1,617,989 Scots left a wee bit uggit on Friday morning

(A guest post from Gary Muddyman, Conversis.)

Whichever side of the Yes/No divide the UK public fell with respect to Scottish Independence, and of course, more importantly those who got a vote north of the border in Scotland itself, there were a number of positives to come out of the process, most notably, the incredibly high turnout of voters, a staggering 84.6%. This says everything about our freedom of democracy and how, when there is something that the public feel passionately enough about, they will ensure their voice is heard.

But whilst in the leUnion Flag and Scottish Saltire in Edinburghad up to the referendum, the majority of the media focused on the political agenda and policies that might have swayed the voters one way or the other, such as whether they would be able to keep the Pound and the impact that might have had on their economy, the health service, or the key factor of devolved power, we at Conversis decided to look at something closer to our hearts — language. We thought we could have a bit of fun looking at how well those people living in the UK but outside of Scotland knew old Scots and Scottish Gaelic words while considering the more serious issue of whether nations should embrace their local languages more.

The findings we got back made for some interesting reading, and in hindsight, perhaps the “Yes Scotland” team could have actually used research like ours to strengthen their argument by focusing on the importance of a country’s heritage like its language and the fear that it might be lost over the years.

Our survey was carried out by Opinion Matters* in the weekend before the referendum amongst 1010 UK adults.

75.4% of respondents felt it very important and 20.2% important for a country to retain its language. Interestingly, the combined figure of 95.6% was even higher when looking at respondents from Scotland only, where it was 97.4%.

When we asked whether people thought that, just as children in Wales learn to speak Welsh, all Scottish children should learn to speak a Scottish language, such as Scots or Scottish Gaelic, the findings again were quite surprising. Whilst 10.5% said they should but only if the Yes vote won, a further 60.8% said yes, whichever way the vote went. Unsurprisingly, this rose to 65.8% in Glasgow, which of course was one of the four regions where the Yes vote gained the majority.

We then asked if Scotland should embrace their national language and change their national signs to reflect both the Scottish and English languages similar to Wales. 64.6% of people said yes with women feeling more strongly about this point in particular than men – 70.5% of women compared with 57.6% of men. However, this threw us a little and perhaps we were pushing the concept too far, because whilst there was no surprise that those people in Wales felt most strongly about this point at 73.7%, the lowest number of people to agree with this, at 57.1% were those in Scotland themselves!

Then came the fun part of the survey, when we quizzed all those people outside of Scotland on their understanding of Scots words and the results were not great! Only 16% of those polled, correctly identified uggit to mean annoyed, with almost 45% thinking it meant ugly. Similarly, whilst 43% of respondents correctly translated the word bairnskip to mean childhood, 12% thought it was a barstool.

Certain words caused all kinds of confusion, such as gaed, which was only identified correctly as the past tense of the verb to go by 33.6%. However, we did throw in some words that we thought might be more easily recognised but even then, only 60.4% knew burn was a small stream. Some hope was restored though, with a bonnie wee lass being recognised by 87% as meaning a pretty young girl, although 11 respondents did think it meant toilet seat.

For me though, whilst our survey was quite light hearted, and of course it is impossible to say what the impact could have been had either side of the argument focused on the topic of language in the lead up to the referendum, what I do believe is that as Scots and Scottish Gaelic are important languages that have been spoken in Scotland for centuries, and are found across the nation in different areas today, and as someone who is passionate about language, modern or otherwise, losing complete knowledge of them would give me every reason to be a wee bit uggit too!

Gary Muddyman is CEO of translation and localisation company Conversis. You can follow him on twitter at @Muddyisms

*The survey was carried out by Opinion Matters between 12-15 September, 2014, from a sample of 1010 UK adults, including 929 living outside of Scotland.

Minimum Viable Product: Globalization

Yes, been waiting to get a Silicon Valley-style allusion to MVP (Minimum Viable Product) into a blog post for ages. And now, thanks to Java and Android guru and i18n veteran John O’Conner (@joconner), here it is:

The Absolute Minimum You Need to Know About Internationalization

A simple, straightforward and understandable list of the key things that developers, designers and product folks need to know to make a product ready for successful global launch. What a contrast to those hectoring tl;dr i18n tomes we’ve had to deal with at times (and we wonder why nobody heeds the advice?)

We’ve come a long way since this example of major #i18nfail I encountered in 1996 (a real case with content changed to protect the starry-eyed innocents of the day):

I18n challenge 1996-style. A real-world example.

I18n challenge 1996-style. A real-world example. Example from the AGIS 2009 Conference Internationalization and Translatability for Beginners workshop.

But not far enough.

Let’s see more posts like John’s to remind us about what’s important and to make it less scary for emerging technologies and startups to understand and integrate internationalization requirements into their processes.

Take that #TWBPledge for @TranslatorsWB Just Like @RenatoBeninatto

Here’s an opportunity for you to support a great cause through some healthy best practices. Why not follow Moravia‘s Renato Beninatto‘s (@renatobeninatto) example and pledge financial support to Translators Without Borders (@TranslatorsWB) using your next fitness workout? Here’s Renato in his new cycling gear, sponsored by Global textware, to tell you more about the Donate a Workout campaign.

Renato tells us about the fine work Translators Without Borders does and how you can support it.

Renato tells us about the fine work Translators Without Borders does around the world and how you can support this great cause and stay heathy too!

Track your pledge using the Twitter hashtag .

Über? An Unterwhelming Understanding of Local Markets?

Uber has been banned in Berlin.

Perhaps the offering should have used an umlaut (Über) to get across the idea of a superior user experience to locals (or at least to Heavy Metal fans), but that wouldn’t have solved the problem here.

Uber banned in Berlin

Uber banned in Berlin

I use Uber all the time to get around San Francisco, and I love it. However, I can understand why there has been local resistance in some cases to Uber’s global expansion, for example in France, Korea, and the UK. Of course, there has been issues in the U.S. too.

Such resistance is an example of the kind of stakeholder and regulatory considerations that international offerings need to consider in their plans. In fact, even if you’re not expanding globally (yet), the local market can offer challenges, as taxi app Hailo found out.

Knowing your market is critical.

On Chimpanzees, Translators, and Technology: #Haterzgonnahate

User experience (UX) is about understanding everything a user encounters along the journey to completing a task. Working in UX means observing the people, places and things that surround a user as they work and understanding the context. We UX types rely on techniques such as ethnography and are familiar with Jane Goodall‘s grounding study of chimpanzees as we seek to surface the ways that real people do real work in the real world.

Researchers in the wild, so the story goes, noticed how, one day, a chimpanzee used a stick to ferret out some tasty ants from their nest. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the era of understanding the use of tools for work had arrived.

But, has the translation industry been paying attention to their own wildlife more recently? I was drawn to the Huffington Post blog article Why So Many Translators Hate Translation Technology by Nataly Kelly (@natalykelly).

Nataly writes about translation technology, but touches on why technology used for work fails generally: a poor user experience traced back to leaving out the real end user from the design and development process.

We all know it. The term crapplication has entered the Urban Dictionary.

Now, consider what many translators actually consider to be a translation “tool” or “technology”.

Your New Fancy Translation Technology is Here!  Microsoft Excel

Your New Fancy Translation Technology is Here! Microsoft Excel

Microsoft Excel probably (no, I haven’t done the research or care to, either) remains the most widely used piece of translation toolkit today. Sure, only 10% of the application’s functionality is used by 90% of translators, 90% of the time (sounds familiar?), but that’s what they want, it works, it’s available, and it’s relatively easy to use.

But, do translators associate the term translation technology with Microsoft Excel? I suspect not.

The purpose of technology used in work should be to augment the things that users love to do, and to automate the crap they hate and have to do. Such realization shouldn’t involve a self-conscious thought of “Hey, I’m using technology!” but just feeling great about getting stuff done simply and easily, finishing early, collecting the kids, hitting the pub, and getting paid promptly.

User experience is about empathizing with users so they’ll feel good about using tech in work sure, but it’s also about delivering real productivity, so there’s a return on investment when buying that expensive “solution”.

This stuff ain’t cheap.

This lack of empathy or understanding of real users exists in the translation industry with this “translation technology” stuff too, though not always. At times tools get it right, the tech is taken to, and is loved.

And then the upgrade or an acquisition comes along…

While I don’t agree with everything in the Huffington Post article, and I don’t agree that many translators hate technology, I am glad that Nataly Kelly has offered up some provocative points for consideration and debate, especially the UX-related one.

It’ll be a mark of industry professionalism as to how that debate unfolds. 

As to why translators are left out of the requirements gathering side of technology development is another question, but the answer is not unique. Oh, did I mention that I teach a course about that?

For too long, real end users have just had to “get on with it.” 

A bit like with those crapplications.