Cape Town-based company ST Communications is one of Africa’s top providers of translation and localization services.
The team consists of experienced Project Managers and Quality Assurance professionals that work in conjunction with carefully-selected in-country linguists who are specialized in many different domains of translation. ST Communications offers services that range from translation and localization to proofreading, editing, multilingual DTP, and interpretation.
During our combined TCLoc/CAWEB study trip to Cape Town, we had the pleasure of meeting the in-house team in their beautiful Cape Town offices. Here we learned more about the work they do.
South Africa boasts eleven official languages and is home to around 20 more – Africa itself being the most linguistically diverse continent in the world. ST Communication takes great pride in this diversity and places primary focus on providing quality African-language services.
The services ST Communications offers take many forms, but localization remains the primary domain of activity. The LSP has handled numerous large-scale software and mobile application localization projects for tech giants such as Google, Samsung, Nokia, and Apple. One year they even took on the localization of Facebook emojis into several African languages!
Up for the challenges of African-language localization
ST is no stranger to navigating the unique challenges of translating long-tail languages in Africa. When we visited their offices, they explained this to us by using the example of Xhosa, a Nguni Bantu language and one of South Africa’s official languages, spoken by over 8 million people in the country:
Availability of linguists
For a languages such as Xhosa, finding experienced translators who can speak English, are computer-literate and who happen to have a good internet connection, is a challenge. Translators who translate from Xhosa to English are especially to come by since few native English speakers have Xhosa as a second language.
It follows that finding quality control professionals for languages like Xhosa also poses a challenge. One possible course of action when confronted with this kind of issue is to use back translations: translate the translation back into the source language to check for adequacy and fidelity to the source text. This is, however, not an ideal solution, especially in light of the following issue:
Between languages like English and Xhosa, linguistic and even conceptual structures differ enormously and pose a challenge for translation. For example, while English has two separate words for the concepts of “green” and “blue”, Xhosa does not distinguish between these two colors and uses the same word “luhlaza” for both. This is enough to confuse any back translation quality checker and presents a particularly tricky case for translation. Imagine, for instance, translating a user manual for a medical device with both green and a blue button, each having very different functions…
ST Communication does not shy away from these challenges and is constantly working towards optimizing the quality and consistency of their translations. In fact, they have a Language Quality & Excellence program that offers regular training courses to their in-house and freelance linguists, and supplies them with different translation software licenses.
It became very clear to us during our visit to Cape Town that localization is a rapidly growing industry both in South Africa and on the African continent as a whole. Companies like ST Communications are in high demand and are sure to grow and multiply in the coming years.
ST Communications holds up a standard for quality African language services and will surely continue to do so as the industry grows. We thank them very much for welcoming us into their offices and for sharing their experiences with us!
For more on this topic, visit our dedicated TCLoc Study Trip page.