Lost in Translation

Localizing a corporate Web site can be a tricky, time-consuming affair. This may explain why few companies have attempted it.

But why Hungarian, ahead of, say, French? Even neighboring Poland has some 40 million people. Forssberg points out that the CargoNow.com business model relies on partnerships with local corporates that know the lay of the land. He says that when he was introduced to executives at CeWeb (www.ceweb.hu), a well-connected company in Budapest, he decided to proceed.

Even then, the project involved a steep learning curve. “We had to get deeply involved in the industry,” says Gyorgy Kemeny, CeWeb’s project manager for CargoNow.com. Mostly, that involvement meant understanding how best to handle payments and regulations. But Kemeny says some localization issues were more fundamental. “We had to understand the mindset of the people who will use the system,” he explains. “How do we convince them to use the system and not fax or call each other?”

It took three weeks to complete the initial translation work. While CeWeb runs the business in Hungary, CargoNow.com oversees control of the (outsourced) system servers in Sweden. Kemeny admits it’s an unusual way to conduct a translation project, but says it has an important benefit: The system can easily translate basic site information — even requests posted by a member — in every language, simultaneously.

This year, Forssberg has his eyes set on two much larger markets, China and Japan. In fact, the Chinese-language version is already out; the Japanese edition is slated to go live this spring. Although this means a leap into the “double-byte” world of Asian character sets, Forssberg thinks the localization efforts in the region will be worth the trouble. “Once we launch a Web site in the local language in a country where we also have a partner, site activity increases a lot.” Forssberg notes. “In certain markets, it’s the only way to succeed.” – AL

CFO: The Highest Patsy?

Generally speaking, relying on free Web software to translate important corporate material is a really bad idea. For proof, check out the following freeware translation of a recent announcement flogging a seminar for finance executives in Japan. The pitch, written in Japanese, was published on the sponsor’s Web site. The translation software used is a no-charge program that’s available on the Internet.

“Now, the CFO (the highest financial affairs patsy) is greatly expected very at small-to- medium sized venture enterprise. But, demand from enterprise it is insufficient contrarily very. Presently in Europe and America, investment appraisal is has reached extent and the important role which are done not only the CEO vis-a-vis the management team which includes the CFO from as for VC … As for this lecture, the people who would like you to do the skill rise in the midst of holding office, the people who would like to utilize the employment change of occupation, we have become the practical program which in each can compensate for experience insufficiency. …”

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