Personal & Professional Wisdom

Tips for Delivering High Quality Subtitles

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Being a professional subtitler for three yearsI have learned a lot from my mistakes and mentors. Here are a few tricks of the trade that help improve the quality of subtitles. Although these examples are in Hindi, the tips are helpful for subtitling in general.

Do Not Translate

A big no in the subtitling world is when one translates names. This is only acceptable when a proper translation exists, or the client has provided as such. A few months ago, I came across this issue while watching a Bollywood Movie on Netflix, Fanney Khan. In this, the lead actress has a dog by the name of “Ustad”. For those of us who know Hindi or Urdu, we know that the literal translation for “Ustad” is master. However, this doesn’t mean that one can translate the name to this. If we do, the subtitles would look somewhat like this: “Master, come here!” instead of “Ustad, come here!”. This minute translation changed the entire tone of the dialogue and sounded absurd.

Besides this, one should be willing to listen to the correct pronunciations of proper nouns before transliterating them. One may have to hear it time and again as the same word may be pronounced differently in different accents. But one must choose the correct way it was pronounced in the show/movie that one is working on.


Grammatical errors often mess up dialogues. Hence, we need to take care that nothing goes amiss in number, gender, tense, etc. I often come across words incorrectly translated like “यह” (this) is translated as “ये”(these).  Same is true for “वह”(that) and “वो”(those). These might seem like minor errors and may not be noticeable while speaking, but they are clearly noticed in subtitles as they end up changing the structure of the subtitle.


In Hindi, we do not end a sentence with a period, but instead we use a “Puranviram”. “Puran”means absolute and “viram”means stop. It looks like this “।”. Commas are known as “Alpviram”, or short stops. One rule in Hindi is that we do not use a comma before “and”. Many people are unaware of this and they end up writing commas where they are not needed, which disrupts the flow of the dialogue and adds an extra character that might exceed the characters per second allowed.


Numbers from 1 to 10 are always spelled out. Don’t forget to spell out any number that begins a sentence. If there are more than two numbers in a dialogue, one can skip the rule of spelling them out as it might lead to a violation of reading speed. Big numbers with billion, million need to be converted to crores or lac to make it easier for the Indian audience to comprehend. One million = ten lac, one billion = ten crore.

Measurements and Dates

In subtitling, units of measurement must be localized and calculated accordingly. The audience will find it hard to understand if we state the distances in miles or yards, and use gallons instead of liters, or pounds in place of kilograms. The reason being that India uses the metric system of measurement and not the FPS system. For example, a newborn weighing six pounds might mean a very healthy baby for someone who doesn’t know that one kilogram equals 2.2 pounds. So, the subtitler must convert it into kilograms.

The same holds true for dates. In India, dd-mm-yy is the predominant form of numeric date usage. The month-day-year is never used in India. So, a subtitler should translate April 14, 2019 as 14 अप्रैल, 2019.

Watch the Video While Subtitling

This is really important. Never think that you can subtitle a video by just listening to the dialogue or looking at the template provided. So many times, one comes across subtitles that are different from what is shown on screen. One such instance for me was watching Satyagrahaon Netflix. The subtitle shows, “Peel the cabbage,” while you can see there’s a cauliflower lying on the counter. And we never peel it, it is meant to be grated. In the next scene, as the woman serves breakfast on the dining table, the subtitles for her father-in-law say, “What kind of paranthas (a kind of Indian flatbread with stuffing inside)  are we having?” The woman replies,”Cabbage.”And if you are an Indian, you would know people mostly eat cauliflower paranthas and not cabbage paranthas. Such subtitling errors leave a bad taste for sure.

One might feel that these are just minor issues. How do they matter? But that’s not true. I will share my personal experience with you. I translated a TED Talk by Valerie Kaur, in which she talks about being inspired by her grandpa. There was no other context provided, so I had translated grandpa as “दादाजी”(Dadaji, paternal grandpa). A couple of weeks later, I received a note of thanks on FB from the speaker’s mother. I felt so proud that someone had indeed referred to my subtitles while watching the talk. It gave me a sense of fulfilment.

And then, I received another message from her, in which she mentioned that the speaker was talking about her maternal grandfather, hence grandpa should have been translated as “नानाजी” (Nanaji). And she asked me to correct the translation, as her folks back home had watched the subtitled talk and were not happy about the credit being given to “Dadaji”. I approached the TED translate team and we got it corrected. Mission accomplished!

A subtitler who understands the lifestyle, etiquette, and the idiomatic and cultural nuances of the target language will surely deliver quality work. At the same time, one has to be willing to research if something new comes up. And above all, one should always keep in mind that quality is all that matters.


Women in Localization Announce New Eastern Canada Chapter

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, California, USA, May 8, 2019. Women in Localization (W.L.), the leading professional organization for women in the localization industry, is delighted to announce the launch of a new Chapter in Eastern Canada. This will be W.L.’s eighteenth (18th) Chapter, expanding their global reach into fourteen (14) unique countries.

Leading the Women in Localization Eastern Canada (WLEC) Chapter as Chapter Manager is Catherine Christaki. Catherine is the Co-Founder of Lingua Greca Translations and the lead Greek translator for Apple’s software and help content. The leadership team will also include Kathrin Bussmann, Ph.D., International Marketing Consultant, Head of Verbaccino and Producer of the Worldly Marketer Podcast; Giulia Greco, Content and Localization Manager at Shopify; Tanya Sapty, Founder of Circa Translations; and Lisa Carter, President and Creative Director at Intralingo Inc.

“I’ve been a huge fan of W.L. since its founding and I’d get serious FoMO (envy, too) whenever I saw posts about its events all over the world,” said WLEC’s Chapter and Membership Manager, Catherine Christaki. “Finally, a dream has come true with our new W.L. Chapter, the first in Canada, an officially bilingual and multicultural country. The number of people involved or interested in the localization industry in Canada is astounding and yet we only get very few chances to attend localization events locally. WLEC is here to remedy that. I look forward to the awesome networking and mentoring events we have planned, to inspiring the younger generations of localizers and to supporting our great industry.”

Events will be held in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal to include as many women as possible, starting with the inaugural event on June 5, 2019 at the Shopify offices in Toronto. The June 5thevent will introduce W.L. and WLEC’s Chapter leadership, followed by informal networking over snacks.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have Shopify, a Canadian tech leader heavily invested in localization, hosting and sponsoring our first event in their beautiful offices in downtown Toronto,” said WLEC’s Events Manager Giulia Greco.

Interested parties are encouraged to sign up for W.L. on their sign up page and contact the WLEC Leadership Team directly at Event registration will open in the next few days via Eventbrite.

You can also connect with W.L.’s Eastern Canada Chapter on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

About Women in Localization

Women in Localization (W.L.) was founded in 2008 by Silvia Avary-Silveira, Eva Klaudinyova and Anna N. Schlegel, and is the leading professional organization for women in the localization industry with over 5,000 members globally. Its mission is to foster a global community for the advancement of women and the localization industry. It aims to provide an open, collaborative forum where women can share expertise and experience and help each other move forward in their careers. Started in the San Francisco Bay Area, W.L. has expanded its membership to include women across the globe, encouraging members to meet in other local geographies.

To learn more, visit You can also follow W.L. on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter.

Personal & Professional Wisdom

Women of Silicon Roundabout – Women Leading Technology – Women of Inspiration

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Are you attending the tech event of the year – Women of Silicon Roundabout – in London this June? If not, and you’re looking to progress your career, keep up to date with what’s happening in the industry, or simply want to hear some inspiring leaders share their thoughts and wisdom, you need to book your ticket!

I will be a first time visitor to this event and wanted to find out more about what we can expect from the industry and what opportunities it offers women looking into and beyond the next decade. Rather than do a little research, book my place and simply turn up on the day, I wanted to know about the speakers we would be listening to and what we might learn. I was keen to find out how they have worked through careers to their current positions and whether they would be willing to share some insights ahead of the event. Three of the panel kindly agreed to contribute and share their experiences, presented below, as a selection of their most valuable tips and food for thought. (You may want to seek them out at the event if they have inspired you!)

Thank you for your contributions Fiona Hathorn, Managing Director at Women on Boards UK; Lesley Reeve, COO and Director of Customer Success at FISCAL Technologies; and Stacey O’Connor, Project Manager, Team Lead and Account Principal at Adobe.

  1. What were the main reasons you decided to speak at the Women in Technology event this year?

Fiona:It is vital for women to learn and understand how to sell themselves into the boardroom. Planting seeds is my main goal in speaking at this event.

Lesley:I attended the event last year and was so impressed with its purpose, the speakers and the agenda. I met some wonderful fellow attendees and we all shared lots of insights. The whole experience was inspirational and memorable. I relished the idea of having an impact on attendees as I had had. If I can inspire one person, then I would be rewarding my own values.

Stacey:I attended the conference in 2018 and took a lot of inspiration from the women who presented; I enjoyed the format and forum of people. I am enthusiastic to encourage women into my industry who aren’t sure whether they have the right background or experience.

  1. Will you be devising the structure of your talk and its subject matter yourself?

Fiona:I will base it on what I feel I can offer the audience, in the position I hold at Women on Boards; valuable information unique to the knowledge and experience I can offer others.

Lesley:The event’s proposed topics cover many subjects I would love to speak about. However, my talk will be something I resonate well with, advice that I can share that will make a big impact on the audience.

Stacey:I chose to do a 30-minute talk from the proposed list of topics shared by the event organisers – I have selected four topics whereby I feel I have something to contribute.

  1. As an introduction, what can you tell us about your role within your company, and how you reached your current position?

Fiona:I launched Women on Boards in the UK in 2012 with the goal of helping others. Since we started, we have helped over 1,500 women get onto a board and supported many more women, and some men, applying for Board roles from preparing a board-ready CV to interview preparation and networking.

Lesley:My title (which is used often to satisfy the needs of business behaviour not me!) is one thing, my role is another. I am an Executive Director and Shareholder of FISCAL Technologies and have been since the beginning. I have always been in customer facing roles in one guise or another, sales, product and of course the combined functions I spearhead today: Customer Success, Service Delivery and People & Culture.

Stacey:My current role in consulting professional services is to focus on delivering high quality work to ensure the client is successful, create satisfying customer relationships, and work with them on their strategic direction.

  1. What were valuable lessons learned on your way up the career ladder?

Fiona:I learned that strong communication skills are essential to effectiveness throughout your career, not just in the boardroom. Those that understand influence and engagement constantly think about how to gain the advantage. Those who are women and effective in a male-dominated world understand influence, and understanding influence is vital.

Lesley:EVERYONE has an opinion – it does not make them right! Be bold, be courageous, live your values and sack your boss if you cannot grow. Know what you want and stick with it. As long as you have your health and your family, there really is nothing to lose.

Stacey: I’ve learned a lot about wading through ambiguity and complexity to get to clear next succinct steps. Openness and transparency establish good relationships.  How to stay calm in situations that can get tough, although this is a constant stretch, as responsibilities grow.


  1. In terms of remaining focused and enthusiastic about your daily activities at work, how do you keep your role and career development fresh and engaging?

Fiona:The satisfaction I experience from the work we do at Women on Boards, supporting so many women on their way into board level positions, is extremely rewarding.

Lesley:Every day I look at the team around me who give their time and effort to do great things and create such value; it is my duty as a leader to inspire them, develop their careers, to ensure they are engaged and satisfied. I find ways to replenish my energy and bring new ideas to be credible in their eyes.

Stacey:I ask for challenging engagements. Being surrounded by marketing experts and talented consultants means I’m constantly absorbing knowledge and new ways of doing things. I aim to go on relevant courses from time to time and am currently studying a two-year MBA course.

  1. What are the top three things that keep you motivated at work?

Fiona:Helping others, recognition for this support, and hearing the positive results that come from our efforts. Helping women to understand what they want out of life, particularly at a young age, is extremely important and this type of guidance we provide keeps me motivated every day.

Lesley:People. There are no other things.

Stacey:An understanding manager or management team that you can trust. Getting along with colleagues. I’m lucky to work in a friendly atmosphere where we all work hard and rely on each other.  Doing work that feels new.

  1. How much importance do you place on developing healthy relationships with your colleagues and does it have a direct impact on your work?

Fiona:Mentoring is a key area that needs to grow and develop for women in particular. Until more women are in these senior roles, other women within organizations will not be able to enjoy the benefits from mentoring support that men have always had access to. Understanding how to engage men on this aspect is paramount.

Lesley:(1) your colleagues are your spokesmen when you are not in the office. So, think about what they will say about you when your Managing Director or CEO asks them if you deserve that promotion. (2) When you suffer a crisis, you are under pressure and you need help, you can’t start shouting “but we are a team” if you haven’t developed it.

Stacey:I am genuinely interested in people so my natural tendency is to want to get to know people. In my view, colleagues have to rely on each other to get jobs done for the client so it’s good practice to be respectful and diffuse conflicting situations.

  1. For those readers, men and women, who are career driven and who aspire to progress to more senior roles in their professional lives, what would be the best piece of advice you could offer?

Fiona:Women must have a career plan, even though it is likely to change. Understand who are the influencers at your company and get to know the management – your voice will be heard. A mentoring program within an organization that champions achievements, helps develop communication, and teaches people how to understand the landscape of their company is a highly valuable asset any organization can develop and achieve.

Lesley:My advice would be to stay curious, solve problems that nobody else wants to, find your own “spokesperson” and always make choices using your values.

Stacey:There are a lot more experienced people out there than myself… so for me, I ensure that I know what being happy and healthy means to me, and I stick to my own radar & moral compass.

Personal & Professional Wisdom

Time Zones, Languages and Cultures: Creating a Successful and Productive Remote Localization Team

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According to a study referenced in Scott Mautz’s article in Incmagazine called A 2-Year Stanford Study Shows the Astonishing Productivity Boost of Working From Home, remote workers are more productive and find it easier to concentrate when they work from a “private office” at home.

Still, a lot of biases remain around remote employees who work from home, even though in localization it fairly common to work with teams distributed around the globe.

Fortunately, many online resources from global companies like Trello and Zapier offer useful tips and best practices. We have also reached out to localization specialists with an invitation to share their proven tips on how to work effectively in a remote team.

Read their advice below.

Importance of remote work options for women (and not only)

According to the blog Balance For Better: How Flexibility Can Even the Scales For Good by Werk, “[the] traditional 9-5 workday is holding too many people back, and women are hit the hardest”.

This is supported by a Fast Company article by Sarah Sutton Fell called How Remote Workplaces Benefit Women, which estimates that “women make up 42% of the leadership at remote companies, compared with 14.2% in S&P 500 companies”.

The challenges women face in the traditional workplace are reflected in this quote from Inger Larsen, who spoke at a 2018 Women in Localization UK event focused on remote work:

        “Who is it that the schools contact most often when your children are sick and need picking up during the day? The mother or the father? A show of hands at the event showed an overwhelming majority of women.

        – Inger Larsen, Founder and MD Larsen Globalization Recruitment

A writeup of the event can be found on the Larsen Globalization Recruitment blog.

WL UK panel on remote work, May 31 2018. Photo Credit: Women in Localization UK

Elizabeth Butters also published a writeup of the event on LinkedIn, where she stresses an important point: while women are the group most obviously in need of a more flexible work arrangement, other groups of employees would benefit from it as well. In the case of millennials, they have even come to expect it.

According to some experts, the future of work is tied to increased hours and/or location flexibility, instead of focusing exclusively on “office work” vs “remote work” – thank you to Nika Allahverdi for posting the link to this fascinating interview in the Localization Insider group on Facebook.

Making remote teams work: tips and resources for localization industry

Communicating effectively: processes and technology

One of the frequently mentioned issues of working with a remote team is communication: juggling time zones and the need to keep everyone up to date on goals and projects, even when there is little work time overlap.

This challenge exists outside of the localization industry, as well:

        “One tiny question becomes an email, which hopefully gets responded to, or an excavation of shared files trying to sort out the answer. So much easier to have project-tracking software that allows someone to tick a box when a job is complete, and links to a shared working document.”

        – Lindsey Vontz from 99designs, How to Work With a Global Distributed Team

Swati Narwal recommends creating repositories of reference materials to make collaboration and communication easier:

        “We have workspaces to share documents and ways of working.”

        – Swati Narwal, Localization Program Manager at IKEA Group

Trello’s guide on remote work offers suggestions to help ensure that nothing gets lost during team meetings:

        “Establish a process, structure, and agenda around meetings and updates so everyone can follow along no matter their location. Assign a meeting lead and scribe to ensure key decisions are captured in writing … Keep important information accessible for everyone: log side chat decisions, record video meetings, and always take notes to share in public spaces”

        – Lauren Moon, The Best Advice For Remote Work Success From 10 Global Teams [Free Guide]

For ongoing communication, using an online app enabling exchange of quick messages, such as Slack, is often recommended. This is what Tanja Falkner has to say about the curse of overflowing inbox:

        “One more thing that comes to mind is a good communication tool like Slack or Skype. I find ongoing communication to be really important. It needs to be fast and easy without having a heart attack when looking at your inbox 😉 “

        – Tanja Falkner, Growth Marketing Manager, Wordbee

Seongji Kim offers a tip on scheduling your emails the smart way:

        “I also schedule my emails to be sent right before the recipient’s day starts. Utilize any work hour overlap as much as you can!”

        – Seongji Kim, Localization Manager, Enuma

If finding a good time to communicate with remote team members is a challenge because there just isn’t enough time overlap between working times, this piece of advice from Megan Berry may help:

        “Make sure each person has multiple tasks on their plate and is clear on their priorities. Sometimes when working remote, you get stuck on one task because you need to ask someone else about it and they are asleep because of time zone differences or are focused on something else. This is totally fine as long as everyone has a next task to turn to while waiting on feedback from someone else.”

        – Megan Berry, The Complete Guide to Working On A Remote Team

Building company culture for a remote team

Another frequently mentioned challenge for remote workers is establishment of a company culture, from mutual trust to camaraderie and serendipitous communications leading to new breakthroughs.

The WL UK event writeup by Elizabeth Butters also mentions the issue of trust:

        Being open-minded with staff, trusting them to do their job and providing training/support where it’s needed helps set the foundations for a successful work relationship.

        Elizabeth Butters, Business Development Manager at XTM international

This point is repeated in multiple online resources about building an efficient remote team, including in this post published on Zapier by Wade Foster called How to Build Culture in a Remote Team:

        “Remote teams have to trust their teammates. There is simply no way around it. The beauty of trusting your teammates is that often times your teammates reward you. Most people genuinely want to do a good job. In a remote team there aren’t any silly rules about having your butts in a seat during certain hours of the day. This means at the end of the week you either have something to show for your week or not. This means you trust that your teammates are getting something done. But also your teammates trust you. To earn that trust you want to make sure you have something to show for your work each week. “

        – Wade Foster

Both Swati Nawal and Seongji Kim point out the importance of building connections with team members:

        “Nothing can replace that personal connection. And then you continue with video calls, chats, emails, time to time saying hello and asking how is everyone doing.

        “Sharing something that is relevant for them. I have monthly meetings where I have things to share as well as encourage others to participate as well.”

        – Swati Narwal, Localization Program Manager at IKEA Group

        “Try to jump on a call as much as you can: seeing face to face definitely helps to build connection!”

        – Seongji Kim, Localization Manager, Enuma

Work-related team communications do not have to be restricted to status updates:

        “Often team members ask each other for inspiration where they have a string or a term they struggle with. I love this type of cooperation in the form of brainstorming as it is always very productive.

        We have a FB group as well, where we share best practices, ideas on how to approach some tasks, strategies on team management, basically anything that happens in the project.”

        – Małgorzata Kopyra, CJO ANAGRAM

As far as stronger interpersonal connections go, this Harvard Business Review article by Erica Dhawan and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic called How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote suggests several different ways to help team members create stronger bonds:

        “Create intentional space for celebration: Old school birthday cakes are still important for remote teams. Creating virtual spaces and rituals for celebrations and socializing can strengthen relationships and lay the foundation for future collaboration. Find ways to shorten the affinity distance. One company we worked with celebrated new talent by creating a personal emoji for each employee who had been there for six months. You can find your own unique way to create team spaces for social connection. How you do it is less important than whether you do.”

        – Erica Dhawan and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

Another tip for creating a stronger employee culture is planning for social interaction:

        “Remoties like to chat and hang out, too! And don’t forget, they’re sitting in a quiet home office or co-working space all day so they’re presumably even more agreeable to socializing.

        “Because communication is more intentional at remote companies, it can be helpful to set up some pre-planned time for socializing. Allotting specific times in the week for folks to get on a video call and not talk about work can help supplant the ‘watercooler‘ conversations that happen in real life.”

        – Lauren Moon, 6 Rules To Live By When You Work In An Office But Have Remote Team Members

Małgorzata Kopyra, however, reminds us that nothing can beat meeting your teammates in real life:

        “We have a separate FB group for our Polish team and at least some of us try to attend annual conference for translators held in Poland each September. We also attend some online trainings together. The client we work for as an international team organizes regular annual one-week summits for all LLs and senior translators so now, after 6 years on the project we mostly know each other personally. We also have a special Messenger group to share things outside of summit time.”

        – Małgorzata Kopyra, CJO ANAGRAM

Working with team members with different cultural backgrounds

Even teams with strong interpersonal connections and a vibrant company culture might struggle with intercultural differences. This is especially relevant for localization industry.

While remote teams may share a similar background, it is important to realize that information might be perceived differently by a recipient – and plan accordingly:

        “You need to find best ways for you as a team to speak the same language. Say and be understood the same way.”

        – Kaili Kleemeier, 11 things about remote working that I learnt the hard way

Tanja Falkner once again stresses the importance of a human connection:

        “We have team members all over the world and in my opinion one of the most important things to deal with cultural differences is to have regular team video calls – by regular I mean at least once a week.

        Oftentimes misunderstandings occur in writing but usually they are pretty easy to figure out when talking to a person. It also helps to get to know and understand each other better. Gaining awareness of the differences is the first step in making sure they don’t cause any issues.”

        – Tanja Falkner, Growth Marketing Manager, Wordbee

Snjezana Petrovic recommends the following book to become a better manager of a multicultural team, or to become a better team member:

        “Best book I‘ve read and that helped me tremendously: The Culture Map by Erin Meyer.”

        – Snjezana Petrovic, Localization Program Manager at NetApp

Working in a remote localization team or managing one? Please share your tips with us!

We would love this article to become a starting point for a more detailed discussion on managing remote teams and working as a remote team member in localization.

Please share your comments and tips below, or reach out to Ekaterina Howard at, if you’d like to be featured in a full article.

Ekaterina Howard is a bilingual copywriter focusing on website and email copy and content. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

Women that Rock

A Day in the Life of an Interpreter in the Gaming Industry

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Legal and medical interpreting assignments require a deep knowledge of specialized terminology to help people communicate. But there’s another kind of interpreting work that requires specialized lingo and research into empires, galaxies, and eras spanning from medieval quests to outer space exploits to post-apocalyptic worlds. These varied realms are all in a day’s work for Russian-English interpreter Kseniia Topolniak. 

With revenues surpassing USD 116 Billion in 2017and expected to reach USD 130 Billion by 2020, gaming is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the localization and interpretation industries. This explosive growth is fueling the demand for specialized gaming interpreters to assist at worldwide gaming conferences and events.

“Conferences happen on all continents, now they are even broadcast live, and fans come from around the world,” Topolniak said. “Other events, like online tournaments, championship broadcasts and local events, happen quite regularly, and it’s my job to facilitate communication among players, teams and organizers.”  

Topolniak enjoys that gaming requires more creativity than some of her earlier assignments, like interpreting for a manufacturing company. She also likes the variety, which changes depending on the event and job, and the great variety of genres, worlds, galaxies, times and ages that come with gaming. She even enjoys the pressure.

“I love the challenge and the stress that comes with it,” Topolniak said. “I agree with Michelle Hof, a colleague conference interpreter, who wrote ‘there’s the fact that [as a conference interpreter] I thrive on stress’.”

Topolniak grew up in a small town in Kazakhstan that retained its Soviet culture well into the 1990s. Her parents decided she should learn English, which was less popular at the time than German or French, and her studies began at the age of six. 

“I fell in love with the process of translating one language or culture into another, and this is how it all began,” Topolniak said. While she also exceled at math and science, a career in languages seemed to be the natural choice.

In 2009, just as the global financial crisis hit Russia hard, Topolniak completed her undergraduate degree in Linguistics and Cross-Cultural Communication with English and Spanish. Ignoring her professor’s recommendations to start out as a secretary, Topolniak enrolled in an advanced course in simultaneous interpretation. Her first position after graduating was as an in-house translator and interpreter for a state company that built metallurgical plants outside of Russia. While she learned a lot in this role, she wanted to focus on her simultaneous interpretation skills. 

Six months later, Topolniak accepted a position with a major Russian telecom company. This role offered a wider variety of interpretation assignments like press conferences, shareholder meetings, strategy sessions, and working with Olympic Committees.

“It was a pretty exciting time,” Topolniak said. “Three years flew by like three months! But after the Sochi Olympic Games in 2014, and the unfortunate political events that followed, I began to think I needed a break.” 

Topolniak resigned and moved to Los Angeles to study equine science (horse management). In the last year of her studies, she remembered her original dream, which was to study at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey (MIIS). 

“I first learned about localization when I was scrolling through the MIIS website in 2017,” Topolniak said. “I had never heard this word before! I remember Googling it to see what it meant. Then I realized I had been doing localization at my previous jobs, I just didn’t know what it was called.” 

Topolniak graduated from MIIS in 2018 with a Master’s in Conference Interpretation, which included classes on software and gaming localization. While Topolniak had been a gamer in high school and was familiar with the gaming scene as a player, she was surprised to learn that gaming interpretation was such a complex and challenging field.

“A gaming interpreter faces multiple challenges,” Topolniak said. “You must quickly pick up on what is happening in the game and be creative. I am not exaggerating when I say there are ‘lives’ at stake. Also, I believe that the gaming industry in Russia appeals to a younger crowd, who use a lot of slang. Having worked in formal settings, it was uncomfortable to use so much slang when interpreting since I was not used to doing that at all. Once I heard cursing and I knew I had to interpret that…I can tell you, those words did not come out easily!” 

Topolniak said a further challenge is interpreting remotely. Since this uses relatively new technology, it can add an extra layer of stress, such as worrying about the Internet connection going down, if there’s a technical glitch that can’t immediately be resolved, or if there’s an audio issue and the interpretation can’t be heard. 

Another remote interpretation concern is whether she is being recorded and her words used after the session without her permission. How would Topolniak protect herself and her rights if her work was recorded and distributed? Topolniak confesses remote interpretation is her least favorite mode of working, but she says it is becoming increasingly common and she is getting more comfortable with it. 

Quality is another challenge. When working on an assignment, Topolniak is the voice of her client in another language, and they trust their message will be delivered accurately. This is a huge responsibility since an error of only one word can completely change the meaning. 

“Imagine using the wrong term or character name, or even worse, game title, during the event. The gaming audience can be quick to react to such misdemeanors,” Topolniak said. 

Topolniak’s assignment preparation includes researching as much as possible in both languages about the game, genre, characters, universe, world, and ages. She reviews gaming media to understand the lingo and watches videos to help with slang, name, title and location pronunciations. Quick reference glossaries are created for unfamiliar terms or names. Right before the assignment, she performs an interpretation warm up where she plays a piece of news and repeats every word in Russian or English after the speaker. 

“When I am nervous, I hold a stress-relieving ball that I squeeze while interpreting,” Topolniak said. “Before getting that ball, I used to fidget with cables and the noise would get into the feed, which is very distracting to listeners. After the job is done, I try to refrain speaking for an hour afterward because neither my brain nor my tongue can come up with a word in any language.”  

When asked about her experience as a woman in the masculine world of gaming, Topolniak has only good things to say.

“Most of my experience has been in male-dominated sectors, like metallurgy, telecom and IT,” Topolniak said. “My experience in gaming has been nothing but professional and I have been very lucky with my colleagues, male and female. I cannot say that I enjoyed any special treatment because I am female, nor have I encountered any prejudice.” 

However, Topolniak confesses there was one time in her career that she wishes she had been a man. 

“When the TV show Top Gear Livecame to Moscow, they were looking for interpreters to do simultaneous interpretation,” Topolniak said. “Just think about it, to be the Russian voice of Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond to an audience of thousands of people! One of the show organizers asked if I would be willing to do it. Of course, I said yes! But a couple days before the show I was told that it was decided Jeremy and Richard should have Russian male voices. I was quite upset to learn that!” 

Topolniak said that many people are unaware how much research and preparation interpreters must perform to do well on the job, and gaming localization is no exception.

“It’s like in ballet, you see the dancers flying around the stage, they seem to be doing it effortlessly. Hardly anyone thinks how many days and hours of training were spent and how long it took the dancing to seem effortless. It’s the same with interpretation.” 

Despite the stress, shifting terminology and long hours of research that her role requires, Topolniak is fulfilled by her work. 

“Gaming is an interesting industry. Learning new things and looking up new terms is so much fun – I am a nerd and this is my kind of fun!” Topolniak said. 

“What makes interpretation for gaming fun is the energy that you feel when you work with big audiences. I like the thrill – and the pressure – to do my job well so no one is ‘hurt’ or ‘dies’ when I’m interpreting during an actual game tournament. It’s fun too that I have freedom to use frivolous slang phrases every now and then, and to curse at work!” 

Latest News

Women in Localization Announce New Russia Chapter

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, California, USA, April 19, 2019. Women in Localization (W.L.), the leading professional organization for women in the localization industry, is delighted to announce the launch of a new Chapter in Russia. This will be W.L.’s seventeenth (17th) Chapter, expanding their global reach into thirteen (13) unique countries.

Irina Rybnikova, Positive Technologies’ Head of User Assistance Department and LocLunch™ Ambassador, will be leading W.L.’s newest Chapter. She will be joined on this journey by four localization industry veterans: Tatyana Rodionova, Julia Bitineva, Tatiana Rudneva and Svetlana Svetova.

“We already have representatives from the largest Russian cities in our leadership team – Moscow and Saint Petersburg. And we have a lot of potential members from other cities and towns,” Rybnikova said. “I know a lot of women from all around Russia who want to be a part of the community, are ready to share their knowledge and come out of the shadows.”

The Chapter plans to host events in both Moscow and Saint Petersburg in order to include as many women as possible — beginning with their inaugural event on June 7, 2019, at the Positive Technologies office in Moscow.

Interested parties are encouraged to register for the event on the Russia Chapter’s sign up page or join the Women in Localization Russia Facebook group.Event registration will open in the next couple weeks.

“In Russia, there are many recognizable experts and a lot of women in the localization industry,” Rybnikova said. “However, they usually stay in the shadows and feel isolated. I believe that this is something we need to change. All around the world the W.L. community makes you stronger, supports you when you need help, shows you how to grow, and shares the best practices on events. This is what women need here too. We can do anything we want together – there are no limits!”

About Women in Localization

Women in Localization (W.L.) was founded in 2008 by Silvia Avary-Silveira, Eva Klaudinyova and Anna N. Schlegel, and is the leading professional organization for women in the localization industry with over 4,000 members globally. Its mission is to foster a global community for the advancement of women and the localization industry. It aims to provide an open, collaborative forum where women can share expertise and experience and help each other move forward in their careers. Started in the San Francisco Bay Area, W.L. has expanded its membership to include women across the globe, encouraging members to meet in other local geographies.

To learn more, visit or You can also follow W.L. on Facebook and Twitter.

Industry Trends & Innovation

GALA Munich Conference 2019

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500 Globalization and Localization Professionals in Germany for a Key Industry Event

From March 24thto 27th, the city of Munich hosted the 2019 edition of the GALA annual conference. With its unique networking opportunities, insightful discussions and moments of fun, the GALA conference proved again to be a must-attend event for globalization and localization professionals.

This year the topic of Artificial Intelligence held the spotlight. The program included presentations from expert speakers from a great variety of backgrounds: LSPs, translators, linguists, academics, researchers and so on. The talks offered very interesting insights on the advantages of recent technology advancements and AI developments, while keeping an eye on possible negative aspects and ethical issues.

Translators, interpreters, project managers, sales representatives… The message is clear: most of these roles are expected to evolve with the spread of AI and new technologies, but the change is not necessarily for the worse. According to the experts, AI and technologies are not meant to replace human professionals; on the contrary, the aim is to help them to perform daily, repetitive tasks.

Will that be the case? For the time being, it is hard not be thrilled by the extraordinary advancements already implemented or expected to be deployed very soon. In any case, all the presentations provided delegates with ample opportunities to learn more and make up their own mind about AI and new technologies.

The GALA conference also offered an opportunity for Women in Localization members to meet in an inspiring framework. Many interested delegates visited the Women in Localization booth during the three exhibition days. A dedicated Women in Localization meetup took place on March 25th: women (and men!) interacted in a speed networking format that helped everyone to break the ice and discuss localization trends, careers and topics of interest. The meetup was full of energy, exchanges and smiles. A big thank you to all the wonderful women who contributed to make this event so special!

To sum up, there was little time for boredom during the four conference days. With 500 delegates from more than 280 companies and 50 countries, GALA Munich 2019 was the biggest conference to-date for the GALA Global association. However, figures are not everything and, for me, the real success of the event lies in the extraordinary synergies created both by delegates and the GALA staff.

Looking forward to the GALA conference 2020 in San Diego!

Industry Trends & Innovation

Cooperation Between Universities and LSPs: Is It Worth It?

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How many post-graduate internship programs does your company start in a year? And how many of your selected candidates are actually familiar with the industry’s technologies? Hiring managers probably think that taking the responsibility to train and form new people costs more money and energy than hiring someone who is experienced and can perform the job from day one.

As a young business owner, I value young talent along with the possibility for newbies to understand where they fit best within the industry. Internships give both sides a six-month “grace” period (this is how long they usually last in Italy) to understand if the company, the environment, the job, and the person are a good fit. For this reason, I think that internships are a great tool. Unfortunately, after my company started its first few internships, we came to realize that there are some bumps that might discourage companies from investing in these programs.

For example, you need to teach and train interns for the job. These young fellows are usually fresh out of universities, which means that they are new to almost everything. Training costs money, time, and you need someone to mentor them. On top of this, there can also be institutional problems like government laws that regulate how many internships you can conduct at the same time, how long they can stay in the company, and how much you should pay them monthly.

There are indeed some difficulties that can come between a company and the positive outcome of an internship, but I think that while weighing the positives and negatives of this type of program, there is also another important aspect to consider: the people who are now graduating will probably shape the industry in about 10–15 years, which makes them the people that companies would want to invest in.

While working in Italy, I noticed that many universities teach students to be translators but seldom prepare these young fellows to be ready to work in or for a translation agency. More often than not, they aren’t familiar with tools, technologies, or processes. Considering how evolved the industry is now and the plethora of tasks to be accomplished, young graduates need a stronger practical knowledge of what is expected in their day-to-day workload.

Another important aspect to consider is the fact that the translation business in the last 20 years has evolved greatly and now offers many more language services that do not necessarily require people to have translator-related skills. While there are many undergraduate programs that offer translator degrees, there are only few masters/certificates—like the WU program to become a localization engineer—that give young adults the possibility to evolve their language studies into something more specific. Considering that universities should prepare students to work, I believe that keeping up with industry needs is extremely important. If universities alone can’t bridge the gap between learning and working, then companies should contribute. This is exactly where internships come into play and can be of great advantage to everyone.

The lack of industry training that young people receive during their university years could be easily overcome by creating a solid cooperation between universities and local translation agencies. Training might not be the main responsibility of a company, but there are strategies—tailor-made for specific necessities—that involve little investment and can narrow the gap between the industry’s needs and what is taught in school, allowing everyone to profit from this new network.


Personal & Professional Wisdom

If You’re Looking for a Summer Internship, You’ll Want to Read This

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As summer approaches, students across the country are getting busy looking for an internship. At the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) at Monterey, that work starts months in advance. Helen Jung and Amy Liu are currently finishing up their studies in Translation and Localization Management (TLM) at MIIS. We asked them to tell us about their experience preparing for their internship.

Make sure to take notes because they share excellent tips!

How did you find your internship?

Helen Jung:

During my very first semester at MIIS, I visited the MediaLocate booth at the Career Fair on campus and had a chat with Leona, the vendor manager. I expressed my interest in a project management internship and she put me in touch with Thomas, the production manager. I interviewed with him for the project coordinator position, but they pursued another candidate. A month later, MediaLocate had another opening for a project coordinator and Thomas reached out to me with an offer, which I had to decline as I had already accepted an offer from another employer. I kept in touch with everyone I met at MediaLocate and expressed my interest in working there in the near future. A few months before the summer began, I reached out to Thomas and asked if he had an opening for a project coordinator. I received an offer the next day and I began working at MediaLocate two weeks after that.

What advice would you give to students looking for an internship?

Helen Jung:

Don’t burn bridges. Even if things don’t work out initially, that doesn’t mean the opportunities with that employer are closed to you forever. Remain professional and amicable with everyone and keep in touch with them. Send a thank you email/message and connect with them on LinkedIn, and don’t be afraid to say hello from time to time or wish them a happy holiday!

Have a list of companies you’d like to intern at and be ready to articulate to them the reasons why you want to work there. Express genuine interest and enthusiasm for the role or organization. Do your research and tailor your answers to each organization.

If you can’t secure an internship for the summer, keep yourself busy with other professional experiences, e.g. programming or volunteering. Keep looking out for opportunities that could open up after the summer has begun because you never know what will come your way!

How did you find your internship?

Amy Liu:

I went to LocWorld 35 in Santa Clara as a volunteer, where I met the manager from Linguitronics, an LSP from Shanghai and Taiwan. When I started looking for a summer internship, I contacted them and asked for an internship opportunity. They not only offered me the internship as Localization Project Manager, but also sponsored the round-trip air tickets and accommodations in Shanghai.

I have benefited very much from MIIS’ good reputation, career advertising, professional training, and so on. The conferences that were recommended by our professors are well-worth attending. As for career advising, I think the Career Map that I completed during the New Student Orientation helped crystalize my goals and approaches. I had several coaching sessions with my Advisor, Winnie Heh, about how to become confident in interviews and how to negotiate with interviewers. This eventually led me to taking the course, The Art of Negotiation. Thanks to the techniques and skills I learned from that class, I got a good deal for my internship in Shanghai.

What advice would you give to students looking for an internship?

Amy Liu:

I announced to my contacts that I needed a summer internship when I started looking. I reached out to everyone that I knew and asked for any possible opportunity. Not many classmates get what they wanted in the beginning, but so many have landed an internship before this semester ended. Maybe the advice I want to share with my fellow students is: keep trying. After all, if you never try, you will never know.

In summary, be pro-active, diligent and build a network of industry professionals who can provide advice and help you grow. Using the resources your school provides should also be a big help and you should use them to your advantage. Above all, don’t get discouraged if things don’t go well at first. Perseverance and positivity go a long way!


GALA 2019 Munich Explores Artificial Intelligence in the Language Industry

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As LocWorld39 in Kuala Lumpur ends, another big event in the language industry is waiting to start. Swooshing across the globe from Asia to Europe, localization professionals will be meeting again at the end of the month to participate at GALA’s 2019 annual conference, taking place in Munich March 24-27, 2019.

A jam-packed agenda has been shaping up with a main focus on the exciting yet still unsettling relationship between humans and advanced technology in the language business. Is it a friendship or a battle? Is artificial intelligence friend or foe to our business? These questions will be explored, as well as topics around project management issues, managing vendors, and language quality management.

“GALA 2019 Munich is shaping up to be the largest GALA conference ever. Delegates can look forward to three days of intense networking and professional development – quite apart from generous helpings of Weißwurst and Helles,” said Manuela Noske, Communications Manager at GALA and Women in Localization member.

For some, the conference will start with an all-day visit to romantic Neuschwanstein Castle, located near Munich. Other delegates, such as those from Latin America and Spanish-speaking markets, Egypt and Arabic-speaking markets, Sub-Saharan Africa, India, China, and Southeast Asia are encouraged to participate in a regional development workshop.

Agustina Pioli, Business Development Manager at Latamways and Women in Localization Social Media Chapter Liaison, is excited to attend from Argentina.

“I’ll be attending GALA Munich this year and I can’t wait to see old faces and meet new ones. GALA is a great place to learn about today’s trends and network! As the Social Media Chapter Liaison, I’ll be helping out at the Women in Localization booth so make sure you stop by and say hi!” 

Check out the program here to find out what names in localization you will see on the roster and when networking opportunities take place (they are grand, for sure!).