Open for Business
May 1st, when the enlarged European Union comes into effect, is a largely symbolic date. Businesses worthy of their name on both sides of the geographic divide have long been aware of the issues raised by EU membership.
The ten candidate countries have all been working hard at overhauling their largely small- and medium-sized business infrastructure, streamlining their processes (sometimes with EC support), polishing up their entrepreneurial mindset and bringing themselves in line with the new regulatory environment.
With easier access to markets, these countries will primarily be competing on price, whether in manufacturing, agricultural produce or services. But they must also factor a broader localization challenge into their website and product information budgets if they want to compete on quality. To this end, Kevin Fountoukidis provided some useful insights into the localization industry in Eastern Europe last year in his article, That Dirty Little Four-Letter Word.
External firms seeking to expand their customer base in a geography stretching from Latvia in the north to the islands of Cyprus and Malta will firstly benefit from harmonized customs and other regulations, and no doubt better business information on opportunities in these countries, even though they do not collectively add up to a hugely attractive demographic.
But for all of us, in the public or private sector, the one salient characteristic these newcomers all share is their intense identity as locales. And first and foremost, this means language. Apart from the case of Cyprus, there is a one to one mapping between nation-state and national language, almost doubling the proud linguistic diversity of the EU overnight.
In a highly regulated market such as the EU, this foundational respect for the culture of Member States naturally comes with a localization price tag. New legislation will, in many cases, come into force requiring more local language information on product packaging and the like.
Although the choice of Maltese as a ‘national’ language has raised a few smiles, mainly because the European Commission couldn’t find enough qualified Maltese interpreters (simultaneous translators) to handle official multilingual meetings, it will be increasingly necessary for people doing business in, or web-targeting, these countries to check on evolving specifications when addressing these “new” locales.
We may even discover that the newfound “political” status of these countries as full members of the EU will rapidly prompt them to take their own linguistic and cultural identity more seriously in the market place.
Mind you, if you look at EU locales in purely demographic terms, then despite the newbies, the old continent will still be primarily a “FIGS” region for a while - French, Italian, German and Spanish will remain the traditional first-tier languages (excluding U.K. English, of course).
However, the FIGS picture may evolve. Although we often think of the new EU entrants as “smaller” countries, it is worth remembering that one of them - Poland – is a linguistic light heavyweight. With a population of over 30 million speakers, it offers a real challenge to Spanish membership in Tier 1. Especially since, unlike Poland, Spain as a country is itself linguistically fragmented – or locale-rich, if you prefer. Anyone localizing, say, an e-banking site for Spain would do well to remember the existence of a potential Catalan and Basque clientele, even if they hesitate about Galician and Valencian.
As irony would have it, however, Spanish is along with French and English, one of the EU languages with a large number of “off-shore” locales, even if it is not the only language in Spain. As Javier Garcia explains in his article on Spanish language markets (premium content) all those different types of Latin American Spanish we hear so much about do not have to be quite so confusing. And Arancha Caballero helps us understand the importance of an intriguing Spanglish-speaking niche market in North America (premium content). In both cases, awareness of best linguistic practices in ‘Spanish’ localization can save time and money, while adding value to targeted marketing campaigns.
While 2004 is naturally being trumpeted as the year of a chubbier, richer EU, LISA’s own Technology Editor, Pierre Cadieux, argues in the first of a 2-part overview that it is also the “year of content.” For those of you who feel that excessive hype in recent years has emptied ‘content’ of… well, its content, Pierre lucidly spells out the reasons why we should all pay closer attention to the technologies that manage our electronic content, global or local. It also forms a perfect invitation to attend the LISA Global Strategies Summit on Managing Global Content Expansion to be held in San Francisco in June.
One obvious advantage of the “right” kind of global content management systems (there is still some polemic here - see And You’re Ugly, Too!, available here to LISA members) is that in a networked world, global content management systems have extraordinary power to collapse the distance barrier and bind remote players into far-flung, yet streamlined, workflows and value chains. In particular, this means that both buyers and suppliers can benefit from global localization outsourcing. Come and learn more about the emerging business models behind outsourcing at the LISA Forum Russia to be held in St Petersburg in June this year.
Russia might not (yet?) be part of the new EU, but due to its powerful technical skills base, it plays a vital role in the global information technology market place. Anyone seeking insider knowledge about the fast-growing Russian IT market should think about attending the High Tech Panel at the World Russian Forum and the U.S.-Russian High-Tech Symposium to be held in Washington in late April.
Whoever thinks IT thinks standards, which is in a real sense LISA’s whole raison d’être. In the first of a regular series on standards planned for the Globalization Insider, Gérard Cattin des Bois, chairman of OSCAR discusses his view of the future of standards in the language industry and their potential to radically simplify the jobs we do every day.
On a sadder note, with heavy heart we announce the passing of Emilio Benito, founder of Atril. Emilio passed away in February after a long fight against illness. Our condolences and sympathies to his family.
To round off this springtime in Europe issue, we bring you our regular Money Talks column (premium content) from John Freivalds, and a profile of LISA Board Member Alison Rowles (premium content). We’re also pleased to announce the availability of LISA’s first Best Practice Guide, devoted to Quality Assurance -The Client Perspective. This is a user-friendly compendium for buyers of localization services, containing practical information, expert comment and a unique Localization Project Bill of Materials.
A warm welcome into the Union for all our localization colleagues and customers from the new Lucky Ten! And happy reading!- Andrew Joscelyne
Reprinted by permission from the Globalization Insider,
14 April 2004, Volume XIII, Issue 2.1.
Copyright the Localization Industry Standards Association
(Globalization Insider: www.localization.org, LISA: www.lisa.org)
and S.M.P. Marketing Sarl (SMP) 2004