CETRAblog Has Moved

9 Jun

CETRAblog is now incorporated in CETRA’s main website. Current subscribers, please renew your subscription at http://info.cetra.com/blog. Thanks and happy reading! Jiri

The Importance of Foreign Language Education

29 May

United States today carries new responsibilities in many quarters of the globe, and we are at a serious disadvantage because of the difficulty of finding persons who can deal with the foreign language problem.
                -U.S Secretary of State John Foster Dulles in 1953

For the United States to get to where it needs to be will require a national commitment to strengthening America’s foreign language proficiency.
                -CIA Director Leon Panetta

Today’s operating environment demands a much greater degree of language and regional expertise requiring years, not weeks, of training and education, as well as a greater understanding of the factors that drive social change.
                -Quadrennial Defense Review February 2010

It’s clear to all of us that schools, colleges, and universities need to invest more and smarter in linguistic instruction.
                -U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

We must support programs that cultivate interest in and scholarship in foreign languages and inter cultural affairs, including international exchange programs. This will allow citizens to build connections with people overseas and develop skills and contacts that will help them thrive in a global economy.
                -National Security Strategy May 2010

Our nation’s 21st century needs for Americans with global competence are much broader and deeper than anytime in our history—in many more languages and cultures, and across most professions.  Global competence must become part of our education system’s core mission, beginning in the earliest grades through graduate school. 
                -Miriam A. Kazanjian, Coalition for International Education

FLAP (Foreign Language Assistance Program) is a significant contribution to providing our students with the global language competencies and awareness, they, and our nation, must have to survive and prosper in the 21st Century.
                -Dr. J. David Edwards, Executive Director of the Joint National Committee for Languages

The United States is a “linguistically malnourished” country compared with many other nations.
                -Senator Paul Simon in the Tongue Tied American, 1980

You should be thinking about how can your child become bilingual. We should have every child speaking more than one language.
                -President Obama, 2008

Google Translate API Closes Down

27 May

The Google Translate API has been officially deprecated as of May 26, 2011. Due to the substantial economic burden caused by extensive abuse, the number of requests the users may make per day will be limited and the API will be shut off completely on December 1, 2011.

More information is available on the Google Translate API site.

78 Priority Languages in the US: Less Commonly Taught But Critical

25 May

Section 601(c)(1) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) requires that the consult with Federal agency heads in order to receive recommendations regarding areas of national need for expertise in foreign languages and world regions. The Secretary may take those recommendations into account when identifying areas of national need for the International Education Programs authorized by Title VI of the HEA and administered by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE). See HEA, Sec. 601(c) (20 U.S.C. 1121 (c)). What follows are the seventy-eight priority languages that are less commonly taught, as identified by the Secretary:

  1. Akhan (Twi-Fante)
  2. Albanian
  3. Amharic
  4. Arabic (all dialects)
  5. Armenian
  6. Azeri (Azerbaijani)
  7. Balochi
  8. Bamanakan (Bamana, Bambara, Mandikan, Mandingo, Maninka, Dyula)
  9. Belarusian
  10. Bengali (Bangla)
  11. Berber (all languages)
  12. Bosnian
  13. Bulgarian
  14. Burmese
  15. Cebuano (Visayan)
  16. Chechen
  17. Chinese, Cantonese
  18. Chinese, Gan
  19. Chinese, Mandarin
  20. Chinese, Min
  21. Chinese, Wu
  22. Croatian
  23. Dari
  24. Dinka
  25. Georgian
  26. Gujarati
  27. Hausa
  28. Hebrew, Modern
  29. Hindi
  30. Igbo
  31. Indonesian
  32. Japanese
  33. Javanese
  34. Kannada
  35. Kashmiri
  36. Kazakh
  37. Khmer (Cambodian)
  38. Kirghiz
  39. Korean
  40. Kurdish ¡V Kumanji
  41. Kurdish ¡V Sorani
  42. Lao
  43. Malay (Bahasa Melayu or Malaysian)
  44. Malayalam
  45. Marathi
  46. Mongolian
  47. Nepali
  48. Oromo
  49. Panjabi
  50. Pashto
  51. Persian (Farsi)
  52. Polish
  53. Portuguese
  54. Quechua
  55. Romanian
  56. Russian
  57. Serbian
  58. Sinhala (Sinhalese)
  59. Somali
  60. Swahili
  61. Tagalog
  62. Tajik
  63. Tamil
  64. Telugu
  65. Thai
  66. Tibetan
  67. Tigrigna
  68. Turkish
  69. Turkmen
  70. Ukrainian
  71. Urdu
  72. Uyghur/Uigur
  73. Uzbek
  74. Vietnamese
  75. Wolof
  76. Xhosa
  77. Yoruba
  78. Zulu

Poorly Translated Web Content Alienates European Internet Users

24 May

By Matt Train, TranslateMedia

Europe is a significant frontier for businesses, particularly those involved in e-commerce. Recent figures have shown that 24.2% of the world’s Internet users come from the European Union. Germany has the most European web surfers with 65.1 million users, followed by Russia with 59.7 million users, and then the UK with 51.4 million users. The total figure for European Internet users is 475 million, which represents a remarkable 352% growth since 2000.

A recent survey by the EU Eurobarometer, however, has indicated that European web users are frustrated by a lack of native language content. According to the latest research, over half of all European Internet surfers use a language other than their native tongue when online, with 44% of those surveyed stating that this was a barrier to truly understanding the online content.

Read more…

Translation Bloopers: Debt Bather

23 May

Thanks to Rina Ne’eman for bringing this gem to my attention. Source: http://mysite.verizon.net/~maeir/WorstTranslatedSign.jpg

ALC 2011: Contractor versus Employee

21 May

The Association of Language Companies (ALC) puts on its annual conference in Las Vegas on May 18-21, 2011.

Contractor vs. Employee: Introduction to the Contract Interpreter Information Center (CIIC)
Bill Graeper (Certified Languages Internationals), Vic Marcus (Northwest Interpreters, Inc.), Francesco Pagano (Interpreters and Translators, Inc.)

Vic Marcus, Bill Graeper, Francesco Pagano, Kristin Quinlan

Interpreters as Independent Contractors or Employees – this has been a hot topic for several years as federal, state, and local taxing bodies look to increase their revenue to help balance budgets.

  • “Misclassification” is a hot topic, not only in the US, but also in Canada and Europe
  • Many industries are targeted; construction industry in particular
  • Who is after us? Federal and state government agencies facing budget crises and shortfalls; the primary purpose is tax collection; the primary focus is on Employment and Workers’ Comp
  • Translators and interpreters by and large want to be independent contractors
  • Bill Graeper has a blog on this issue at www.contractinterpreters.com

Contract Interpreter Information Center

  • Includes translators
  • Purpose: to promote contractor business model
  • It is an informational website; focus: use of contractors in the language services industry, industry advocacy and support; education for all stakeholders
  • Founding members: Certified Languages International, Northwest Interpreters, Interpreters and Translators, languagelink, Dynamic Language
  • When audited, hire a professional (attorney specializing in labor law), reach out to CIIC members for assistance, be proactive – note reactive

The Connecticut Story

  • In 1999, Interpreters and Translators, Inc. (ITI) was audited by the CT Department of Labor
  • Audit was successful and the DoL conducted two more audits the next two years; audits were also successful
  • In 2008, an interpreter made a claim for unemployment
  • The DoL came back and requested records of all independent contractors; ITI hired an attorney
  • ITI’s attorney found a similar case: Daws Critical Care Registry vs. State of Connecticut Department of Labor (CT Supreme Court case, cited in other states as well)
  • The DoL reclassified the contractor with a claim as ITI’s employee and attempted to reclassify all interpreters used by ITI; the process took several years
  • Citing the Daws Critical Care Registry case, ITI’s attorney was able to change the DoL’s attitude

Lessons Learned

  • Keep your records clean by abiding with state and federal requirements for proper classification
  • If you sense any heat, contact and retain an attorney right away
  • Don’t allow any attorney to tell you “let it go”
  • Encourage your contractors to get a business license

ALC 2011: Translation Technology – What’s Missing?

21 May

The Association of Language Companies (ALC) puts on its annual conference in Las Vegas on May 18-21, 2011.

Translation Technology: What’s Missing?
Jost Zetzsche  (International Writers Group)

Where are we with our use of translation technology? We all would agree that while technology plays an important role in our workflows, there could be so much more. Who is at fault? Are we too hesitant to implement existing technology, or are we waiting for technology that is not available yet? And if it’s not available, what’s missing?

Available technologies which do not intersect very much (if at all):

  • CAT technology
    • Translation memory
    • File processing
    • Terminology management
    • Quality assurance
    • Project/Workflow management
    • Machine translation

Need for open systems:

  • Open, readily accessible APIs
  • Server-based workflows
    • The “new” capture technology
    • Common web service exchange standards

Data exchange standards:

  • XLIFF used as an internal exchange standard; has failed to be a true exchange standard due to extensibility
  • Hope on the horizon (?): Interoperability Now organization; “Melby/Lommel project”

Machine translation:

  • MT developers need to understand our processes
  • Integration into TM and terminology processes is needed

“Lossless Roundtripping”:

  • Between translators, editors, proofreaders, desktop publishers, project managers…
  • Representation of the latest state of the project in TM

External data:

  • EU resources, TAUS, etc.
  • Little true integration
  • No common or easily implementable ontology


  • Completely integrated term extraction and processing needed
  • Currently a painful, manual process
  • Understanding the value of terminology: need to define field of translation terminologists
  • Morphological tool kits – available only for the most common languages; University of Illinois project has some potential

Cloud vs. Desktop:

  • Bridging the connection problem (translators are not always online to work with web-based tools; a hybrid system could be a solution)
  • No feature parity in user interface; common word processing features missing


  • Quote from a tool vendor: “It’s really quite magical technology when you see it work” – The reality is that technology is not magic, it’s data processing
  • We need to give the tool vendors reasons to implement the changes and introduce technologies that we need

The business case:

  • Lose the Good Guy vs. Bad Guy image; Microsoft and other companies are in the game for business
  • Make strategic investments

See Jost’s presentation in pdf format.

ALC 2011: Mergers and Acquisitions

20 May

The Association of Language Companies (ALC) puts on its annual conference in Las Vegas on May 18-21, 2011.

Mergers and Acquisitions
Moderator: Shamus Sayed (Interpreters Unlimited); Panelists: Sayed Ali (Interpreters Unlimited) and Michael Sank (TransPerfect)

Michael Sank and Sayed Ali


Nearly one-fourth of ALC member company owners are looking to acquire, and another one fourth are looking to be acquired (if the price is right). What do you need to consider if you are planning on acquiring another company or selling your own?

Q: How do you value your business? A (Michael): TransPerfect looks at M&A as an investment, therefore the valuation is based on cash flow – multiple of annual EBITDA. Depends on the growth rate of the company; want to break even in about 4 years. A (Sayed): Also looking at multiples of cash flow; age of the business; intellectual property. Looking also at comparable sales, and the top line.

Q: Who does recasting of the financials (in cases when a non-contributing spouse is on the salary etc)? A (Michael): It’s a mutual exercise to figure out the true long-term cash flow. Typically presented by the seller and the buyer goes through it with the seller then to determine the long-term sustainable cash flow.

Q: Is there a value put on long-term contracts? A (Sayed): Yes, if it is five or more years.

Q: What are you seeing in the market for guaranteed compensation and earn-outs? A (Michael): In our case we want people to stay on. Typically 50% is paid upfront and the rest over 3 years (could be more than 50% if things go well).

Q: Do you offer equity position? A (Michael): No. A (Sayed): We are open to that. Tied to certain goals.

Q: Is there a particular revenue size you are looking for? A (Michael): Only about 10% of our growth is from acquisitions. We are not trying to do a roll-up. $10 million is a good size, can be bigger or smaller. Interested in specialist companies. Transaction and opportunity cost needs to be considered. Typically look for $5 million as a starting point, but will consider $2-3 million as well.

Q: Do you consider corporate culture in acquisitions? A (Sayed): Very high on our list. Culture is the reality. A (Michael): Yes, it is a “relationship thing.” We are in people business.

Q: How does client concentration affect the valuation: A (Sayed): We are looking for 15% or less for client concentration (no client accounts for more of 15% in revenues).

Q: How about contracts in preferred class of vendors (e.g., minority owned business)? A (Sayed): We can form partnerships where the seller retains equity portion to retain the status.

Q: Are you looking at acquisitions outside of the US? A (Michael): About half or our acquisitions are abroad. A (Sayed): We are looking at an acquisition in Eastern Europe right now.

Q: Does it matter if the business model is B2B or B2C? A (Michael): We are a B2B company but will look at anything. A (Sayed): Same here.

Q: Is there one single thing we can do the increase EBITDA? A (Michael): Be a fast-growing company (but of course then you are not interested in selling…).

Q: How does TransPerfect integrate acquired companies? A (Michael): We try to go as light as possible on integration, try to keep the unit intact. We integrate accounting functions etc., but are not looking at relocating the acquired company or changing its structure.

Q: How do you reassure the seller in earn-out situation that your interests will be aligned when pursuing a certain revenue levels for particular clients? A (Michael): Sometime it’s a leap of faith. Due diligence is needed. A (Sayed): We want to have a win-win scenario; will have the seller be in a position to maintain existing relationships with the clients.

Q: Does ISO certification adds or decreases value? A (Michael): I don’t know why it would decrease it, the question is whether it increases value. If the processes are followed, it is likely to add value.

Q: What is the range for EBITDA multiples in our industry? A (Michael): Broad range is 4-6 multiple of EBITDA.

Q: What do you do in HR and IP during the due diligence process? A (Sayed): Background check on key individuals. Our focus in on financial performance as it relates to IP, employee agreements, human capital. A (Michael): Sometimes we do simple background check. Our due diligence is that we meet the seller. We like to meet the key employees before LOI is in place. We don’t value IP too much, we mostly look at service companies – there is no separate valuation.

ALC 2011: ASTM International Committee F43 for Language Services and Products

20 May

The Association of Language Companies (ALC) puts on its annual conference in Las Vegas on May 18-21, 2011.

Language Industry – Our Time is Now, Part 2: ASTM International Committee F43 for Language Services and Products
Kathleen Diamond (Advocate, language and Entrepreneurship; CCHI Commissioner; Membership Secretary, ASTM-F43 Language Services and Products)

  • ASTM: founded in 1898, now the largest US-based international voluntary consensus standards writing organization; independent, private sector, non-profit
  • Over 3000 AST M International standards are used as the basis for national standards by reference in regulation in over 60 countries
  • First meeting of F43 held in February 2011; anyone can become a member of the committee
  • Balance of interest is important: producers but also users and general interest (academics, government, private sector)
  • Over 140 Technical Committees (languages used to be in F15 before F43 was created)
  • Very structured process: main committee, sub-committees, task groups
  • F43 received COTCO approval in September 2010; will maintain standards previously in F15
  • Broad scope: development of standards for language services and products
  • Six sub-committees: Interpreting, foreign language instruction, translation, language proficiency, executive, US TAG to ISO/TC 232, US TAG to ISO/TC37
  • Chairman Bill Rivers
  • F43 URL: www.astm.org/commit/committee/F43.htm