Mozilla frees web browser from mobile language limitations: A Q&A

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I was intrigued to read recently that Mozilla is working on updating the Firefox Android mobile browser, codename Fennec, to allow the browser to offer more languages than the underlying Android system currently supports. Typically, apps leverage language support from the underlying operating system, which can sometimes be limiting. So it’s nice to see Mozilla moving beyond this limitation.

To learn more, I asked Mozilla localization engineer Jeff Beatty a few questions. Here’s what he had to say.

Q: With Fennec, Mozilla is effectively freeing the web browser from the language restrictions of the underlying Android OS. Can you detail roughly how many language Android supports vs. the number of languages Fennec will support?

A: This can be a complicated question, because language support is often very broadly defined. What traditionally determines if an app can be localized in the Android OS is the number of languages the OS itself is localized into. Excluding region codes, the Android source code indicates that Google localizes Android into 46 languages. Device manufacturers will often expand that to upwards of 85 languages. Essentially, any Android device can have localizations for between 46 and approximately 85 languages.

By allowing for language switching within the Firefox for Android browser, we’re able to allow users to select from languages that are not offered on their Android device. There are about 16 volunteer Mozilla localization teams who have translated strings for the browser, but have been unable to see their localizations delivered to Firefox users through the Google Play store. Of these, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Basque, Fulah, and Armenian are on the roadmap to be shipped with the language switching feature in Firefox 32.

Q: How are these additional languages supported by the browser? Specifically, is the language data included in the original install or will data be pulled from the server if the user switches to a language not supported by Android?

A: The language data is included in a multi-locale APK delivered through the Google Play store.

Q: Are there any other localization/culture data dependencies on Android that have proved challenging when it comes to supporting non-Android languages?

A: Absolutely. The language switching piece places us in the right direction, but we’re now confronted with localization issues we haven’t had to encounter before. The benefit of shipping Android-supported languages is that you rarely have to worry about issues with character rendering, Unicode-enabled fonts, ISO locale code support, or in-app region-specific customizations. Now we need to ensure that each of these locales are thoroughly tested for these issues and determine what we can feasibly do to not only support the languages, but also ensure that memory consumption remains low and performance remains high for all users.

Q: Do you have other operating systems planned for this model? For instance, there would be an even greater disparity on iOS that Fennec will address.

A: There are no plans to expand Fennec to ship on iOS. The Flame developer reference phone allows us more freedom to experiment with languages that have never been tested on devices before (like Fulah, certain Indic languages, and indigenous languages in Mexico, for instance). All of these have active localizers and some have even already been using Firefox OS in their language unofficially on localized test / developer builds of Firefox OS.

Q: Finally, was this feature something asked for by users? Do you have any usage data that illustrates demand for a given language/locale that you are now able to support?

A: Users and our volunteer localization community were the primary drivers behind the demand for this feature. Since language coverage is a primary concern for the localization team, we are preparing to meet that demand.

To learn more…




When localizing social content for China, think beyond Facebook and Twitter

So your company is successful on Facebook. And Twitter.

And now you want to expand your social reach into China.

Well, you can pretty much forget Facebook and Twitter, because these services are blocked.

Instead, you’ll need to focus on networks like RenRen, Sina Weibo, and QQ.

If you find this a tad bit intimidating, you’re not alone.

Which is why I was intrigued to come across a company that offers a simple but compelling service for companies wishing to expand their social footprints into China.

I’ll let the visual they provide sum up their service:

KAWO social

The company is KAWO and founder Andrew Collins recently answered a few of my questions…

Q: What social networks do you localize social feeds for in China?

KAWO allows brands to translate and localize their existing social media content from their Facebook and Twitter accounts to their Chinese social media counterparts, RenRen, WeChat, and Sina Weibo, giving brands digital access to over 500 million people where these key Western social media platforms are blocked.

Q: Roughly how long does it take for your localizers to translate a newly created social update in English across to the local feeds?

Although posts can be posted as quickly as 10 minutes, we give brands a 30 minute allowance to manage their posts in case they want to change something. Brands can also directly post on the KAWO dashboard to expedite the process. KAWO has several layers of protection to ensure that all content is in line with the local environment, but this allowance lets brands to have more control over their content.

Q: I’m assuming you work from English to Chinese, but do you also support other source languages?

Currently, we only support English to Chinese (simplified), but we have plans to roll out French, Spanish and German by 2014.

Q: Are all your clients organizations and companies without a local marketing team?

Some do, but almost all of our clients do not have a local on-the-ground team in China.

Q: And if not, why would a company with a local team work with you?

Aside from offering a range of packages that allow brands of all sizes and budgets dip their toes into the China market, we offer an unrivaled level of transparency, control, and protection. KAWO’s dashboard lets brands monitor activity on their accounts as everything is tracked, as well as control content- brands can directly post or take down content. KAWO’s dashboard also streamlines the process by having a central location where content from Facebook and Twitter posts are aggregated and broadcasted on multiple Chinese networks at the same time. KAWO’s multi-layered protection, consisting of both our proprietary technology and human moderation, ensures that potentially harmful words, phrases, and pictures won’t go unnoticed.

Q: I realize your service is quite new but are there any success stories or positive anecdotes you can share?

Table tennis is the largest spectator sport in China, but the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) had almost no presence on Chinese social media. Their Facebook page had great content, but as that is banned in China, it is obviously more difficult for Chinese fans to connect to them. We pulled that content in, translated, localized, and published it, and now ITTF has over 15,000 fans in just two months. Additionally, the Sina Weibo and TenCent accounts for Liverpool FC are already at over 1.5 million fans. In such a short amount of time, companies are definitely getting more bang for their buck.

Q: How much does your service cost?

We offer a range of packages, starting from $199 going to $2995, depending on a company’s needs. Our ‘Lite’ package is perfect for small businesses looking to just dip their toes into the China market and get a feel for the environment. Our most recommended package, ‘Pro,’ is a little more comprehensive: with a ‘Pro’ account, brands, universities, destinations, and personalities can sync their Facebook and Twitter accounts to China’s three top social networks (Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo, and RenRen) and get detailed demographic and competitor analysis. Finally, our ‘Enterprise’ package is the most extensive package. Clients with an ‘Enterprise’ package, ideal for clubs, teams, and large brands, not only have everything detailed in the ‘Pro’ account, but also full marketing support from our team- a dedicated account manager to help with campaigns, contests, and more.

Q: Do your localizers interact with locals in addition to just translating content? And how is this managed so the brand is well served? Also, what if there are customer service questions that need to be handled by corporate?

Our moderators are all local recruits, who are then trained to Internet and social media best practices. Since they know the local environment as well as international best practices for brands, they can gauge what posts are appropriate for China. Additionally, our team, comprised of both local and foreign employees, works closely together to make sure our customers’ needs are met. Our different packages offers varying levels of service as well- our enterprise account, for example, offers a higher level of customer interaction than our light package.

Q: If companies were to pick just one social network to embrace in China, what would you recommend and why?

The digital landscape is very dynamic in China, but Sina Weibo has consistently demonstrated its dominance for the past 2 years, and with its new partnership with e-commerce giant, Alibaba, there are going to be a lot more commercial opportunities for companies.

Q: Finally, can you tell us the significance of your name?

Kicking Asia Wide Open!

Latino Link: Q&A with author Joe Kutchera

Hispanics make up about 15% of the US population, or 45 million people. Not only is this group growing at a faster pace than the national average, but its spending power is poised to reach $1.3 billion by 2014.

With that in mind, Joe Kutchera’s new book — Latino Link: Building Brands Online with Hispanic Communities and Content — is very well timed. Joe built some of Time Warner’s leading web properties including CNNExpansion in Mexico and CNNMoney,, and Warner Bros. Online in the U.S.

His book contains a mix of case studies, data and trends, and expert interviews (including yours truly). Anyone who thinks targeting the Latino community is simply a matter of translation would be wise to read this book. You can download a sample chapter on social media from Joe’s web site. Joe will also be conducting a webinar on the book with Lionbridge later this month.

Here’s a brief Q&A with Joe…

What are the most common mistakes that marketers make when connecting to Latinos online?
One, when you decide to enter the Hispanic or Latin American markets, make a long-term commitment and stick with it. Don’t launch a web site and then exit after the first problem. For example, The Home Depot launched a site in Spanish for U.S. Hispanics and only four months later shut the site down because so many Latin Americans found the site and wanted to make purchases. In contrast, Best Buy found a similar situation but instead accepted international credit cards and encouraged Latin Americans to shop on its U.S. Hispanic site and pick up in-store when Latin Americans were on holiday in the United States.

Two, don’t just offer a straight translation, try to offer culturally customized content for your target Hispanic audience in addition to the translated content. This may include user-generated reviews, custom videos, or additional new sections of content. You will of course want to double check translations with native speakers.

Can marketers successfully launch pan-regional content sites with no or very little local fine tuning?
Marketers that want to target wealthy Latin Americans could successfully launch a pan-regional site. Why? The wealthy of each country have far more in common with each other than they have in common with their fellow countrymen. They travel internationally. They speak English. They are well-educated (and many have studied abroad). They own fancy watches and cars. That demographic presents a unique opportunity for a successful pan-regional site in Latin America.

And what mass sites are popular pan-regionally? Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Terra, and a handful of other sites. Each of those features an extensive amount of local fine tuning and personalization. A website can only expand globally today by incorporating those tactics as online markets become much more sophisticated. Many localization features can be automated. In addition, most global sites now enable users to personalize how they experience a site by entering their own personal profile information. User generated content can compliment local editorial customization as well.

You write that Latinos cross virtual borders to find relevant and engaging content online. Who owns all the great content In Spanish online today?
As the saying goes, “content is king.” And content from one’s country of origin can act as a gigantic magnet, attracting consumers back to Mexico virtually. The major newspapers in Latin America (e.g. El Universal, El Tiempo, Clarin, etc) see anywhere from 10-40% of their visitors from the U.S. They own a good chunk of the quality content in Spanish online today.

If you love Mexican soccer teams, the best place to find the latest news about them may be from in Mexico City, for example. Because both Hispanic and Latin American audiences tend to be younger, many of them blog or use Twitter, so you can find a lot of content on the social networks.

The reverse is also true. Many Latin Americans look to the U.S. for the latest technology and fashion trends for example. Therefore, they visit U.S. sites in English and Spanish to get that information.

In the final sections of your book, you look at two models for distribution on the Web: Facebook and Google.  What are the relative merits of each, and what can will come next?
This issue boils down to the following: do you want one global “.com” site like Facebook where users customize their online experience with their relationships and personal interests? Or does your company want to manage one country-specific website for each country you do business in? There are pluses and minuses for each. Latino Link outlines the technical recommendations. But underneath it all, it boils down to the web becoming more collectivistic and global and less country-oriented.

ENDNOTE: Latino or Hispanic — which term is correct?
It depends on whom you ask. Joe writes that it’s a matter of personal preference. The US government uses the term Hispanic, though many people use the term Latino. He uses the terms interchangeably, and I find that I do as well.

Link: Latino Link: Building Brands Online with Hispanic Communities and Content

Keeping translation simple (and fast): A Q&A with One Hour Translation

For those who are new to purchasing translation services, the process can be confusing.

There are new terms to learn, new technologies, and the pricing can vary greatly between vendors.

Which is why I see great opportunities for those translation agencies that can take the pain out of the purchasing process.

Which is why I was intrigued by One Hour Translation. Founded in 2008, the company is a web-based translation services that provides services in 50 languages to companies that include Google, IBM, Pfizer, Toyota, and Zynga. One Hour Translation is not the first company to offer web-based translations, but it is in rare company in its web-only approach to translation workflow.

I was impressed with the company’s home page, shown below:

The translation process is boiled down to three simple steps. It’s probably not an interface that will appeal to a software localization buyer, but I can see plenty of marketing execs appreciating the usability — and the speed. Once clients submit a project they see a countdown timer that ticks down the minutes remaining until their translations are complete.

To learn more, I recently conducted a Q&A with Lior Libman Co-Founder and COO of One Hour Translation.

Here is the interview:

Q: Can you summarize the types of translation services you offer — and your customers?
One Hour Translation provides general professional translation services and expert professional translation services covering all fields including: Legal, Finance, IT, Gaming, mobile applications, patents, medical etc. Most of our customers are businesses that translate business-related materials, from their website and marketing materials to legal contracts.

Q: What volume are you handling right now?
We currently are translating thousands of projects a week

Q: What are the most popular language pairs?
The most common pairs are English to French, Spanish, German, Japanese, and Russian and visa versa.

Q: Clients pay only for translation and not project management, correct?
Correct, the client pays per word with no additional fees (including project management, weekends etc.). The revolution is that this is basically a self-service portal where the web interface plays the project management role including counting the number of words, project allocation (according to multiple parameters), direct communication interface between the client and the translator and translation storage and delivery. We provide 24/7 human support but almost all projects does not require our involvement.

Q: How transparent is the process for clients regarding the translators working on the projects? That is, do they know exactly who the translators are?
Our process is very transparent. The customer knows the translator who is currently working on the project (by name) unlike other agencies where the customer hardly ever knows who is doing the actual work. The customer and the translator can communicate freely using the discussion board.

Since the customer knows exactly who is working on the project, the customer may ask for that translator again. As soon as the translator starts working on the text the customer can use the private discussion board to communicate directly with the translator and not through an agency or an intermediate. You can ask the translator for corrections or clarifications and provide any kind of glossary or other information that might help in the translation process. If you are happy with a specific translator you can click the “work with this translator again” button directly on the project’s page and the specific translator will be prioritized for works coming from you as long as he/she has the required skills.

Q: You have been aggressive in meshing translation workflow into software platforms (Twitter, Drupal, etc.). To what extent does this functionality help you win projects?

We believe in integration of professional human translation with advance technologies in order to reach a more efficient translation process. Obviously, many businesses maintain multilingual websites/blogs for marketing or support purposes.

Until we came up with the CMS translation plug-in and translation API, these businesses had a hard time sending the text for translation by email, receiving the translated text and posting it back to their CMS. With the API and software integration, many businesses can seamlessly integrate the translation process with their existing website updates work flow.

Q: I would imagine quality is one of the major concerns companies have regarding a crowdsourced model. What steps do you take to measure and ensure quality of translation?
We deal with quality on many different levels:

  1. Each and every one of the 8,000 translators we work with, undergoes a long manual screening process that includes many different steps (including background check etc.). Only after passing this process will the translator translate.
  2. In some cases the translator also needs to pass exams relevant to his/her field of expertise.
  3. We have a unique, patented, quality assurance system called CQR — Collective Quality Reviews — where each project is checked in real time by 5-10 reviewers who rate it. We get involved where needed.
  4. Many customers rate the projects and we collect statistics about that as well.

Bottom line, using our process and technology we are able to provide top quality translation at an affordable price.

Q: Do you use machine translation? If not, any plans to support it?
We do not use machine translation and we will not use machine translation for the foreseeable future. The quality of machine translation is very low and unacceptable for professional business use.

Q: Do you support TMs?
Yes, all the translators in our community are professional translators and most of them use translation memory. To improve our support of TM, we are currently working to integrate TM directly on One Hour Translation as part of our web services.

Q: How do you view the translation industry evolving?
The translation industry is one of the last services industries to stay offline. In my opinion, a natural evolution of the translation industry would be to shift to the online while reducing times of delivery and overhead costs. I see great opportunity in atomization of the translation workflow.

One might consider the machine translation as a threat to the industry but MT still have a lot of time until it might generate useable results. Leading LSPs have begun to embrace the shift to online and to the advantages of strong technological translation providers. An example can be found in the cooperation between SDL and One Hour Translation (see the “human translation button” on where SDL refers its online visitors to One Hour Translation.

Link: One Hour Translation

PS: One Hour Translation is one of the agencies included in The Savvy Client’s Guide to Translation Agencies, coming in November.