Collaboration with Language; not always possible

My Dear Friends in Technology,

Fortuitously, today’s preface to theThomasNet.com newsletter broached a subject that I want to write about in the MCAD Newsletters. When I use trial versions of some very sophisticated collaboration software it seems to me that one particular item has been overlooked. Suppose the team leader is in another country and doesn’t speak your language? None of the software programs I have seen so far have figured out how to get around that. A good project should not be dumped or suffer from a lack of good language coordination. Why no vendor out there, to my knowledge has addressed this, is beyond my level of understanding.

I am not judging the eloquence of the software because I am not qualified to do that. I’m sort of like an outsider looking into something that should have been seen by others who are more knowledgeable. How do I markup the drawing about something I see wrong or that I think could be improved when I cannot speak or write the native language of the team leader? “A picture is worth a thousand words” but that does not always hold true in technical matters. More importantly, why has no vendor embedded something into the software to link it to a translation site or a dedicated server, to cross the language barrier?

As a test, I used a few different collaboration software packages and went to the translation link http://www.bablefish.com and changed a markup note from English to Simplified Chinese by cutting and pasting the translation into the software. Most of the time this procedure didn’t work. I don’t know why it didn’t, perhaps it is that the software is built around its proprietary self and treats cutting and pasting from outside of the software as an influenza attack.

My only goal in stating this is to bring this issue to the attention of vendors that in today’s world of global business collaboration is extremely importance. There are a few ways to handle this problem either from within or from outside of the software with translation web sites. However, this in not a solution if the software does not allow cutting and pasting for markup purposes. Looking from the outside, I leave you with these thoughts.

Ps. I would appreciate your feedback on this and if you think I should pursue it.

Richard Williams
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  • Language Aficionado December 01, 2005
    Reviewed by 'Ken'
    First, I assume you meant to link to http://www.babelfish.com? Got to get that Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy stuff spelled right, you know. This thing of crossing language barriers is a whole lot broader than the CAD business, obviously. Online translators are a start, although the results are sometimes barely intelligible in the translated version. Worse, since they primarily take a word for word approach, there is a very real possibility of miscommunication. Language isn't that easy, or the translation tools wouldn't be stuck in such a primitive form as we see them today. Even if we could get past such problems as word order, syntactical arrangement, and which of the various possible meanings to assign to a word in a particular context, we would still have to deal with the idiomatic expressions that are all but impossible to deal with at today's level of translation software. But the topic is a good one, and worthy of further discussion.

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  • You Should Pursue This November 09, 2005
    Reviewed by 'Alan'
    Yes you should pursue this. It is a major issue and a current topic of conversation. Major users of major PLM software are standardising on English (no bad thing perhaps...) because whilst the software may well have localised langauge versions, the data is not localised. To store it separately brings lifecycle issues to the verification & validation of the data, as well as adding complexity to the database and to do it on demand not only would have the same issues as before, but as you have found, on-line translators are not reliable even for common language, much less engineering terminology and company standard abreviations (just for example). This was a hot topic amongst delegates at a European PLM summit conference in London earlier this year, sponsored by AMR research.

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  • It's economics, pure and simple November 09, 2005
    Reviewed by 'Rocco'
    It's simply a matter of economics. All of the software vendors that I have worked with (quite a few, in fact) have all complained about the time, effort, and cost of "localizing" products. In most cases, the foreign language versions lag the product release by months. Why do they do it? Because it's economically worth it. They only release languages where they know that they will get a return on their investment. With free trials, however, it's hard enough to recoup your costs anyway, much less to recoup localization costs for the software, the intro presentations, the tutorials, and so on.. I hate to speak for the vendors, but as a former business owner, I can't say that I would spend the time and money either.

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