Re: is it possible to make knowledge management language agnostic, how? #communications

Maria Brindlmayer

I agree - language is still a barrier.

In addition to the very good comments posted earlier, let me mention some additional thoughts and what I have used as "work arounds":
  • Many portal or KM solutions typically offer the ability (out of the box) to provide localization services and can (automatically) show the user the navigation in their local language. 
  • Allowing users to post content in their local language is important if you want to encourage sharing at a global level by all users - otherwise you will get content primarily from those countries whose mother tongue is being used (e.g., English). Translating just the title and 1-2 sentence summary into English (if that is the agreed global standard) may also be an acceptable effort for content submitters. And you may want to translate your taxonomy. In some situations, a "regional" sub-portal may also help, e.g., for Latin American region, where users can share (and understand content) in Spanish and Portuguese.
  • You may want to complement this by providing very easy access to translation software (to translate a page or document). I know that software does not offer accurate translation, but it has usually allowed the users to identify if the respective document could be relevant for their work or their specific needs.
  • In addition, you may consider a service agreement with a translation company that gives everyone access to professional translation services at a discounted price.
Last but not least, if you allow users to post content in their local language, you need to make sure that your search engine has the ability to search content in different languages (incl. stemming, etc.) and allow users to filter by language.


On Fri, Nov 14, 2014 at 9:25 AM, albert.simard@... [sikmleaders] <sikmleaders@...> wrote:

Bilingualism is not a small matter; multilingualism is even more difficult.  The solution is relatively simple - translation.  The cost, however, is substantial.

Canada has been a bilingual country for decades.  All federal and most provincial government documents must, by law, be published in both official languages.  In the federal government, there is a translation bureau that is responsible for translating documents, from legislation down to official e-mails.

Google notwithstanding, translation remains a human task if it is to be done correctly.  And in a cultural setting where the quality of the language is as important as the content, getting it right is very important.  A single letter to a Minister about poor translation can shut down a web site.  Recommendation - make multilingualism a matter of courtesy and convenience, not one of policy or law! 

It isn't just about the words; it is also about understanding the context of different cultures.  The more complex the subject, the more need there is for human involvement.  Not only that, but it is not uncommon for departments to employ French "editors" to clean up translations done by the bureau.  Departments have to call them editors because they can't hire "translators."  Don't you just love bureaucracy!

All this is expensive, particularly when subject-matter competence beyond a mastery of language is necessary (or you get "forest fuels" translated into "gasoline in the forest").  The cost of translating informal documents is prohibitive, to the point that a lot of material cannot be distributed or posted on the web.  One has to know that something exists, send someone an e-mail, and be sent an informal copy.  How's that for sharing!  

Fortunately, scientific papers with their sate-of-the-art content and small readership are exempted or there wouldn't be much government research!  However, if someone requests a translation, it must be provided.  Fortunately, scientists prefer to read papers in their original language rather than a translated version.

At a working level, every employee can enter content into databases and repositories in the language of their choice or the working language of their business unit.  What is required, however, is that the interface of all applications be available in both official languages.  This is a cost-effective working-level solution.  The shell is developed just once with only the headers and instructions being translated into each language of interest.  There is no solution, however, when there is no official term in the other language but a system insists on having one!

Not what you wanted to hear, but opinions based on a few decades of living with official bilingualism.

Al Simard       

---In sikmleaders@..., wrote :

Thanks Stan. Appreciate your insights. 


Maria Brindlmayer
cell: 202-365-2440

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