Program Report

"Global Shmobal: What's In It For Me?"

ArchiText's CEO Gets Us Thinking Globally

By Carol Macbain

  Hans Fenstermacher
  Hans Fenstermacher
  Photo by Carol Macbain

"Global Shmobal: What's In It For Me?" was the topic for STC's March meeting. Hans Fenstermacher, founder of ArchiText, a provider of localization and multilingual services, gave us an informative and entertaining look into the future of content providers ("us") as companies expand globally to increase market share. He reminded members that markets are growing overseas and our jobs may follow unless we can understand and take advantage of the move toward globalization.

Translation is a huge expense for businesses, but an increasingly necessary one. Fenstermacher cited studies showing that customers prefer products that use their own language. In addition to the expansion of overseas markets, the number of non-English speakers in the U.S. is also increasing. Because information is our business, we must contribute to the bottom line by helping our companies satisfy new customers who may not be comfortable with English.

Editing for Globalization Takes Time, but Saves Money

Translation fees are based on the number of words in a document plus its consistency compared to previously translated material. So it pays to put most of your effort into the source document. By ensuring that the source is concise, the writer saves money on every translation and every update. Another benefit is that the document is also easier for English speakers to use.

If You Can Cut It, Cut It

Words

The most effective way of reducing localization costs is to reduce the number of words in a document. Remove redundancies. Say only what you need to say. Be aware of word counts, and ensure that every word does count.

Hans Fenstermacher  
Hans Fenstermacher  
Photo by Carol Macbain  

Graphics

Another big budget cutter is elimination of unnecessary screen shots. At current rates of $19 per screen, per language, it is wasteful to include confirm boxes and windows that do not contribute information. A discriminating writer can determine which graphics add value.

Paragraphs

Fenstermacher also cited unnecessary introductory material after a heading as not worth the expense. Companies can no longer afford to explain the obvious, for the sake of form, when there is no value to the user.

Standardized Phrases Reduce Costs

Due to the use of translation memory, common phrases do not have to be retranslated. However, when less than 65% of the document consists of phrases that are the same, or nearly the same, as previously translated text, the cost equals that of translating new text. By standardizing and cataloging frequently used phrases, writers can keep expenses down. Describing actions consistently also benefits users.

Metrics Prove Value

The cost of a minor change in the source document multiplies many times when it must be made in several manuals and eleven languagesthe number required for marketing to the European Union. Fenstermacher's charts and graphs dramatically showed how a document created with globalization in mind would save a company thousands of dollars down the line. Writers have the opportunity to contribute significantly to the profitability of their companies by reducing the localization costs that will expand the market.

Attendees collaborate on globalization exercise  
Attendees collaborate on globalization exercise  
Photo by Carol Macbain  

Of course, the key is to have these facts and figures on hand to demonstrate how these savings will be realized. Writers need to make management aware of how their skills contribute to the company's return on investment (ROI).

Steps for Global Success

Fenstermacher concluded by advising writers to take the following steps to help their companies succeed in the international marketplace:

Taking Up The Challenge

  Hans Fenstermacher incorporates group edits
  Hans Fenstermacher incorporates group edits
  Photo by Carol Macbain

The presentation ended with an exercise that asked writers at each table to decide how to "globalize" a set of instructions. We found a lot of words and phrases to cut, but it was also clear that group editing is not cost-effective.

Five Prizes Awarded

After proving we can cut redundancy with the best of them, members also demonstrated excellent hand-eye coordination as they competed for cash prizes. By tossing a ball of duct tape into a basket, five lucky contestants won back the cost of their dinner (plus tomorrow's coffee).

View the photo gallery of contestants.

Carol Macbain is a technical writer ready to globalize. She can be reached at .