Global Interactive Voice Servers – in all languages!

Where do all those voices come from..?

…on those vocal servers that direct you to where you want to go – the ticket office on the phone, the mail messages reader, reading your account info out to you, hosting & guiding you through large institutions or government agencies, via museum audio guides, giving you internal or members-only access & information, on healthcare servers, etc.?

Voice Messaging Systems (VMR) are at the very beginning of a certain, exciting stage of evolution.

Well, finding & recording a voice is the easy bit. Adapting your IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system to a global, multilingual platform is a nightmare. Unless you go to the right people early on. This means a one-stop shop that can handle all your language needs – translation, tracking, planning, voice casting, recording, processing, nomenclature, compression & formatting – for immediate deployment on your systems.

IVR, VoiceXML, CCXML (Call Control XML), VMS (Voice Messaging Systems), SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and many more, are all tools & protocols that are common to the voice-messaging environment. A single system configured once for a single language, but which can then be employed for a large number of languages, makes each new language that little bit more economical to deploy – as long as the voice localisation and delivery to spec is done properly and professionally.

This takes a tried & tested process – in other words, VoxAppeal.

In the English-language medium, we are for the most part blissfully unaware that our language is only 3rd in the table of most widely-spoken native languages. The Internet gives us the very erroneous impression that everyone speaks English! The Internet is clever though – for a Spanish speaker, the Internet is entirely in Spanish, for the Chinese it’s all in Mandarin, and so on.

But whether you’re in Bonn or Delhi or Shanghai, when you call the local rail network to book a ticket, you want to get the required information in your own native language. Quoi de plus naturel ? Andonce the original service is deployed in Hindi (or whatever), for an international or multinational service, moving along the chain of popular languages is the natural next step.

This takes planning, though. And most planners with the foresight to include a multilingual option will develop in the world’s most popular 2nd language (or source language, for the purposes of translation), which is English. An international service deployed in Malay and targeting Punjabi or Arabic (+ 20 others), for example, will ideally have already deployed in English as a reference source for any further languages. Professional localisation options from English to any target language will be more prevalent than Malay>Punjabi or Malay>Arabic (+ Malay > 20 others) options. (There are always exceptions and I welcome any objections, of course!)

For many planners, however, hindsight is the mother of budget overrun, as the decision to consult a localisation professional is often taken too late to avoid unnecessary expenditure (as is also so often the case in corporate video production and in website design), although an initial consultation is most often entirely free of charge and can provide the essential guidelines to a profitable multilingual venture further down the line.

Translation in media turmoil

The development of the Internet, the explosion in bandwidth and the massive development of related software tools over the last few years have taken translation and localisation to dizzy heights of necessary expertise… while the vast majority of language graduates and undergraduates are still a long way from the ground-level reality of what these new technologies require in terms of translation (I use the term loosely).

There was a time when 2 languages and a typewriter would suffice.

Many still believe that 2 languages and a computer will do the job. But when a client requires translation of their specialised Rich Media website with Flash videos in PHP containers and SMIL captions rendered in 11 languages with time-coded voiceovers (some dubbed, some phrase-synced) and subtitles (some optional & some embedded), to begin with… requiring a dozen separate software programmes and formats to handle with the highest mutual conversion fidelity and lowest manageable margin of error, not to mention the essential project directives to the individual translators… Let’s face it, your Vista + Word just ain’t up to it any more.

But the technology involved is not the main stumbling block. That is the personnel: translators specialised in audio/video/multimedia techniques (or A/V/M engineers specialised in translation/localisation) are hard to come by, despite this being perhaps the sector of both industries with the highest growth potential.

The role of translation project manager, too, traditionally the logical next career step for an experienced in-house translator, requires new scope, responsibility and expertise as the field of localisation itself grows.

To the point, perhaps, that multi-faceted localisation management will require engineer-level training and status. Is that what translators want?

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