Translating for Growth

Article translated from the original Italian article: http://www.datamanager.it/2015/07/tradurre-per-crescere/

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In collaboration with the American video-captioning platform Dotsub, Italy’s DotWords provides a technological – and shared – approach to product communication localization

It’s inevitable. Every time you talk to David Orban, Dotsub’s Chief Innovation Officer, you feel as though you’re in the teleport room of the Starship Enterprise, knowing that at the end of the conversation, you’ll want to shout: “Beam me up, David!” You shake hands and you can feel the NFC chip he’s had implanted beneath his skin, with the password of his personal Bitcoin “blockchain”. You think you’ve exhausted every possible futuristic topic and he runs off a stream of data demonstrating that driverless cars are already on their way (but won’t run you down on a pedestrian crossing). A distributor of IT products, an advisor at Singularity University, a serial entrepreneur, an innovation officer, a consultant, a polyglot techno-evangelist, a great pioneer of the Internet of things, a visionary of cryptocurrency and the shared economy, Orban is an accredited ambassador for the future here in the present.

When I meet him this time, during one of his trips to Milan, it’s to hear about his latest business adventure, the DotWords language service provider. A step removed from his hyper-technological horizons you might think, yet with Orban, translation – possibly one of the world’s oldest professions, together with spying (and that other thing we won’t mention, which generates a pile of money on the web) – moves into a typically cyber context, thanks to the use of computer-assisted tools and a good helping of the concepts – openness, standardization, workflow management, crowdsourcing, knowledge sharing – that characterize the digital age.

DotWords’ services don’t stop with the translations executed by a network of expert native speakers, who – as company co-founder and CEO Gabriella Soldadino emphasizes, “also have to live in the nation of the language they speak to keep their skills fresh and up to date.” Orban prefers to talk about localization, the ability to move from one linguistic context to another, maintaining not only the meaning of the words, but the entire semantic thrust of the message being communicated. DotWords is more than a highly efficient translator: it is a partner providing clients with strategic support for shared growth based on multilingual communication. This is achieved, on one hand, through use of advanced automatic translation technologies (always under the supervision of human translators) flanked by work management and optimization tools; and, on the other, by transferring what Orban calls translation memories to the client: authentic specialist lexical databases, for use on future translations. For DotWords, the purpose of this arsenal of competences is not to create the usual lock-in effect, but to generate new communication in a full-sharing approach between provider and client.

The translation culture

“Looked at from the viewpoint of traditional providers of language services, we implement an innovative principle,” says Soldadino. “DotWords was created with the intention of making extensive use of captioning and automatic translation technologies. But we also take a cultural and ethical approach: besides making this more rigorous take on the localization concept available to the client – with an increase in workflow efficiency driven by our ability to re-utilize previously processed materials – we help the client become more autonomous by returning the knowledge we have accumulated together.”

The captions the DotWords CEO refers to are the product of Dotsub, the New York-based software company that has developed a collaborative web platform for online video subtitling and translation, of which Orban has been CEO since 2011. “The Dotsub system used to caption videos posted on YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook makes its APIs available for everyone, so the translated content can be shared on the social networks,” Orban explains. Described as a complementary platform for the DotWords offering, Dotsub becomes one of the computer-aided translation tools the provider makes available to its clients. Another advantage is the presence, on the DotWords staff, of two project managers who “industrialize” the agency’s work, a vital job handled, in this case too, with ad hoc tools such as the Plunet platform, a “business and translation management system” for operators like DotWords. “The aim,” explains Gabriella Soldadino, “is to foster a translation culture in Italy, where tools of this type are not widely used and technical translations, required, for example, by European regulations, are still regarded as a cost rather than as an investment.”

Integrated communication

Orban and Soldadino’s professional ties date back to the days of Questar, a value added distributor established by Orban in the early 1990s. “We supplied clients with services to create a virtual commercial presence, localizing interfaces, commands, manuals, software packages,” says Orban. DotWords takes this concept to an even more strategic communication level. “Our mission is to teach the client to take advantage of the benefits offered by localization of its products and related documentation.” Benefits made highly cost-effective by the DotWords approach.

Established at the end of 2014 and operational since February, DotWords has already won important international clients in luxury goods, insurance and pharmaceuticals. The target it has in mind, however, also includes Italian companies, who could use localization to gather market-share in today’s globalized marketplace. The opportunities do not necessarily lie in Anglo-Saxon language areas. “The Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has just launched its latest model in India, a market with one billion people, and has overtaken Samsung and Apple in just three weeks,” notes Orban. How many small Italian “Xiaomis” could emulate its success if they spoke the right language?

The DotWords strategy, concludes Soldadino, also involves participation at global events and conferences as well as cooperation with trade associations, organizations and institutions on projects to raise business and public awareness of the importance of multilingual corporate communication. The DotWords integrated communication project is a candidate for the Smart&Start Italia initiative, promoted by the Ministry of Economic Development to facilitate hi-tech start-ups and spread a new entrepreneurial culture. This could be an important driver for a company that already speaks the (many) languages of innovation.