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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New Markets in an Ancient Land – Localizing in Persian

15 12 2016

Nearly 80 million people inhabit Iran, the second largest country in the Middle East, and years of trade restrictions have limited that enormous consumer population’s connection to international products. Businesses in the west hoped for an explosion of trade after the nuclear-program-related trade sanctions of 2012 were lifted shiraz-1481595_1280in early 2016, but that has not yet happened. Apparently, logistical and diplomatic work remains to be done to secure trust and compromises about policies, the current resistance arising more from the government of the U.S., than that of Europe or Iran.


In spite of the hitches, Persian localization is accessible, and much more approachable than it was ten years ago, before some large-scale localization work was done by mega-companies such as Google and Microsoft. The frontier has been softened by the development of new, effective tools for translation into Persian, larger software glossaries, an increased number of available language and subject matter experts, and the like.

There are three modern strains of Persian, Iran’s being called by both Persian and Farsi. Since the Muslim conquest of Persia in 651 AD, the word “Farsi” began to be used in documents, because the word “pars” – for “Persian” – contains a “p” and Arabic does not provide a corresponding character or sound. That term “Farsi” was officially adopted to describe the Persian language by English nations in 1935, for political reasons, and it is often used in the west, but Persian refers more accurately to the language of Iran versus the Persian of Islamic/Arabic influences.* The two other modern strains of Persian are Dari, spoken in Afghanistan, and Tajiki, of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the latter of which uses the Cyrillic alphabet; but speakers of all three Persian variations can understand each other without significant obstacles.

Obstacles to localization, on the other hand, abound, for many of the usual reasons: religion, culture, consumer history, limited native on-site expertise, and unusual language features. Consider the simple fact that Persian reads from right to left, and therefore a customer reading advertising text who comes upon the left-to-right reading name of a European or American company has to switch directions when reaching the English interruption. Directional processes affected by the placement of tabs and action buttons must also be considered. The entire orientation of a page is going to be different.

Since the ninth century, Arabic has influenced Persian – the scripts are quite close, for example – but there are still notable differences that will show up as errors in translation software that is checking for Arabic alphabet accuracy. For example, Perso-Arabic individual letters have up to four different, slightly altered forms, depending on their location within the word, and therefore the automatic joining of letters (when prefixes are involved, for instance) is not always desirable. Because computer programs are set up to join the letters of distinct words in a cursive string, a nonprinting character called ZWNJ (zero-width non-joiner) must be used to override automatic joining and ensure breaks where they need to be.

There is passionate national feeling for Persian in Iran – it is an ancient language that has been evolving in a country with a seven thousand-year-old architectural presence on the planet. English is spoken more commonly than it once was in Iran, and it has a presence in major Iranian cities, but that presence is still a limited one. Even young consumers, who may be fluent in English, prefer localized websites. It’s a country where per capita income has been for the most part steadily rising for decades until the trade sanctions of 2012. Now that those have been lifted, there seems to be every reason to hope that the Iranian consumer market will soon be a strong one.

As one of the top fifty language service providers in the world, Skrivanek has extensive experience localizing all types of content for the Iranian market, and we are happy to discuss your needs any time.

 J. McShulskis


* “Persian NOT Farsi,” by Shapour Suren-Pahlav, 2007, Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies,

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Is the Spanish of Argentina the Sexiest?

9 06 2016

6427241251_5dd2239c6e_b-kopie.jpgThe failure of European Spanish as a one-size-fits-all language for every Spanish-speaking country in the world is illustrated by a trend in the publishing industry. Independent Spanish publishers are seeking markets beyond Europe, in both the U.S. and Latin America, since financial recovery in Spain has been slow. Interestingly both the Spanish language used and the illustrations have had to be altered in order for children to identify with the tales.

From its European birthplace, the Spanish language has traveled and taken root as a dominant language in nearly twenty other countries. And as is always the case with vibrant languages adopted in varied environments, time, oceans, and myriad human influences have ensured that European Spanish evolved in different ways than did its cousins in Latin America and elsewhere.

Spaniards can speak with Mexicans or Argentines quite easily, but their languages are different enough to create moments of confusion. Different enough, too, to create philosophical arguments over which variation of Spanish is the most beautiful, the most pure, the sexiest. And as home to the Real Academia Espanola, which regulates the language, Madrid boasts the Spanish often considered ‘most important.’

From the marketing perspective, the variations are enough to cause disconnects between a company and its customers. A word or idiom incorrectly used, for instance, can be inaccurate at best, and offensive in the worst cases. “Coger” is a good example of the extreme: in Spain it means to “grab” or “take,” as in lunch or buses, but in most Latin American countries it is a crass way of referring to sexual intercourse. “Okay” as an affirmation is “vale” in Spain, and “bien” or “okay” in Latin America. The word “camión” means “truck” in Argentina and “bus” in Mexico. And the gap created by incorrect words frequently becomes a gap in trust.

In addition to vocabulary differences, there are a few notable pronunciation variations, including:

* In some parts of Latin America, the‘s’ at the end of words is sometimes ‘eaten’, most frequently with plural nouns, or for instance in the slang version of Buenos Aires.

* ‘C’ has a pronunciation like ‘s’ through most of Latin America, and often like ‘th’ in Europe.

* In Spain, the double ‘l’ is close to the ‘y’, but in the Buenos Aires region, it’s more like ‘sh’ or ‘zh’.

Grammatical differences include different frequency of the use of the three past tense forms, and a preference in Europe for the use of ‘vosotros’ when addressing a group as ‘you’, versus ‘ustedes’.

Whether it’s advertising or a child’s story, language is an intimate tool that can connect straight to the heart – but you have to get the details right. Skrivanek Group has over two decades of experience translating Latin American to European Spanish and vice versa, and from either one into dozens of other languages.

J. McShulskis

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India — Marketing in Babel

23 09 2015

With over one billion people speaking 780 languages that use 86 scripts*, India clearly presents staggering marketing challenges. Add to its size and diversity the digital immersion of its citizens, and the picture begins to come into view of an enormous population of potential buyers for which the traditional western buying infrastructure may be obsolete.

india-416777_1920While some of those approximately 780 languages are sustained by only a few thousand speakers or less, many claim millions, and 22 are official, using 11 scripts: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithill, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskirt, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu.

A common western perception is that India is linguistically highly anglicized. But in fact, only 1/10 of the population count English as their first, second or third language.  About 1/3 speak Hindi and/or English. To ignore the others when trying to develop a long-term market for your product in India would be risky. Bengali, for example, has 83 million speakers, and Marthi, Telgu and Urdu have over 70 million each.

All languages share common issues for the company wishing to translate and localize their marketing for India:

  1. Non-Latin scripts are often incompatible with CAT tools.
  2. Lack of translation standards for Indian translators, frequent inability to afford CAT tools, and lower experience and availability of translators, among other conditions, lead to slower translation times and less reliable quality.
  3. Religious and cultural sensitivities that widely vary are complex but must be assessed and accounted for.

Where to begin? With a limited budget, perhaps a logical start is localization for marketing to Hindi speakers. Remembering as you go forward from there into other languages that every one of them must be examined carefully and handled in a unique fashion, as opposed to using one strategy for multiple languages and cultures. With experience translating numerous Indian languages, Skrivanek Group has the linguistic resources and experience to help you implement a localization strategy in India.

*The People’s Linguistic Survey of India

Jacquelyn McShulskis


  • Multilingual, April 2014, Conor Bracken’s article about emerging markets
  •, January 2014, How India Could Change Marketing as We Know It

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Better, faster, more: translation speed reality

5 06 2014

What are the mechanics of translation and how long does the full process take? While it has transformed from a discipline practiced by individual linguists and academics, into a hi-tech industry exponentially improved by specialized technology, translation still requires highly trained, multi-lingual human minds. And that means it takes time.

A person unfamiliar with the intricacies of translation might imagine that it occurs instantly as a translator reads a document, and then that translator only needs to get the new words down on paper or typed into a computer. But that scenario doesn’t resemble reality at all.

The following is a brief outline of what occurs (and excluding extra steps required by additional services such as DTP). To begin with, the project manager reads through a document and converts it to a versatile electronic file. She or he then runs it through a translation memory (TM) system to find passages already available in the target language (from past translations); gathers relevant dictionaries, subject matter references and style guides; a suitable specialized translator then translates “from scratch”, without machine translation, all text that was not available in TM; passes it along to another pair of trained eyes for editing and proofreading; and then it runs through quality assurance procedures. When the final copy is ready, the last step is to convert it into the format the client requires. If the translator is very familiar with the subject of the document, the translation process can take about one working day – eight hours – to complete between 2,000 and 3,000 words.

Some translators say they can translate over 4,000 or 5,000 words per day if the subject matter is well known to them, CAT tools are employed, and everything goes off without a hitch. But most estimate that the comfortable average for delivering accurate translations is closer to 2,000 words per day. Time for review (around 1,800 words per day) and for the pre-processing and quality assurance has to be added – so that for a 2,000 words translation you can count around 3 working days.

Many factors influence the length of time required for translations (in addition to subject familiarity and use of CAT tools):

  1. Complexity of the document subject, either technically or creatively (for example, “transcreation” of advertising can require hours of linguistic exploration to achieve culturally equivalent text).
  2. Format of the original – is it an electronic file or is it a hard copy, and if it’s a hard copy, is it clear?
  3. Repetitiveness of the text.
  4. Level of similarity between the source and target language.
  5. Final destination of the text: for internal use or publication.
  6. Who will put the finishing touches to the final copy, the translator or the client?

Professional LSP’s can assign multiple translators to a big project, of course, but the formula for estimating translation time must then include the hours required for assembling the whole, along with extra editing to ensure fluent tone and stylistic consistency.

What have you found to be the most troublesome obstacles to translation speed, and why is there so often high pressure to complete translations quickly?


 J. McShulskis

State agency’s website offers Klingon translation

22 08 2013

State agency’s website offers Klingon translation


Skrivanek is still considering if Klingon is to be added to the list of languages we can translate in to. May be hard to find translators … 🙂