Letter from Europe

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Thu Mar 29 13:01:17 UTC 2007

 March 28, 2007 Letter from Europe by Barry Lloyd

The title is intended to homage that great BBC radio four series Letter
from America, the worlds longest running speech radio program - presented
for many years by the late, great Alistair Cooke (KBE). Each week Alistair
would offer a perspective on American life, starting with a small
observation he had made in person or from the various news services. He
would then typically aim to offer an understanding of this observation by
superimposing it on the larger cultural, political, statistical and
financial landscape of this great country. This entry is my attempt to
offer the same insight, but focusing on the European landscape in order to
provide a perspective of our continent, address how the multi-facetted
environment here affects globalisation requirements and describe how they
should be addressed by globalisation solutions.

On my way to a meeting yesterday it struck me how Europe is in a constant
state of flux (to be truthful it had struck me several times before, but
this was the first time I'd really thought about it). I was walking through
Munich, Bavaria (don't tell a Bavarian they are in Germany!)  a truly
remarkable and beautiful city that I have visited on many occasions and
each time I manage to see something new. It is rich in history - from the
earliest times when beer-brewing monks settled in the area (Its native
name, Muenchen, literally means Monks), through battles and wars to its more
recent history and the opening of many political and physical barriers.
Its central architecture is a mix of old and new - baroque sitting next to
modern baroque replica, sitting next to stone and glass offices. Further
out the city becomes business oriented with offices, high-tech companies
and manufacturers taking advantage of Munich's central location in Europe.
Similarly, Munich's people are a true mix you can see veterans sitting in
the beer gardens watching the world go by alongside business men eager to
get to their next meeting or indeed having their meeting in the beer
garden. A great many people now living and working in Munich do not
originate from there. In recent years an influx from Russia and Eastern
Europe has helped boost both the work force and the Bavarian multicultural

As a solutions engineer working for Idiom in Europe, I spend a lot of time
visiting clients, prospects and partners across the continent and the
description I have just given of one European city is repeated many times
over. From Norway to Spain, Portugal to the Urals - Europe and Europeans
exhibit a close mix of traits due to their history. What of the people?
Well, they are mixed up too (meant in the geographical sense, of course).
Especially in the last decade or so and much like the rest of the world,
Europeans have been afforded many advantages: One can now travel to, live
and work anywhere one likes and many new Europeans are taking advantage of

As a result of this European Brownian motion, wherever you travel, you'll
never be sure which language to address a person with and what the right
tone should be, depending on the context (being a Brit, I tend to speak
English and if not understood, I say it louder, I'm ashamed to say!). If I
were to compare Europe to food (the later being something I like to think
about a lot!), I'd say the Europe of just a couple of decades ago was meat
and two veg  each type of food has its place on the plate and could be
left there if you didn't enjoy the flavour. Modern Europe is a Paella, or
an even better comparison would be to a Mongolian barbeque, where your
chosen meets and vegetables are cooked on a hot plate and generally get
mixed up with everyone elses food  so you get to taste the whole menu.

So what has all this got to do with globalisation? I here you ask. The
simple answer is that given the backdrop I have just painted, there is
more need for good globalisation solutions in Europe than anywhere else in
the world. Every market in Europe needs to address both its customers in
its own country and those in other countries in numerous languages and
similarly take cultural, market, legal and tonal variances into
consideration. Nordics would typically buy an MP3 player or dish washer
with an English language instruction manual without too much thought,
whereas customers from central European countries would prefer local
language instructions and are more likely to look for manufacturers
offering such. In both cases, manufacturers must take local regulations
and legal aspects into consideration and include coverage for both in
product information.

Now consider the statistics: Two thirds of a billion people live in Europe
(450 million in EU member states), and Europe has a GDP of around 12
trillion USD  similar in size to that of the USA. There are currently 25
European member states and 23 official languages recognized by the EU -
plus a number of other languages spoken in various regions. With no common
language policy across Europe, multilingual along with multicultural life
is positively promoted. All of this adds up to an environment where
translation and globalisation solution companies are in constant demand.
For example, many regional and central European governmental organisations
employ hundreds of translators and are always looking to employ more. And
their translation requirements are interesting  not just English to French
or English to German, but Romainian to Swedish or Spanish to Czech!

Europe is also a hotspot for language service providers. Idiom deals with
many of them  there are literally hundreds of translation agencies from
the largest well known names, to smaller companies providing more
specialist or vertical translation offerings. They have arisen because of
the environment in Europe.

All this keeps Idiom and myself busy! Right now, more organisations with a
base in Europe are looking for globalisation solutions than ever before.
This is no doubt due to Europes open market and open door approach. Most
companies I have visited in the last few years are looking for a way to
automate as much as possible, reduce cost, improve quality and importantly
engage their customers in the way the customer wants  using their
language, context and tone. Behind that, they are looking for freedom of
choice  being able to select translation services from any partner they
wish to work with and implement processes that meet their internal
business requirements and externally deliver what the European customer
wants. Due to the constant flux we are in, European companies are also
looking at the cutting edge of globalisation solutions  deep integration
into content repositories and hybrid machine translation / translation
memory solutions are becoming interesting in order to deal with the flux
in as real-time a way as possible.

Europe is an always changing, expanding mixed up place, full of diversity
and surprises wherever you turn. Any globalisation solution has to be
flexible, quick to adapt, offer freedom of choice and be able to offer the
latest innovative flux-navigating technology. Working for the only company
on the planet to truly offer such a solution, I'm a happy, but busy chap.

Vive la Difference!



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