Monthly Archives: July 2011

How Facebook translates their website

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Since 2008 Facebook has been “crowdsourcing” the translation of their website to Facebook users.  Crowdsourcing is outsourcing a task to the general public or “crowd” and Facebook does this through their translation app.  Since then over 300,000 Facebook users have helped translate Facebook into 70 different languages.

Facebook members first translate key Facebook phrases from English into whichever language they choose.  These are short sentences like,



Once all those phrases have been completed, users can then vote up the translations that they think are best and vote down the others.   In this case the Magyar translation of the common “like” function.






There’s even a discussion forum where users can discuss which words and phrases work best.  I read a very interesting discussion on whether or not; “poke”, “saluer” or “piquer” should be used as the French Canadian replacement for the classic Facebook action of “poking.”

This was another brilliant idea from Facebook, not only do they get their website translated for free by native translators, they also promote user engagement and investment in Facebook.  By contributing to the development of Facebook, users gain a sense of ownership in Facebook.

While crowdsourcing can work well for translating short and simple phrases, when it comes to more technical language, a certified and degree holding translator should be used.


Working with Translators

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Companies invest significant resources in crafting the right message to the public and potential clients.  So when it comes time to have that message translated in order to reach a global audience, companies need to be sure they get a proper and effective translation.

Too often companies that should know better fail to realize that their translator becomes the voice and face of their company and simply ship out the translation to the lowest bidder.  You can check out a post on the more humorous mistranslations here:

Notice how large recognizable companies made those mistakes. These companies invested greatly in these campaigns but a poor translation turned those campaigns into an embarrassment.

The key is to work with your translator, provide them with the details that will create an effective translation.  These are things like the intended audience and location.  A Quebec logging company and a Parisian software firm don’t speak the same French.  Give the translator as much information on your target demographic as you can; this will help the translator localize their work.  When it comes to working with a translator, the more you contribute in terms of guidance and information, the more effective the translation will be.

AZ World specializes in these types of localized and collaborative translations.  By only using native translators we can ensure that our translations help your business and don’t become a counter-productive embarrassment.

Interpretation Information Part III: Helpful Guidelines

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These few simple guidelines can significantly improve your interpretation experience and help ensure you meet your business trip goals.

Before the meeting or presentation

  • Send your interpreter any materials or information that can help them become more acquainted with your business and trip goals as well as a more specific agenda regarding the meeting or presentation they will be interpreting
  • Discuss beforehand what you expect from the interpreter and to review your presentation
  • Ensure that the interpreter will just interpret, and won’t add any of their own comments or views

During the meeting or presentation:

  • Don’t speak towards your interpreter but instead direct your words at the other party as you would in English.
  • Change your speech, make it simpler so the interpreter can get the right ideas across without any confusion
  • Avoid conversational idioms that the interpreter may not be familiar with  and  interpret verbatim
  • Bring along written material to your meeting that may be more easily understood than the interpreted message
  • If using a consecutive interpreter don’t forget that everything must be said twice when managing your time

As your interpreter becomes more familiar with your business they become an even more valuable tool, so keep in touch with them and use them again if you are planning a return trip.  We hope this series has helped you understand the advantages of interpretation services.

Interpretation Information Part II: The Advantages of Interpreters

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Last time we discussed which type of interpreter you would need for your trip, now let’s discuss the advantages of bringing your own interpreter.

When meeting with someone there are generally three scenarios with regards to interpretation.  The first is that there is no interpreter, perhaps one your hosts says he speaks English as a second language so an interpreter will not be necessary.  While this may be the case you want your hosts to be able to concentrate on the content of your message not the interpretation of your message.  Furthermore, the one’s calling the shots may not speak English so your proposal rests on what the one English speaker decides to tell them.

The second is that your hosts say that you do not need to bring your own interpreter because they can provide a company interpreter.  This may seem inexpensive and convenient, but it can cost you in the long run.  The company translator may not be well versed in the lexicon of your particular business area and you may not have time to go over what will be said before the meeting or presentation.  The possibility of miscommunication is much higher.  Consider also that if you were planning on meeting with several companies, it is more efficient to prepare one interpreter well rather than attempt to quickly brief a different company interpreter at every meeting.

The best option is to bring your own interpreter.  When hiring your own interpreter you have the opportunity to prepare them well and ensure that they know your business goals.  Let your hosts know well in advance that you will provide an interpreter.  If they insist otherwise be tactful and insist that the interpreter is simply because of the more technical nature of the language being used.  Your own interpreter allows you to control the message and puts you on an equal footing with your hosts in the language arena.  It prevents your message from being at the mercy of someone whom may not have your best interests at heart.

In the next post we will discuss simple ways of making the most out of your interpreter.