A Few Words

Joe Dougherty

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Elanex Case Study: Insightly Makes the Case for Agile Translation

Posted by Joe Dougherty on Feb 25, 2015 12:52:00 PM



Agile software development has become an increasingly common practice, especially among the new wave of tech startups. As opposed to traditional waterfall development with large releases and significant time between these releases, Agile development stresses continual updates and constant improvement. Anyone with a smartphone notices that his/her applications are now routinely updated. This fundamental change in development practices has significant implication on downstream processes, especially the translation of the user interface and instructions – localization – in comparison to historical practices. This case study highlights how close cooperation between the developer and a localization provider experienced in Agile development can keep pace with a constantly changing world.

The Company: 

Insightly is a simple to use yet powerful CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system for small and medium sized businesses worldwide. Businesses use Insightly’s cloud-based application to manage customer interactions, opportunities, proposals and projects over the web and on mobile devices. Insightly is available on the web at Insightly.com, for iOS devices in iTunes, and for Android devices on Google Play.

With integrations to Google Apps, Office 365, MailChimp and major social media sites; mobile apps for MCInsightlytablets and smart phones; and easy access to a REST API for custom integration, it is easy to see why Insightly is the top-ranked small-business CRM in the Google Apps Marketplace. Insightly is based in San Francisco.

The Problem:   

Insightly initially launched with an English-language platform.  However, as the company grew, through simple web analytics it realized that the majority of their users were not native English speakers -- 55 percent of Inslightly users were overseas. “Multiple languages weren’t part of the original plan but there was a pretty clear mandate [for them],” said Brian McConnell, director of localization at Insightly.

To capitalize upon this opportunity, Insightly raised an additional $10 million in venture capital to further expand globally and fund technical enhancements.  “Today we have over 750,000 users in 100 countries around the world,” said McConnell.


However, the company’s new mission brought a new set of challenges.  Insightly’s updates and releases now need to be available in half a dozen languages, across multiple platforms including their web and smartphone apps, technical documents and marketing website.  A new system was needed to keep the code base and production workflows in sync and to push out updates as quickly as possible (as many as two per week).
The Solution: 

Insightly decided centralization would be key to their localization efforts and enlisted the help of Transifex to manage the process.  Transifex is a cloud-based localization management tool that lets companies easily collect content from source control and automate workflows from a single platform.  The service also allows for easy communication between Insightly’s project managers and developers and the translation service team at Elanex.

Elanex was the natural translation partner for the company.  Not only is Elanex familiar with Agile germancontent development and constant flow production models, but it also understands software development itself.  “Elanex is interesting because it has lots of experience developing software internally,” said McConnell.  “They understand how software is developed and localized.”

As a result, Elanex has become more than just a vendor.  It is a partner in Insightly’s global mission.  Throughout this last year, Elanex provided best practices, helped debug issues, provided internationalization consulting on problems with date-formatting and language sorting all while consistently delivering fast and accurate translations.

“We have a process in place that works almost on autopilot,” said McConnell.  At the beginning of each week, Insightly uploads new and updated content to Transifex.  Elanex automatically receives those materials and processes them through its central production platform. Small update or large, the Elanex team returns professional translations in hours (4 to 36) depending upon the production requirements. french_(1)This includes the all-important In Context Review to make sure that localized content displays smoothly on all platforms. The translated content is automatically received by Insightly through Transifex, ready to be deployed to their customers around the world. The system works so smoothly that Insightly was able to scale up from 2 languages to 6 over the course of a few months without making any changes to production schedules.

Building on this success, for their support site Insightly selected Elanex’s VeriFast(sm) service to augment their translation needs.VeriFast(sm) uses professional native-language translators to review and correct large volumes of materials translated by state-of-the-art machine translation technology in virtually any language, providing quality and accuracy – in record time and cost-effectively.

“The work is as close to perfect as you can get,” said McConnell.  “Elanex knows how to build tools and has a great network of translators.”



Topics: Case Study, Agile Translation, Translation Tools

Know Your Languages: Dutch, A Germanic Language With Far Reaching Influence

Posted by Joe Dougherty on Feb 11, 2015 3:21:55 PM

Dutch is a West Germanic language, which constitutes the largest of the three branches of the Germanic family of languages. Other languages in this branch include German, English, Scots, Afrikaans and Yiddish. Dutch is the native language of about 96% of the population of the Netherlands, and about sixty percent of the population of Belgium and Suriname. These three countries compose the Dutch Language Union, which was founded in 1980 to govern issues regarding the Dutch language. Most speakers of Dutch live within the European Union, where it is the primary language for approximately 21-23 million people and the second language for approximately five million more people. 

In the Caribbean, Dutch commands official language status for the countries of Aruba, Curacao and Saint Maarten. Upwards of half a million native Dutch speakers reside in the United States, Canada and Australia and there are small communities of speakers that exist within France and Germany. Afrikaans, which is a somewhat mutually intelligible daughter language of Dutch, is spoken today by an estimated 15-23 million people in South Africa and Namibia.

Dutch is closely related to German and English and can be thought of as existing somewhere in between them. There are some noticeable similarities between the vocabularies of English and Dutch, as well as Dutch1between Dutch and German. Letters that are indistinguishable in Dutch and German are pronounced, for the most part, exactly the same. The exception being that German has a variation in pronouncing some letters. For instance, when speaking German, an aspirate (a sound pronounced with an exhalation of breath) is used for the letter ‘K’, whereas for Dutch, aspiration is not used. In addition, ‘S’ in German is pronounced between ‘S’ and ‘Z’, and ‘G’ as ‘gamma’ just like in Greek, but in Dutch it is ‘kh.’

To further illustrate the difference between Dutch and German, here are some characteristic sound shifts:

German ‘CH’ becomes ‘K’ in Dutch: Auch/Ook (too)
German ‘IE’ becomes ‘E’ in Dutch: Viel/Veel (many)
German ‘T’ becomes ‘D’ in Dutch: Tier/Dier (animal)

The original Germanic case system, which is still present in Middle Dutch (the collective name given to a number of closely related West Germanic dialects which were spoken and written between 1050 and 1500) disappeared after the 16th century. It is in this regard that Dutch is more similar to English, a language in which cases also disappeared after the Middle English period. In contrast, German has preserved its case system into modern times. But Dutch developed a word order that is closer to that of German. Unlike English, the verbs are not all placed together. In main clauses, the conjugated verb is in the second position, and the remaining verbs are located at the end of the sentence. Dutch also has a different word order when it comes to dependent clauses.

Dutch and English are both considered West Germanic languages that linguists refer to as Low German. Here are some examples of consonant shifts in Dutch and English words and the differences found in High German (which is essentially modern German).


   English                              Dutch                                   High German

sleep, ship                      slaap, schip     p>pf           schlafen, Schiff
eat, that, out                 eet, dat, uit      t>s             essen, das, aus
make, book                   maak, boek     k>ch          machen, Buch

Dutch is derived from Franconian and Saxonian languages, which were not affected by the High German consonant shift. Seen from this angle, Dutch retains certain archaic traits.

The Dutch dialects that are spoken in Belgium are jointly known as Flemish. To a certain extent, they differ from the Dutch that is spoken in the Netherlands in regards to intonation and pronunciation. Minor differences also exist in vocabulary, including loanwords from English and French that are not found in Standard Dutch.

For those who are not privy to information discussed in linguistic circles, not much is known about the Dutch language. Interestingly enough, far less is known about Dutch than there is about the Netherlands and Belgium, those countries where Dutch is the standard language. Oftentimes, tourists visiting the Low Countries are surprised to discover that there exists a Dutch language that is fairly distinctive in relation to German and English. Further exploration into this topic would reveal that Dutch has been a civilized language for over a thousand years and exhibits an abundant array of literature. An example of this is the Woordenboek der Nerderlandsche Taal (“Dictionary of the Dutch Language”) which is the largest monolingual dictionary in the world currently in print, and has over 430,000 entries of Dutch words.
Some believe that it wasn’t until the 20th century that Belgian Dutch and the Dutch of the Netherlands began to develop at a similar rate. The influx of immigrants in Belgium and the Netherlands in recent decades has influenced pronunciation and changed usage by adding loanwords. Dutch has proven to be very capable of incorporating the borrowed words and phrases into its own phonetic system and its own morphological and syntactic rules. While Dutch language conservationists are not thrilled by this, it has increased the accessibility and overall usefulness of Dutch.

The ability to speak Dutch can increase a job searcher’s employment prospects. This is especially true in the UK which has close economic relations with its neighbors across the English Channel. As recent labor market research by the University Council of Modern Languages (UCML) states, U.K. industry demand exceeds the supply of graduates with Dutch language studies. Dutch is the fifth most requested language in U.K. job advertisements, after French, Spanish, German and Italian.

Topics: Know Your Languages

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