Germany’s Dedication to Data Privacy

6 02 2017

Germany is working toward being the most secure digital data site in the world. But as the world’s citizens knit together in networks that aren’t confined within geopolitical borders, the governments of individual countries with strong values face complex legal and trade-related issues when trying to assert them.


A serious emphasis on privacy is embedded in German law, and even more deeply ingrained in German culture. The 1949 German constitution created after WWII forbids spying on German citizens, and challenges to the fierce protection of privacy tend to spark quick, wary references to the past. The Federal Data Protection Act was established in 1990, and has continued to be strengthened since then.

Digital Society, in Berlin, is a group of 35 industry specialists (such as copyright lawyers, cryptography professors and journalists) formed in 2010 to keep the public educated about data privacy issues, and to propose legislation to the German parliament. “In Germany,” said Markus Beckedahl, one of Digital Society’s founders, “privacy is a civil right, and in the United States, it’s an option.” Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations about the US data collection of German citizens’ phone conversations by the NSA dominated German media for a while, and damaged German-American relations.

But pressures from the EU and international giants like Google and Amazon, push data-sharing agreements that prioritize corporate profits and consumer convenience, as well as fears, such as that of terrorism. Many countries are building policy around such concerns, but Germany would like to avoid capitulation to compromised security standards, even as it retains leadership as an economic power.

A recent survey by auditor KPMG and the German digital trade association, Bitkom, shows that 83% of German companies expect their cloud provider to retain its data centers in Germany, while 74% want them to at least be located somewhere in the EU. This is not a perspective that supports such strategies as the EU plan to create the Digital Single Market (DSM), which would be a unified EU digital market that eliminates regulatory barriers for online services and goods.

Nor does this attitude embrace the EU-US Privacy Shield agreement that went into effect in July of 2016. That agreement gives companies the legal right to transfer data from the EU to the US, but with required US Department of Commerce reviews. Resistance continues, however, although one compromise that seems to be effective as practiced by companies such as Microsoft, is to assign “data trustees” within Germany, no matter where the data is physically stored or what levels of encryption it has undergone.

Awareness of this highly sensitive issue is important to keep in mind when dealing with German clients, maintaining respect for boundaries you may not be accustomed to dealing with. Skrivanek Group is well acquainted with all the relevant subtleties of the German culture and language, as well as the country’s laws, including the new and volatile area of cyber-law.

 J. McShulskis

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Face-to-Face with the World – Skype’s Translator

3 06 2015

Skype has invited its users to try a “Preview” version of their Translator product and provide feedback. The program is available for face-to-face, real-time audio/video conversations in four languages so far: English, Spanish, Mandarin and Italian, with more on the way. Instant Messaging (IM) is available in over 45 languages, from Dutch to Hindi to Klingon.

Developed by Microsoft, Skype Translator requires Windows 8 and up, and its translation quality has been compared to that of Babel Fish and Google Translate. Skype’s blog states that they have been “investing in speech recognition, automatic translation and machine learning technologies for more than a decade.”

Nearly as important as the Bing Translator algorithm Skype Translator relies on, is the voice recognition component that initiates and completes the transformation of a speaker’s words into something in the target language that is understandable on the other end. The Translator first turns spoken words to text, then uses machine learning to interpret the grammar, and statistical matching within a text database to pin down meanings. That “written” translation is then funneled back through voice recognition software and “Jane” or “Bob” – the female and male Skype AI (Artificial Intelligence) voices – deliver what Skype hopes to be a pleasant, human-like audio expression of the speaker’s meaning.

Microsoft’s research into deep “artificial neural networks” (ANNs) in the early 2000’s led to the AI that makes all of this possible. ANNs are sets of statistical learning algorithms that create a responsiveness to input that resembles the experienced-based development of the human mind, thus enabling “understanding” of complex systems such as language. It was this work that led to what Wired Magazine calls “Skype’s most startling breakthrough: the ability to reliably recognize almost anybody’s speech,” including the interpretation of rhythm and intonation.

There is also a more controversial issue that Skype and Microsoft have made some preliminary choices about: certain elements are “scrubbed” from translations, that is, they are not acknowledged or translated at all. Repetitive speech tics and profanity, for example. Therefore, in essence Skype Translator currently does a bit of conversation editing, which could feel like censoring. This will undoubtedly become one of the areas that Skype Translator users will give feedback about over time as they utilize the program to personalize their global communication.

J. McShulskis

Terminology: where to start?

2 12 2014

Terminology Managment aims at improving the overall quality of communications by ensuring the use of the same term for a concept in all circumstances. It involves the defining of specific terms for a special field and agreeing on recommended term equivalents in various languages.

terminologyHave you considered the value of doing systematical terminology work for your corporation? The ROI on terminology management is indisputable: a centralized terminology database will save a lot of time for various stakeholders in your corporation (technical writers, marketing, customer support, engineers…). It saves translation time, and additionally, it will prevent errors in a source text that gets translated X number of times and then needs to be corrected in all languages. The decision is yours whether you want the research on a term to be done once and shared with all translators, or done for every occurrence in every language you translate into. And perhaps the most important benefit is that a clear, consistent message results in a better customer experience.

Once you (and your management…) are convinced that investing in terminology work makes sense, where do you begin? First you need to think over the workflow and the best tools for your requirements, such as making the terminology available company-wide. After that, you could consider terminology extraction from your existing documents, a process Skrivanek has extensive experience in. Our global Marketing & Sales Manager, An Stuyven, has just given a presentation at the recent Localization World Conference in Vancouver on how terminology extraction can be accomplished effectively. If you are interested in hearing more about this option, or if you want to take advantage of our free terminology process consulting, please get in touch with us and we will be more than happy to help you get started.

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A Hidden International Language

25 11 2014

Into the universal realm of the Unicode, the symbols for a weightlifter, a spiderweb and the Mona Lisa have now been accepted. These are three of the more than 250 emoji considered significant enough that their computer encoding is being officially standardized for use by Apple, Google, Microsoft and others.

new_emojisThese three join hundreds of emoji facial expressions, hand gestures, food items, weather and plant elements, on and on, used to replace or augment words.The non-profit Unicode Consortium regulates embedded computer code for every character in every living language, and is “the foundation for all modern software” according to their official website ( Begun by Xerox and Apple leaders in 1987 as an “international/multilingual text character encoding system,” today Unicode sets officially recognized computer code standards in coordination with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Changing the standardized code for any symbol – even if that code accidentally includes a misspelling – is not possible once it is in use, because stability of past programming with present and future programming is Unicode’s fundamental reason for existence. However, adding symbols is an ongoing process: ancient scripts for example, or new currency symbols, and the ever-increasing number of popular emoji.

The formal petitioning process for the acceptance of new symbols is lengthy and complex. The first criterion is that new characters must be in widespread use as textual elements (for a glimpse of the most-used emoji, check out a real time tally of their Twitter use at When that is established, petitioners are asked to engage in discussion via Unicode forums and email exchanges to refine (or eliminate) their proposals.

Such discussions may well include cultural, political, and social concerns (see for example, “What about diversity?” at under FAQ), involving issues like the color of your symbol or its origins. One Unicode emoji petition argued: “Of the more than 800 emojis, the only two resembling people of color are a guy who looks vaguely Asian and another in a turban. There’s a white boy, girl, man, woman, elderly man, elderly woman, blond boy, blonde girl, and, we’re pretty sure, Princess Peach. But when it comes to faces outside of yellow smileys, there’s a staggering lack of minority representation.”

Juxtaposition of computer code standardization with a conversation including yellow smiley faces in a tally of racially diverse symbols seems impossibly odd. But this is, after all, the formative stage of a sort of international language, and human beings are incurably attached to the significance of their symbols.

The Unicode 7.0.0 symbols added this year and 8.0.0 symbols in the process of adaptation are described and listed at
What do they mean to Americans? What do they mean to Swedes or Peruvians? How is the use of such symbols changing our conversations?


 J. McShulskis


Transcreation or Simple Translation?

21 11 2014

As you expand globally, the question you face is how to establish a customer base that truly understands your message and desires and identifies with your product. The simple translation of your original texts could save time and money in the short-run, but lead to greater expense and even damage control in the long-run, if the direct translation fails.

Skrivanek_globeConsidering all of the nuances that define individual languages, cultures, and product readiness, transcreation is often the only profitable option. What is the difference? Transcreation is a recreation of the original materials in a form that affects the customer in the same way that the source texts affect the original audience. This can result in creative, entirely new messaging that involves changes in the tenor and appearance of everything from your slogans and advertising copy to your product name. Translation more simply adapts your text for the basic verbal understanding of a foreign audience.

But why not utilize copywriters in the target country to read the originals and reproduce the text from scratch in their native tongue? This is an option, but it should be remembered that a nuanced comprehension of your original message must also be employed in order for the new copy to be accurate in all ways. The process of transcreation includes providing a creative brief to specialists, delineating all concepts, as well as feelings, that you hope to convey.

High quality transcreation basically creates a “familiar” passageway into the world of your products, using layouts, colors, colloquialisms, video, music and even purchasing methods that your potential clients in different nations will trust. While the populations of many countries may have some exposure to English and understand it to be the current lingua franca, nevertheless the art of persuading someone to buy your product is complex, orchestrating deeply personal preferences and comfort elements. You can begin to imagine the gap by going online to buy shoes from a Chinese website, for instance, or lamps from an Indian manufacturer – what elements (or missing elements) send you rushing back to Amazon and Shopzilla?

With a booming growth in global advertising, the question of transcreation versus translation can’t reasonably be ignored. A quarter of companies translate into 15 or more languages, and some companies translate into as many as 60 languages. Facebook has adapted its service to the languages of a stunning 90% of the world’s population and 95 percent of people with access to the internet.* The global race for customers is in high gear, and the more sophisticated your tools, the greater likelihood you will win.

 J. McShulskis

*statistics from Nataly Kelly’s, As the Internet Becomes More Global, Language Matters More than Ever, Huffington Post, June 2014


Apple’s ‘Swift Language’ and the Global Marketplace

12 09 2014

In the dynamic currents of globalization, new products influence the market’s demands, and market demand influences product development. A case in point at the most fundamental level, is Apple’s newly introduced programming language, Swift, and companion Xcode6 mobile app building toolkit.

swift-heroSwift’s introduction in June of this year has been met with appreciation by iOS app developers, because Objective-C, the language it will replace, is said to be difficult to learn and to work with. More iOS apps, improved apps, and apps for new markets seem an almost certain result of Swift, with stimulus to related localization and translation.

The following internationalization improvements are a few of the Swift/Xcode6 features prompted by feedback from the global marketplace:

~ New localizations: Hindi, Indian English, Canadian French, and Hong Kong Chinese
~ New keyboards: Bengali, Marathi, Urdu, Indian English, Filipino, and Slovenian
~ Lunar calendar support, in addition to Gregorian
~ More complex time interval formatters

Inevitably, such elements affect your access to foreign customers using iOS, as well as your localization and translation choices in those markets.

Hundreds of thousands of apps have been developed for both iOS and Android mobile devices. However in 2012, Apple iOS lost its market advantage globally to Google’s Android, in part because Android is not bound to a single device, and Apple devices are usually more expensive, explaining iOS popularity in 38 countries that are more developed. Swift and Xcode6 seem in part a bid to secure and expand Apple’s market share.

For a world map of operating system preferences, country by country, go to International Business Times:

J. McShulskis

Localization: Targeting Africa

22 08 2014

Consumer goods markets in African countries are rapidly expanding due to numerous factors: population growth and urbanization, emergence of a middle class and shrinking poverty levels, youthful demography, vast natural resources and inward investment, improved business and trade environment, and expanded use of technology. For exporters to Africa, the good news is strong, but challenges remain from such issues as segmented markets, cheap local competition, flawed distribution channels, and untrained workers.*

African Languages

Projected 2020 consumer spending** predicts the highest growth in South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Zambia, Angola and Senegal. But when looking for your next target market, the viability of your efforts is a complex issue. In the World Bank’s 2014 “ease of doing business” index, for instance, the only countries included in that top ten from the top nine projected consumer markets listed above are Ghana and Zambia (see below).

Localization for Africa may be tricky, but pay off in the long-run. While English and French are common throughout the continent, the range of consumer languages is vast, as you can see in the AllAfrica’s “ease of doing business” list below.*** This list, drawn from World Bank analyses, is based on the overall effect of each country’s government regulations on doing business there.

1. Mauritius  (19th of 189 globally)
No official language. French and English spoken, Creole as mother tongue.

2. Rwanda  (32nd)
Official languages: French, English, Kinyardwanda (which is the most widely spoken and is the language of government). English used in schools. Swahili spoken by many.

3. South Africa  (41st)
Eleven official languages. Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa most widely spoken, with English used in commerce and science.

4. Tunisia  (51st)
Official language: Arabic. Used in daily life: Tunisian Arabic of Derja. French often used in press, business and education.

5. Botswana  (56th)
Official language: English. Many speak Setswana. Afrikaans and three other languages also spoken there.

6. Ghana  (67th)
English is official language, spoken by 90%. Also Akan and Twi by 75%, with Niger-Congo languages also spoken.

7. Seychelles  (80th)
Official: English, French and Seychellois Creole (based on French).

8. Zambia  (83rd)
Official language: English. Seventy-three different languages in the country, but Nyanja is the main one.

9. Morocco  (87th)
Official languages: Berber and Arabic (with dialects called Darija). French often used for governmental and international matters.

10. Namibia  (98th)
Official language: English. Half of population speaks Oshiwambo as first language, but the most understood language is Afrikaans, with other minority languages.

J. McShulskis

*African Development Bank Group,
**Euromonitor Africa Consumer Spending,
*** from World Bank data: