The Politics of Irish Language: Gaeilge (Never Gaelic)

I was going to write about the politics of the Irish language (Gaeilge) in the North of Ireland/Northern Ireland (see? in trouble already).

But I won’t.

Curry my yoghurt. Funny on one level, deadly serious on another.

Curry my yoghurt. Funny on one level; deadly serious on another.

The topic’s just too hot to handle (see what I did there?)

Recent news about the Irish language in that part of the island of Ireland is a reminder that language everywhere has powerful political and cultural dimensions. Language is a deadly serious business that can raise passions of the heart that no head can rationalize.

Still, on the subject of Gaeilge, it’s great to see how the Duolingo mobile is helping to spread Irish language learning elsewhere.

I bet that news fires up the passions too, huh?

Duolingo mobile app helps increase Gaeilge learning

Duolingo mobile app helps increase Gaeilge learning worldwide.

As far as I’m concerned, whatever your views, just don’t call it Gaelic.

Fitness Bands for Christmahanakwanzika*? Ponder the L10n

Fitness bands and devices are massively popular (I am a major offender), but that may come under pressure from other wearable tech soon (translation: smart watches). Perhaps one of those little devices will turn up as a gift for you around this time of year.

I just noticed this Fitbit gamification badge pop up in my email. Very nice to be encouraged sure, but I am not so sure that this really reflects what Africa is about. You may have a view about this. Find the comments, if so.

Fitbit Gamification Badge for Achieving 8,000 KMs. More to Africa than monkeys and bannanas.

Fitbit gamification badge for achieving 8,000 KMs. More to Africa than monkeys and bananas.

Perhaps, the topic of wearable technology and the localization of its various components and methods will be one for 2015’s conferences, blogs, articles, and so on.

* Christmas, Hannukkah, Kwanzaa (aka Christmahanakwanzika), or as we say in Ireland, “whatever you’re havin’ yourself”.

When Myself and Himself of Smartling Met at the #Websummit

Delighted to say that I’ve finally met in person with Jack Welde (@jwelde) of Smartling. We’ve been missing each other for about 12 months now due to our gallivanting around the world taking care of our respective responsibilities. And where better to meet the man than at the Dublin Websummit (“Where the Tech World Meets”, as they say)?

Myself and himself at the Websummit. A selfie, naturally.

Myself and himself at the Websummit. A #selfie, naturally.

I was impressed with Jack’s take on technology and localization. Here’s a man with a passion for linguistics and tech going right back to his UPenn college days and an internship with Professor William Labov. And, he has some serious startup chops already to his name.

Jack’s thoughts on the need for simplicity, extensibility, the need to meet the needs of users and, above all, the potential offered by the power of the cloud resonated strongly with my views too. The cloud’s the platform of choice now. For everything.

Developers, in particular, don’t want to be overburdened with complex workflows or have to write new tools to deal with their product’s localization needs. And, they know the cloud. I was knocked out to hear that Smartling had recently engaged with hundreds of developers on their own level at their #linguahack hackathon in Ukraine too.

Jack also gave me a quick demo of Smartling itself, a cloud platform translation solution aimed as much at individual pockets of developers as at meeting enterprise-scale needs. I’ll explore the solution myself in more detail shortly, so stay tuned.

The Websummit has been described as “Davos for Geeks”. I think it offers a lot more than that. Primarily, I think its value is one of networking on a grand scale, though with such a huge multinational attendance and such a broad range of startup and innovative activity present it would seem like an ideal place to watch out for potential customers of localization solutions too.

In the past, I’ve written about when and how startups need to go global. Walking around the Websummit’s many venues it’s clear that many alpha and beta offerings are not ready for that step yet.

So, perhaps there is a clear role for the localization industry to learn the language of the startup and developer crew and engage and help them pick what is the right moment to pull the trigger on the g-word. Overselling or scaring off this community by not talking the right  language is essential.

Thoughts welcome. Watch out for more insights about Smartling soon.

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.