Tom Cruise Goes Global – And Why You Should Too

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:: By Keith Laska, CEO of SDL Language Technologies Division ::


Tom Cruise recently made history by becoming the first Hollywood celebrity to join the Russian social network Vkontakte.  By creating a page on the site promoting his new film, “Oblivion,” Tom (and his movie production company) could reach Vkontakte’s more than 40 million daily users. 

In doing this, Cruise achieved two noteworthy things. He strengthened his position as a global brand by engaging with users on a foreign social media site, and gained the ability to communicate with fans and followers regardless of their native language. Like Cruise, companies are also paying more attention to customers on new communication channels and realizing the immense value language has in taking their brands global.

Ignoring Language is “Risky Business”

With the rise of the social Web, today’s customers expect more online, social and instant interactions in their native language. For example, according to a European Commission report, 9 out of 10 customers surveyed in Europe would prefer to visit a website in their native language, and only 53 percent of European Internet users would even consider using a website that is not in their native language. In addition, the report found that an English-only website sends the message that a company doesn’t care about the customer experience it offers and that it is trying to save money. Further, a Harris Interactive 2011 Customer Experience Report found that 89 percent of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience.

Language is crucial for business success today and is the vehicle that allows a brand – whether a movie star or a large corporation - to engage with international audiences in a very personal and localized way, while providing an opportunity to enter new markets as well.  Additionally, it is much easier, and less expensive, to maintain the loyal customer base you already have in place than to actively go out and win new customers. However, this requires a corporate culture where employees are committed to customer experience and that starts with providing content in the language of the customer.

Overcoming the “Mission Impossible” View of Multilingual Communication

While translation is crucial to global business, getting content from one language into another can be overly complex. There are number of reasons for this: translated content is unreadable by requestors, which creates uncertainty; translation options - from individual translators, translation companies and technology solutions - are difficult to compare; pricing can be complex; and translation is often handled as a separate process, making it difficult to manage.  

While some companies decide to outsource all translation to a language service provider, others wish to manage translation in-house in order to make the best use of multiple translation vendors and technology solutions. Additionally, many types of content don’t require the same level of translation quality and can be addressed by technology alone.  To diminish some of the complexity for companies that want to ramp up global communication, here is an introduction to two core technology options to consider that can help to rapidly advance multilingual communication efforts.  

Translation management systems: Within large companies, translation is often managed by individual departments and teams, which is typically inefficient and costly, as the process is manual and cannot leverage previous translation work.  A translation management system (TMS) enables all translation assets to be centralized so they can be reused across a company. Business processes can also be automated to eliminate errors and delays. Finally, a TMS provides management with visibility into the translation progress and the associated cost.  These solutions allow companies to reduce localization costs, improve efficiencies and ultimately communicate more effectively with global customers across channels.  

Machine Translation: Machine translation (MT) is the automated translation of text by a computer, with no human involvement. Many companies use MT to generate an initial translation that can be edited by a human translator to save time and money. However, the use of MT to translate real-time and dynamic content is gaining in popularity since customers want information in the right channel, in the right language, and at the right time. MT can be used to translate content such as live chat, forum posts, knowledge base articles, email correspondence, news feeds and more.  As a result, with MT, companies are empowered to communicate with customers across more channels, in the language of the customer’s choice in order to deliver a more personalized experience.  

These language technology solutions are typically available as standalone or integrated technology deployments. Today, the functionality is also moving to language technology platform offerings that deliver flexible combinations of technology and human translations to meet a wide range of translation needs for companies of any size.   

Making “All the Right Moves” for Global Business

Many enterprises are looking at translation technology solutions to help drive customer experience, grow revenue by enabling new market entry, and provide the right multilingual content on time and on budget. And though translation solutions can be complex and far from a one-size-fits-all operation, understanding the different options available enables these companies to move to a product that makes sense for their unique needs.  Using translation management systems or machine translation may not win you an Academy Award, but this technology can help increase your brand awareness while maintaining an active audience and user base across the globe. 


Keith Laska, CEO Language Technologies Division

As CEO, Keith leads the effort to drive significant growth and distribution reach of SDL’s innovative automated translation and language management technology to customers across the globe. Keith started his career with SDL in North America, and subsequently spent seven years on an international assignment as an executive in SDL's headquarters, building up global strategy and operations for SDL Language Technologies in Europe and Asia. He recently moved back to the US to head up the division’s cloud computing and online community strategy. Prior to SDL, Keith worked in senior positions in sales and engineering including technology and services startup translations.com in New York. He started his career as a French Instructor at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire.

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1 comment

Kenneth Glick (EEI) 06-06-2013 10:23 AM

"Language is crucial for business success today...."

Really? Really?? Explain to me how learning the Russian language and joining the social network 'Vkontakte' is going to improve the business of a delicatessen in downtown Baltimore or a plumbing supply business in southern California?

Yes, companies that do business overseas and especially in Russia would do well to join Vkontakte as vehicle to interact with Russian speaking Customers But don't get carried away in saying that doing so is critical for business success. Such hyperbole cheapens your article's contentions.

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