In our first episode, Vasco sits down with Laura Gomez, whose LinkedIn profile speaks for itself: former Head of Localization and Internationalization at Twitter and Jawbone, respectively, and current Founder of Atipica, a startup focused on optimized, actionable (and diverse) top of the funnel talent acquisition.
At the end of the day, obviously localization and translation, internationalization’s all about growth. It’s all about having that growth aspect, so, like whatever you do, a business wants to grow, consumer software wants more users. Everything is about growth.
- Laura’s background and inspiration for working with communities
- How Laura built the community and tools behind the Twitter Translation Center
- A discussion of the ROI for translation
- What to do when your product is popular in an unexpected market
- Why companies tend to internationalize way too late
Your biggest early adopters don’t have borders.
Read the full Episode 1 transcript below.
Episode 1 Transcript
Vasco (intro): Hi guys, welcome to Reach with Unbabel! I’m your host Vasco Pedro and this is the very first episode of our first podcast so bear with us as we figure things out. This week we’re talking with Laura Gomez about internationalization. Let’s jump right into the discussion.
Vasco: So today we’ve got with us Laura Gómez. She has a very impressive resume as Twitter – so as Twitter you grew the community of international volunteers from 1,600 to a million?
Vasco: In less than two years which is really, really impressive. After Twitter you were at Jawbone, right?
Vasco: Where you led all international products, product management, internationalization, (and the) localization effort. Jawbone is a love brand so people really like that. I remember talking to you at the time and [about] all the efforts you were doing on Jawbone which were really impressive.
And you were featured in hundreds of publications, I mean you are everywhere. I mean, [in] 2013 you were voted one of the most powerful women in Mexico, that’s very impressive, and as far as I can tell you were the first in your family to graduate from college, right? Which is…
Vasco: So, I mean it seems like you’ve been always immersed in this moving forward, of achieving more and being involved in communities, right? Of moving people.
Vasco: How did it get started? Did you know early on, like, “I want to work with these great communities?”
Laura: Well, I remember being here, my family came to the United States when I was about nine, ten. Then I grew up in Silicon Valley. So, I tell people I learned how to drive at the Napster parking lot.
Vasco: Okay, that’s awesome.
Laura: My first internship was [with] Hewlett-Packard Software at 17. It was just kinda funny because I was like, “I don’t want to do this,” because this was literally maybe a year or two years, or the year that Google was founded, when consumer software hadn’t really caught on and all software was PC based, not even Apple [was popular], it was all PC based. When I was in high school I remember there was this proposition against immigrants, Cal Prop 187 and I remember I was doing very well in school and then I gathered a whole [group of] students to march on a rainy day against that when it passed. And obviously it was overturned by the courts because it was unconstitutional, saying that immigrants couldn’t go to school or couldn’t go to hospitals, like all of that.
So, anyway I realized, like, I had this motivation, this kind of talent to gather people in a collective vision and explain, you know, whether it’s a protest or a march or later on, on a product. And I think that’s one of the things that I feel very passionate about – always thinking [of] the power of the community. For example, I remember going to Localization World Paris 2012, and I had the professional translators always attack[ing] the community model that we were building at Twitter, but I was always saying, you know, collective thought, and as long as you can help them with the right tools, it’s always better than a one thought, right? So, like when you have collectiveness.
Vasco: That’s a great point, I mean, so maybe one of the first things I would love to discuss is exactly the perspective from professional translators to community translation, I mean you’re kind of leading, well I know you’re now doing a different project within a community but you’ve been leading for a long time, this idea of pushing community forward, and community tasks specifically, in localization. How was the perception of translators regarding the community? How did that evolve over time? Do you think that’s changing?
Laura: Well, I think it is, I think it’s the power of the community. Like the power of crowdsourcing, regardless — I know Luis von Ahn who did the crowdsourcing of the capture, right?
Laura: And so looking at the power of crowdsourcing and that’s Duolingo as far as how can you do that and do more on language learning. I don’t think that, like, even when I went to Jawbone and I introduced this, our users [were] going to know our brand better or are going to understand [us] better. I do think that even when we started doing crowdsourcing on Twitter, I remember interviewing someone, a candidate, a professional to help us launch in one of the FIGS languages – French, Italian, German, Spanish. And I remember one candidate was actually, like, professional was like, “I hate, I don’t think that they’re trained.” I was like, “Why are you interviewing for this job? Because this job will actually, you won’t be the person to decide, it will be the community but you’re the one that at the end, you know, reviews and makes the appropriate option for that translation.” And I think even in 2012 and even as we move forward, like, now we’re seeing more tools for translators to be better translators and communities to understand better, whether it’s context, what they’re translating. And I think that now when you did crowdsourcing before, let’s say in Facebook of 2008, It was just like, “Do this.” And so people didn’t have [the] appropriate tools to understand what they were…
Vasco: [Interjects] And how did you deal… I mean one of the things that typically is found in crowdsourcing and translation is, especially if people are volunteers, that it’s hard to get them to do the more boring texts, right? People do what they love and some stuff gets… it’s hard to predict when things are going to be done and when you can actually get ready to push. How do you coordinate that with what I imagine is a fast paced of pushing code and, kind of, pushing features at Twitter?
Laura: I think there has to be a balance, right? If you understand that your text, maybe this kind of more boring text is not going to get translated, you might have [to do] the pull itself, or the translations will be ten times less [quick] than like a “fun” translation, whatever that means. And it’s all very subjective as well, [in] some languages that boring text can be fun. In Swedish people wanted to translate the longer, boring texts…
Laura: …[more] than the shorter text because the shorter text is like, “Yeah, that makes sense but the longer I put my…” So I think it depends on the communities as well as [what else] you can always mix in. There’s always a great balance between community and professional translators on what [one] can one do versus the other.
Vasco: Do you think that it’s a spectrum where you have all kind of ranges of skill, or is it more [on] one side it’s the community on [the] other side is the profession, or [is there] like a clear distinction?
Laura: No, I don’t think so. I think there are people that are professional translators that volunteer on different platforms and you’d be getting paid for it. There are also people that started off doing community translations that decide, “I’m really good at it, I want to become a professional translator, or do it on other platforms.”
For example, a great friend of mine who was part of the community – mind you, the community to me is almost like an extended family especially the people that moderate it – when I went to Indonesia I actually met one of our community [members] and he’s my Facebook friend now, I call him my brother, my Indonesian brother. You do meet, like, someone from the Arabic community that started doing this translation for Twitter that ended up doing the same for like, WhatsApp, and then I’m doing the same for Pinterest. There are other things – not Pinterest but for Airbnb – so there are other things that people are doing and so I think it’s really cool that there’s no spectrum, it’s always like, you know, what is the right blend of people that are doing this? I do think that in general the communities [themselves], they’re cohesive with each other if it’s like this is something they’re either a) getting paid on or b) “I’m learning to understand.” And there’s always that fine balance. I’ve met at Localization World, my professional translators people in head of localization of very big companies that are still, you know, tackling the same issues. I always tell people that Localization World at least to me was always like a very big group therapy.
Vasco: Yes, so I went to my first Localization World in October, in Vancouver.
Laura: Oh, okay, cool.
Vasco: And I felt exactly that, I felt like, until then we, there were a lot of issues that we thought, “Okay, it must be just us, the rest of the people have already solved this.”
Vasco: But then you get there and it’s like, “Oh wait, everybody’s kind of struggling with the same issues,” and there’s kind of a set of current issues that everybody’s trying to figure out, and it’s more like, “Oh, you know, clients, they always want the weirdest things.” And it’s like, “Oh, you too? It happened to us too.”
Laura: Yeah. I tell you it’s like group therapy that you end up going to, you’re like, “Okay great.” And it’s great because I think this community understands and always is thinking, whether now my new venture is a different community, it’s not a consumer web, and it’s really led to actually make an impact. Yet I’m always having my localization international hat on, like, when I speak to partners, or when I’m talking to someone I was like, “Are we going to be able to localize or internationalize this?” So our passion is always there.
Vasco: That’s an interesting point, so now I mean, you have this tremendous experience in building and running and kind of expanding internationalization in large and medium companies, and now you’re kind of doing, you know, you’re a new start-up founder. How early did you think about this, right? Is this something that you said, “Well this is great but even knowing how hard it is to do things I’m going to postpone it a little bit.” Or is this something like, “No, I want to be in multiple markets from day one.”
Laura: Yeah, and so, I think that’s a great question. The start up that I cofounded that is still running strong with my ex co-founder, there we thought about internationaliz[ing] from the point one, I said, “Can we do this in Spanish and English?” Spanish we can reach Latin America or whatever. So from the get-go, and even now as people are asking me, “Is this going to be just a US-based?” Obviously when you have a company and you want to start off, obviously like US companies you need a validation, but I said, “No, we might want to do the same.”
A typical talent is everywhere, it doesn’t just defined by the 30 miles that is Silicon Valley, or anywhere. You might find great Ruby programmers in this northern state of Mexico, or you might find great Perl programmers in this part of Greece. So, I feel like connecting those dots of like, it’s something that really, really resonates with me. So, one day an engineer or a product manager or a sales person from Greece, let’s say, wants to work in Silicon Valley. They understand the process where we’ll be able to speak to them in their native tongue, and then say “But prepare your English for the interview.” Obviously I think about how we are going to internationalize not only the user interface, but like the learning lessons, everything that we want for things to be. There’s a lot of terminology, as you know, here in Silicon Valley, but how can we explain that terminology to someone that’s not in Silicon Valley?
Laura: That speaks another language. And so I want to be able to do that at one point and then kind of expand on what diversity means in technology, what diversity means in the workforce, what diversity means in general. You know women, raised nationality etc, age. I think it’s really important to think about from the beginning because I never want to be an US-based… I don’t want to be a US focused, maybe US-based, and then having, but always thinking about the potential and international market.
Vasco: Great so there’s two questions I’d like to ask. One is going back to the community building and Twitter and the experience you had there. From what you said, you believe in people growing as translators, right? So that even someone that is beginning you can give them materials or you can educate them to become better, right?
Vasco: Can you mention, what kind of materials would you give someone? Because sometimes there’s this dichotomy between well, either you’re focusing between people learning languages or it’s more like, well you either know it or you don’t, but you’ve got to be able to do the job. What would you use, what would you recommend? If someone is trying to educate the community.
Laura: I think one is an assessment of any community, we are doing the same now in [unclear], how do we assess where they’re at as as far as like… You know a language, like, for example, you put me in the middle, hopefully, in Portugal or Brazil, I speak enough Portuguese that I can probably survive. And everything comes back to me, right? But if I’m doing this online, maybe my assessment is not reflective as well as what I should be doing, this translation. But if you assess, understand, that this is something I’m passionate about. Passion drives forward, maybe a learning lesson with content on very basic things that you would be of knowledge to me like, how do you say “restroom”? Or how do you say, “My name is…” or how do you say, “I want to have a ticket on this bus to this place.” And so all of those things, right? You assess that and you understand that from me but I may not be able to have a long conversation in that language. And so you place people and then you, to a certain extent, you see their motivation [as] action based. I think it’s really important to know that, like, most people outside of the United States are bilingual.
Laura: Like, an example is [unclear] my Indonesian moderator translator that worked at Twitter that I met when I was in Bali. And that I promised that I would go back to visit him, actually and as an excuse…
Vasco: It’s a great excuse.
Vasco: There could be worse places to go.
Laura: Yeah, I know. When he met me, he’s like, “I’m so sorry for my English,” and I was like, “I don’t even know why you’re apologizing.” I bet you if I learned Indonesian, I’d probably be a hundred times worse. A lot of people are always apologetic over their, what we call their L2, their second language. We all have our egos, [over] the L1 the L2 sometimes. For me English has become L1 because now I work in and have [been] raised here in the United States that Spanish sometimes now is like a second language. The L2, we are always apologetic of that second language you have learned, and I don’t think that we should be. Like, I think translators in themselves: if you have a capacity to communicate effectively in that language, you probably have the capacity to know enough to translate in it. So, like I think what becomes now is like, how can you get better at it? Maybe at the beginning you’re probably not that great, like, but I bet you if you are constantly are doing it…
Vasco: So you think the most important thing is kind of the feedback loop of what you do and how good was that…?
Laura: Yeah, the insights.
Vasco: Okay. So it’s more that than, “Here’s a library of videos that you should go watch…”
Vasco: On specific techniques on translation, for example?
Laura: No, insights are always, like, everyone always… here we go with the Silicon Valley terms, big data, everyone’s always talking data but data doesn’t have to be big and it doesn’t have to be complex, it just has to be insightful for people to understand. And that’s why now almost everything has analytics attached to it, so we that understand at least where the patterns are at, what people [are] like. And then we don’t have to overanalyze all of our things. I don’t think I overanalyze my Twitter analytics, Facebook, just not even. It’s more about what are insightful analytics for me? Like, for me, when I publish something on LinkedIn and then I see 40 people have your profile and that’s great. That means that there’s something effectively in my profile that is going to get me a) clients, b) investments or c) new friends in the field.
Vasco: So it’s a little bit of a tangent but I think that’s fascinating, right? Because I think big data is kind of powering a lot of the trends that we are seeing. For example, even machine translation is powered by all of the advances that have been powered by big data. But I think we’re now moving to the moment where it’s more about insightful data. So it’s about so how do you… because it’s overwhelming, right? The amount of data available is just overwhelming. You can’t, for example, even simple things in a startup where you start measuring stuff and you start sending events to Mixpanel. And pretty soon you have way more events than you can handle, and you’re trying to figure out, “Okay, how do I make sense of this?”
Laura: Which one makes sense?
Vasco: Exactly, right. And you can always find data, you know, you can basically tell whatever story you want with it. You can always highlight certain parts of the data to make your point, even if those two points are contradicting each other. You can both be supported by the same data, if you know how to tell the story. I think that the hard part is, how do you get insights from that data? Because even though we all like to think we are going to be amazing statisticians, we are not going to be, I’m not going to be, right? And at some point that’s not the focus, right? The focus is you want to tell me what’s relevant so I can make a decision on how to move forward and how to achieve my goals. And I think that’s, kind of, a lot of the buzz AI words that we are seeing now are in one way or another trying to drive insights from data and kind of taking the next step.
Laura: What makes sense for, let’s say we bring it back to localization, what makes sense, right? And as you said earlier, what’s the boring text like? You understand the key terms of the UI or things that need to be translated and need to be understood. And even the boring text, we see five users that will end up using it, so maybe that effort of that insight that you’re doing, it has to be translated. If it’s so hidden that someone doesn’t see it…
Vasco: That’s actually a very interesting idea. In a way what you’re saying is that the community itself is curating what content is going to be important just by basically there’s an alignment between the content that the translators, the volunteers, want to translate and the content that users are going to respond to. Natively users are going to tend to translate the things that they think is going to be more interesting for the users, and so in a way they are already focusing on the content that is more important.
Laura: Yeah, you can rank that and ship. When I joined Jawbone I had to like, it was insane because it was already a couple hundred employees, yet they never had anyone dedicated, and so [were] like, you go back and try to reeducate people doing [unclear] and saying there’s the things, because they always want completion and I was like, “If you have completion, you don’t get context all around that copy and you don’t have to think about the culture and itself?” Like, you’re not going to have the best translation, right? Completion at the end of the day, like I remember, like we were, “It has to be 100% completed when we are launching on Twitter.” Then we realized, it could be 90% completed – that is, user interface “long tail” content or the boring content. We will try to complete it within the next month. Obviously that doesn’t look good and I know a lot of people would say, “No localization.” But if we looked at the analytics, one out of a hundred users would end up in that page. We want the user growth to happen, so like, I think at the end of the day, obviously localization and translation, internationalization’s all about growth. It’s all about having that growth aspect, so, like whatever you do, a business wants to grow, consumer software wants more users. Everything is about growth. You have to just choose. Hardware is a little bit difficult because Jawbone, you have to have your directions…
Vasco: User manuals.
Laura: Yeah, user manuals, those are harder and obviously, like, you need to push, but I think with agile and consumer web and the online products you can probably leverage that a little, well you have much more room for flexibility.
Vasco: And one of the questions that keeps coming up again and again is, kind of, “Okay, how do we justify our ROI on localization, right?” I mean even internally how do you sell that, how do you go to the CEO or whoever is going to make the budget decision and say, “Hey, this is really important, this is how it’s going to enable us to grow.” In something like hardware, like you said, you need to have the manuals if you’re going to launch in a particular market. But when you’re localizing your website, how do you have that conversation?
Laura: I think, I don’t know, I mean, I honestly… We launched in a couple of languages and I think the reason, at least on Twitter, I remember when I started I was just doing Twitter in Español and I was doing everything, from business development to localization to support. It was just me. And so a year later they’re looking at…
Vasco: Fortunately Twitter doesn’t have a lot of users, right?
Vasco: It’s just 500,000 emails a day.
Laura: It wasn’t even a year later, it was like I think eight months later I got promoted to the team lead and they’re like, “How did you do this?” and I’m like, “I don’t know.” It’s obviously Twitter ended up really being picked up in Latin America, and they’re like, “Well, can that be replicated?” And I was like, “Well, we need to understand how we launch.” When we launched for Turkey and for Twitter in Turkish, literally the growth was on onboarding and retention as people signed up, it was 40%, it increased by 40%.
Vasco: That’s insane.
Laura: And those numbers… and I was at an event called Venture Crush – I’ll invite you, they usually have them in June here in California, it’s by my law firm – they have VCs and entrepreneurs and they’re amazing, I’ve been to both Venture Crush in New York – I flew out there just for that and then here – and the people I’ve met there, it’s just other entrepreneurs and the content that they discuss, it’s very particular to start-ups and founders like you and I. But there was a whole panel of international, the head of growth for Facebook, there were a bunch of VCs, or venture capitalists for your listeners that don’t know the Silicon Valley lingo, venture capitalists from all the big firms that have invested in all the big names that one knows of. And one of them actually is the former SVP of Engineering at Twitter who is at another venture capitalist firm, now as a partner. And I remember just saying hi to Mike and the whole conversation was about international and why don’t we invest more in international localization. He was supposed to lead [the conversation] and he just started off saying, “Oh, Laura is here, she can actually…”
And I’m like, “No, I’m not, I’m here to listen to other people and what they…” and there were people from Pinterest, there were people from Facebook, there were more software as a service business to business start-ups and a lot of venture capitalists, and I think that conversation’s happening, this was last year. And so there is no, “How can I go to my CEO?” I think if all their investors are having conversations around growth and growth naturally means you don’t grow only in the United States, it means growth globally, you do have a business case for it. I’ve done business case for localization with different budgets, from budgets that I had at Jawbone to really little budgets I had on Twitter. My budget at one point was $1,000 and I just used it to print t-shirts to send to . . .
So, I think it’s about the growth aspect, if your business is going to grow, you’re going to get more clients, you’re going to get more users. And everyone understands growth, and knows that growth is natural. Like you go and say, my business justification to translate into Spanish, Latin American Spanish is 300 million people that are in that region. Whether you’re consumer web or you’re business-to-business you have 300 million people and you have a client base that is all over this region. Or you say the same on the Indonesian market, Jakarta is called the Facebook capital of the world, because they have more Facebook users per capita than any other wealth. They’re very connected, and at the beginning no one understood why I wanted to translate it into Indonesian. Now that they opened up the Indonesian office in Twitter, I’m hoping that they understand why I did this.
I do think that start-ups and US based companies don’t understand the importance of localization whether you’re in Silicon Valley, whether you’re in Detroit, whether you’re in Texas, as much as they should as international expansion, but that being said I do feel like people are understanding that you don’t get to be the Twitters and the Facebooks of the world if you focus on, at least on the consumer world, focus only on the US. You can actually monetize way, way earlier than one could. Maybe you don’t see the ROI right away, and I think that’s another misconception that people have. We translated, why can’t we see an ROI but you definitely are planting the seed. Once again, going back to Indonesia we planted that seed. Five years ago, no, it was 2011, I think, four years ago almost. And here we are, [inaudible 00:24:53], right? I’m not saying it takes years…
Vasco: But that’s the average time it takes on an average start-up to actually grow, like if you just launched your product, three, four years is not uncommon for you to actually hit your stride and get to the point where you’re getting big. So, in a way, when you’re launching in a new market it’s like you’re launching the product anew, right?
Vasco: There’s a certain aspect of it, you need to actually get it to grow.
Laura: And then you also need retention, right? Like, for example, like I believe that Twitter launched Twitter in Portuguese a little bit too late when the product was very popular in let’s say, Brazil in 2008-2009 and then we launched, only three years ago, Twitter in Portuguese. And so you always have to, whether it’s language based or culture based, I remember being at an event and someone came up to me and said, “My product…” It was an educational tech, “My product is really popular in the Middle East, what do I do?” and I was like, “Take advantage of it.”
Vasco: Yeah, ride it.
Vasco: Ride the wave.
Laura: Yeah, I was, “Maybe not localize because we all know right-to-left languages are really…”
Laura: But like, get insights, get understanding on why. Maybe, like, gather ten users and ask them, and start promoting that. Have them become brand ambassadors of your product, because when other people are your evangelists that’s where you get . . . you know I used this really cool product, parents or whoever, but don’t try to dissect information when you grow in a certain market. I think, like, I understand what are the cost benefits of me translating or getting insightful data from them? It’s definitely, as I said, insightful data could be, “Okay, maybe translating in Arabic is going to cost me too much, but getting more information and promoting it more might gathers users.” Or, if it’s an easier sell, like, more of a romance language like Spanish, maybe you should translate, it’s a couple hundred dollars if you have a couple of…
Vasco: It’s kind of low hanging fruit.
Laura: Yeah, if you don’t have that much copy. It’s all weighed in the balance but definitely take advantage of like, “Oh, why is it so big?” Japanese users for example, they’re very particular about their localization and translation like Korean users, their thresholds of what feels native to them, it’s a little bit more particular. But that didn’t stop Twitter from growing in Japan. We used a weird mix of in-house site people that learned Japanese as an adult as well as professional translators that didn’t understand Twitter. Cleaning up Twitter in Japanese was actually a bigger test than translating it because it happened before I arrived there, before we had dedicated team members. But that didn’t stop Twitter from growing there…
Vasco: It’s interesting because I keep hearing over and over that Japan is kind of a class by itself in terms of getting to that market and sort of the intricacies of the culture and the relationship between culture and language and the way that you express things is so different sometimes than you would in English that translation becomes a little bit hard, right? But in your case, and to your point is, well if the product is just universally appealing and it’s that good, then you don’t need to go all the way to be able to start getting traction, if you make it easier enough that people can interact with the product then, basically what you’re saying is you’re enabling the market to use the early adopters and in the case of Twitter, early adopters were significant.
Laura: Yeah, definitely. And I think that in general, when you’re learning one language, two languages, three languages and you travel and you have this sort of global perspective that you see that in every aspect of your life and you see that a good product, regardless, you know, of how it came to you, that it’s going to be appealing. And I think at the end of the day also what people don’t understand is that, your biggest early adopters don’t have borders, the internet does not have a border.
Laura: So I always say that, whether you want it or not, the internet won’t give you a clear [unclear]. Even me, I’m going into… for tech companies right now as far as building this solution for tech companies, but if, you know, a year from now I get a beverage company from India telling me, “I want to use…” I can’t say no, like if opportunities are there, so always be aware of opportunities. I do think that as we are speaking, that there is a shift from thinking only the US to if you become a public company, like Twitter has done, your stakeholders, your shareholders, your audience is going to be entirely international, because there’s only so much room for growth, in this country or in this language or like a small little country like Portugal, that has only a population this small, but Europe and the Americas and Asia have a lot more. So, I do think that it’s important to always think globally, even if you are not just right away going to act globally.
Vasco: We are all focused a lot of times in the US market, but you’re right, a lot of the big opportunities are actually coming from other countries.
Vasco: Or in places that aren’t quite as developed yet, and there’s this huge opportunity there to just have traction earlier than you would if you’re struggling, if you’re competing in the US with ten other people.
Laura: Yeah, and I think, I mean unfortunately our biases is that we feel like the US market is going to validate, you know?
Vasco: Exactly, exactly and we are also here, it’s comfortable, we get validated by the people around us, and by the people that can immediately, maybe we are also looking for immediate feedback. We can immediately see the impact, we can go next door and show it to a person and they say, “Yeah, this is awesome. I love this product,” or, “I don’t.” While if you’re doing it to the other side of the world and you’re not there, maybe there’s basic human interactions that really benefit from being there.
Laura: Yeah, definitely. But I think to your point you might get traction, you will get a lot more insights and you will get a lot of enthusiasm coming from a market that is still not tackling this issue. I always think about the Laura that would have been, if my family would have stayed in Mexico or my family would have decided, “Let’s migrate to Ohio and not Silicon Valley.” Where would I be now? What Laura…? There’s every opportunity you have here so…
Vasco: I think you’d still be moving huge communities. I believe that your passion for things would still be driving towards the kind of things you’re doing.
Vasco: So I had one final question. Do you have any resources that you’d recommend people, like if you’re building a community or if you’re trying to go global, are there blogs that you follow, are there people that you think, “Hey, look at this case or this person, they did it really well.” Obviously I recommend that people look at what you’ve done because it’s been very impressive, but I wonder if you have any other recommendations?
Laura: Yeah, I think in general, reach out to as many people as you can. There’s this amazing book by Nataly Kelly called “Found in Translation”, there’s excerpts out there, I think even some parts of the book, maybe the whole book is online, I don’t know. But there’s a lot of passionate people on Twitter or that are blogging about languages of an international . . . I think another thing that people, I think that resources tap into what other people have done, don’t try to replicate it. We didn’t try to replicate, to redo the wheel at Twitter, we looked at Facebook and it works for Facebook. They were able to localize in 80 languages in less than, like, I don’t know, nine months? You don’t want to reinvent the wheel, obviously crowdsourcing worked for them. I do have to say proudly that WhatsApp took our model as well…
Vasco: Oh okay, awesome.
Laura: …and did a translation center and everything, so like all this other stuff are doing, and there’s a lot, for anyone who’s doing this or is an engineer, that is open source on GetHub, on all this information. Try to learn more about cultural sensitivity and things that are actually implemented into the process like a lot of people, it’s funny when I tell people about CLDR and they’re like, “What is that?” and I’m like, “Dude, it’s used by every single big company, your iPhone, all the way to Google.” It’s called Custom Locale And Data Repository. So what happens is that our languages, you know, in English, we just have one plural and one singular, all right? I have one book, I have two books, three books, four books. Books, that’s it. But in other languages it is so fascinating you have different variations in Russian and you have all these different ways that you can actually pluralize. And so like, Custom Locale And Data… and so people don’t know, I don’t know Russian but I know this from learning.
And so I think it’s important to understand getting to say in your framework, what are the things that I can do? To start, even if I can’t I translate, can I actually make something culturally sensitive, at least? When we translated Twitter in right-to-left languages, we didn’t translate the UI because we knew that’d take up bigger… But we started looking at how we rendered hashtags. Maybe this hashtag needs to go right-to-left, instead of… those are the incremental steps that would get you highly engaged and that will get you at least, if you’re a hardware product and you can’t translate everything, do you want to just put a sticker and say, “This is what it is.” Or, minimize it as iPhone has successfully done, is like, pretty much their packaging is, just iPhone, a picture, and maybe something in the back, that adheres to that market’s legal compliance and that’s about it.
Vasco: Right, very minimalist.
Vasco: And that helps, right? Sometimes I notice that even in terms of copy, people tend to use a lot of idiomatic expressions which sometimes work really well in a language, but then you try to translate it and it sucks.
Vasco: And then it goes back to the whole question of, “Well, is it the translators fault? Or is it the fact that your content was terrible to begin with in terms of being ready for internationalization?” Or you weren’t able to convey the context. Realizing definitely would help.
Laura: Or even saying, like, Volkswagen is a great example. They couldn’t translate “Das Auto”, so they kept it in all those languages. And so now people learned at least one German word, they understood. So I think it’s like a balance what makes sense for your business, your brand, your company and your users, your clients. So, if you can strike that fine balance, who knows you might end up being one of those very successful start ups or companies that we all hear of.
Vasco: Which I’m sure yours will be.
Laura: I hope so too, thank you so much. Thanks everyone.
Vasco: Thank’s very much Laura Gómez, I won’t forget it now
Laura: Yeah, and definitely hope to meet you again, when you’re back here in SF and always you have a friend in me and localization translation is one of the most amazing spaces to be in because it is truly universal and people can understand what you need to do in order to get there and it’s all over the world, it’s not confined just to a specific area. Definitely to all my localization international translation friends out there, you are changing the world, literally.
Vasco: Awesome, thank you very much.
Laura: Thanks, okay bye bye.
Vasco (outro): That’s it for the first episode of Reach! Thanks a lot for listening. Reach is hosted by me, Vasco Pedro, and our producer this week was Drake Ballew. Tune in next time to hear our conversation with Siliva Olviedo Lopez, who leads Internationalization at Pinterest.