Friday, October 28, 2016


At PLG we provide fee-based translation services, but recent technology has made useful tools available for free. We don’t consider that unfair competition at all. Indeed, whenever accuracy, company image or liability are not on the line, free translation software has come to replace the phrasebook of yesteryear in breaking down language barriers (by the way, feel free to visit our website and use our free translation tool anytime:

The Google Translate app is a nifty pocket translator/interpreter that provides instant rendition of both the printed and the spoken word in 27 languages. Google Translate allows you to decode foreign speech through your phone’s mic or camera, or enter your own sentences to make yourself understood. 

Photo: BBC

One visually entertaining feature of the app is its ability to render translation of street signs, posters, timetables, menus, press articles, etc., in approximately the same font as the original text. On the practical side, one impressively useful dimension of the system is that you don’t need to be online for the visual recognition system to work. That means at least two things: 1) no need to worry about international cellular frequencies and charges, 2) the ability to understand public information even in remote areas without a network.  

The system, however, has limitations inherent to machine translation: it may not always be accurate (in an early in-house test on a captioned Ansel Adams poster depicting a “snow-covered” landscape, the app stubbornly and mysteriously insisted on inserting the word “snot” in its French translation). With non-Western languages, especially, Google Translate will often render foreign speech without correct syntax, i.e., words in the wrong order.

Photo: PLG

Finally, the app even has a function for blocking offensive words, which we, after scientifically-conducted experimentation, are not so sure is helpful. Indeed, the risk of running into an insulting street sign or menu is rather low. On the other hand, if it so happens that a stranger is hurling epithets at you, you might want to know, instead of being provided a softer interpretation of the message.  

In the end, you can count on the Google Translate app to provide at least a sense of what the message is. And as a free app, it’s a tool no traveler should be without. Happy travels!


At PLG, we offer more than just translation. We have a full range of capabilities, including multimedia globalization/translation, which means a whole package of services at your disposal.

Today’s Project Highlight features one type of project our Project Managers love to undertake: video subtitling. A recent project involved the Million Dollar Round Table association, a professional association formed almost a century ago to help insurance brokers and financial advisors establish best business practices. MDRT gave us 12 videos to be translated from English into 5 languages: Spanish (for Mexico), Chinese for Mainland China, and Chinese for Hong-Kong, Korean, and Japanese. We have completed similar projects for MDRT for 3 years in a row now.
  1. The key processes for such a project involve:
  2. Transcription of audio content 
  3. Time-coded synchronization 
  4. Embedding the English subtitle into the video for quality assurance 
  5. Translation of the time-coded transcript into required languages
  6. Hardcoding of non-English subtitles to video files (MP4 for example) 
  7. Final quality inspection before file delivery.

Managing such projects require a high level of coordination between the client and all translators involved, as well as knowledge of the most efficient, up-to-date techniques to produce visual rendition of the spoken English version. Displayed below are stills from different versions of the videos.

Do not hesitate to contact us if your business could benefit from our expertise in translation/subtitling.

English subtitles  
Chinese subtitles
Spanish subtitles

Korean subtitles 


Based on PLG’s 22 years of providing translation services to world-wide customers, these guidelines will help you optimize quality of service and client satisfaction.

1. Choose a translation agency that utilizes Translation Memory (TM). A TM is critical in two ways: it ensures consistency in the way your products are presented to the world, project after project, even when utilizing multiple translators. It also decreases turnaround times by assisting the translator with repeated text.

2. Specify a language dialect if necessary. Are your French labels going to customers in Quebec rather than France? Is your target market Taiwan or mainland China? Will your Spanish-labeled products sell in Mexico or in Spain? Are your Portuguese-language brochures destined to Brazil or Portugal? A good translation agency will assign a native speaker of the target language/country to the project so that your translations will not only be accurate, but also culturally authentic. 

3. Clarify the need for measurement conversions from U.S. standard to metric and for adjustments to local settings. Your U.S. toll free number, for instance, may not work abroad. Provide alternate information to your translation agency if necessary.

4. Provide a glossary if you have one. Glossaries are beneficial when terms have a distinct meaning in your industry (even the simplest ones, like plate, for instance). If you have had labels translated before, your previous translator may have created a glossary of the most commonly terms that appear on your packaging.

5. Educate the translation agency about your products. Contextual materials you can provide include brochures, flyers, instruction manuals, previous translations, and even videos. The more context translators get, the more they are able to tailor the translation to your product’s specificities. Having all the necessary information at the outset will help your project manager handle the job much more efficiently.

6. Use an agency with graphic design capacity. Take advantage of PLG’s  in-house typesetting/DTP (desktop publishing) layout services. Placing language in an artwork file can be problematic if you are not familiar with the language or graphic design software. This is especially true with languages featuring non-Latin characters. It may be easy to find a good language professional or a good typesetter, but finding someone who is proficient at both is rare. A good translation agency often has staff that is familiar with both the language and desktop publishing software. 

Applying these 6 tips will optimize the project’s workflow and ensure your satisfaction with the final product. For more information about our label/packaging translation services, please visit