Integrating multilingual enterprises

Don't overlook the need for human language integration services. It's currently about an $8 billion market.

IT channel takeaway: Integrating human language presents a huge problem for companies -- or so says a multilingual communication services vendor. Get a glimpse into this market and some tips for tackling such language integration, if such a problem presents itself in your customer's environment.

With Mike Iacobucci, CEO of Idiom, a company that facilitates multilingual communication through automated translation and localization.

Question: When we talk about integrating the enterprise in IT terms, we're often referring to, say, J2EE talking to .NET. But the problem can also involve English, French and Japanese. What exactly is the problem with integrating human languages, and how big is it?

Iacobucci: The problem of integrating languages is huge. In dollar terms, it's quoted as being somewhere around an $8 billion market. It's not only integrating the enterprise, it's also making your product or service or Web site or software available to a market you want to reach. I come from a publishing background where we converted our published content to various languages. What I see now is not only that type of content, but also the software that drives Web sites that has to be translated and managed for consistency.

Question: So what's the best way to do that? Clearly there are human translators involved. How can IT help?

Iacobucci: Typically, in the traditional approach, there were thousands of human translators, generally managed by firms called language service providers. Traditionally, there was a desktop tool that contractors would use. That's a very disjointed way of providing translated content. What Idiom has done is to provide centralized tools the translators use. [These tools operate] at the corporate level where you aggregate translated content, which is called translation memory in our industry. These are translation assets that you now own and control in an enterprise system that's organized and managed by the IT department. There are tremendous cost and process efficiencies gained through that, because you end up sending out only the content that needs to be translated and not the assets you already have.

Question: Do centralized translations systems such as yours integrate with enterprise content management systems? Is that an issue?

Iacobucci: One thing that we've learned is that many types of data repositories are important to us, and a big part of our business is to be able to integrate with those systems. Companies don't change what they do. Rather, they draw from whatever systems are in place as content changes, recognize those changes, put them into the translation process, do the translation and then deposit it back into the system -- all automatically. It's not just about translation memory, dictionaries and the like. It's also about workflow automation.

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