there are plenty of new opportunities for businesses in the fast-growing translation and interpreting world to respond to.
The main aim of attending a conference of this nature is to keep up to date with the latest technology developments, and I noted that automated quality control tools were a major item on the agenda this time around. Machine translation (MT) is widely accepted amongst the larger language companies these days, and the biggest challenge for MT is probably that of improving quality while keeping costs to a minimum – and delivering large volumes of content within extremely short deadlines. The automated QA checking tools being offered are one answer to this, and we can expect to see these becoming ever more sophisticated.
There was only one other New Zealander at the conference, but Australia was well-represented by a very innovative company called Canva, who are embarking on a global growth strategy using a 20-language website. They outlined some of the challenges inherent in such an ambitious target, and gave some useful pointers on the way, including the advice to iron out issues relating to content and terminology before proceeding with your web localisation.
Another common theme nowadays is agile workflow and delivery. This allows simultaneous shipment (“sim ship”) of translated content to be achieved by feeding smaller batches of daily work through to translation suppliers, rather than working on just two or three very large localisation projects in a year. This means that website content, product manuals etc can be published in multiple languages at the same time (or close to the same time) as the source text version. At NZTC we have several customers who work in this way, and both sides find it more efficient and manageable than dealing with the peaks and troughs that can be harder to gear resources to.
The large numbers attending this conference from all continents, the many product and service vendors exhibiting, and the wide range of topics presented, all suggest that our industry is robust, responsive and enterprising.
Following the conference I enjoyed my first look around the Republic of Ireland or Poblacht na hÉireann. It's a lively and varied place, with friendly and down-to-earth people. There are tourists everywhere, noticeably many Americans coming in search of their Irish roots. At 4.75 million, the population is just a shade larger than that of New Zealand, but in an area of only 70,273 km2 compared to our expansive 268,021 km2.
Ireland has a very strong and clear identity as an autonomous nation that has earned its independence through long struggle. It has its own indigenous language, which is clearly acknowledged everywhere you go on the bilingual road signs. It seems to feel comfortable as part of Europe and the globalised world. The country’s leader, Enda Kenny, is referred to in the English-language press by the title Taoiseach (pronounced “tee-shuk”) and the Parliament is known as the Dáil. The Euro is the currency used. And yet this country shares its island home with Northern Ireland, still part of the UK.
You can watch local Irish TV, including an Irish-language channel. But you can also watch the BBC, ITV etc. Sitting in Ireland you can see the BBC weather forecast covering England and Northern Ireland, but almost studiously ignoring the weather in the rest of the island. Similarly you can read the English newspapers in Ireland. So as an outsider you can't help thinking, what land am I actually in? Europe, United Kingdom, British Isles?
To compound this feeling, just as I was starting to get a very rudimentary glimpse of how Irish Gaelic works and sounds as a language, I arrived in Wales by ferry. There the road signage is still in two languages, but this time the signs are in English and Welsh, which is a totally different language from Gaelic! You also have to put away all your monarch-free Euro notes and get out your English pound notes and coins, with their image of the Queen. You also have to re-adjust from the universal kilometres used in Ireland back to the dated and provincial “miles” signposted on the roads in England. Incidentally, the most widely spoken language in Ireland after English is Polish, with Irish in third place.
Visiting some of our customers and partners during the rest of my trip, it was encouraging to see the dynamism of some of the globally active companies we serve in areas such as IT, agriculture and engineering, and the professionalism and dedication of the language service providers from many countries that we work in partnership with on a daily basis.