Meet Vijayalaxmi Hegde, unarguably the most commanding independent voice of the Indian Translation and Localisation industry.
Vijayalaxmi, who started out as a journalist, with post-graduate diplomas in Print Journalism and Environmental Law, is a sought-after Content Expert today whose research and writing guides influence decision makers within and outside the Language industry.
We got Vijayalaxmi to talk to us about her journey, her role as the Director of Research Operations at the Common Sense Advisory Inc., the one thing business owners need to know about localisation and much more.
With a background in journalism and law, we would really like to know about your journey. Did you always know you’d want to venture into content writing and content marketing?
I had studied to become a journalist and back in 2001, content marketing was not even a term doing the rounds. Even after graduation school, I never thought I’d be a content writer but circumstances just turned out that way – I moved from Bangalore to Kolkata, and there I was a journalist for a short while. But this was the pre-journalism boom period and since that job wasn’t very attractive and neither were a lot of people hired in that sector, I ventured into writing. This is what gradually evolved into content writing for me.
I couldn’t help but notice your extremely interesting role with the Common Sense Advisory. Could you tell us more about your profile then and your primary research areas?
As the Research Coordinator for the Common Sense Advisory (CSA), I used to work with many analysts across their respective domains. Since I was from India and there was increasing interest about the Localisation market in India, my colleague suggested that I take up India as one of my core research areas, and so that’s what I did.
My profile was multi-faceted: I worked on many interpreting reports, global marketing reports, TMS reports and technology reports. And none of these were actually my areas of expertise. You could say I got a shortcut, or rather, a window into these domains without a ‘regular’ entry point into the industry. I am very thankful for this fabulous amount of learning that has really helped me.
As for my research areas, I used to write a lot about new, emerging and global markets such as India, and also contributed to the Global Website Assessment Index, an annual study of the top global websites conducted by CSA. I also have an extensive amount of writing on the Indian industry itself, especially what buyers need to know about the Translation and Localisation industry.
As someone who has done such extensive research in the Language services industry, what would you say is the one thing future business owners need to be more prepared for?
As regards the Indian market, the conventional concern for business owners was to realise the potential of Translation and Localisation for their brand and how it could increase their business manifold. Today, there is a new gamut of problems altogether, the biggest block being their content – right from the product specifications to web content to their marketing collaterals and sales literature.
An eCommerce website, for instance, cannot afford to have its content all over the place and unformatted, with mistakes in the spellings or data. While managers often run after cheap translation options or free Machine Translations, they don’t realise how they are toying with the brand’s image. The awareness level of the client, what we call the client Localisation Maturity Model, really needs to change. Multilingualism is definitely a need for national and international businesses today.
In your ‘awareness blogs’, you’ve written about Speech-to-Speech translation and its futuristic course. Do you think that’s the next big thing to look forward to in our industry?
I personally feel that Speech-to-Speech (S2S) technology does have immense potential, but it comes with its set of challenges. For instance, there is still plenty of linguistic optimisation needed to ensure accuracy. Ideally, it would be great if it were to be developed uniformly for all languages, but the cost of getting the technology to work in case of new languages is still extremely high.
On the other hand, extensive speech and translation databases first need to be collected to support all new languages. Vocabulary, language models and acoustic models need to be built, trained and adapted for each language. In countries like ours, not everyone can read or write English content. They make the ideal use case – they speak to their device and get translated (audio) content back! But with current funding, progress is painfully slow. Android was able to support voice searching in Indian languages as recently as a couple of years ago!
The CTO of Translators Without Borders was recently telling me that sometimes you simply need language resources immediately; especially in times of crises or disasters, where there is no time to write/publish the content. So of course speech can be very helpful. But is this even available in all spoken languages? If technology is not accessible to people, then what is the point?
How has your personal experience been with learning languages? Are there any particular languages that you have on your bucket list that you can’t wait to cross off?
One thing I know for sure is that it would be very difficult for me to learn languages where all nouns are assigned a gender. For instance, in my own language, Kannada, inanimate objects simply don’t have gender. I learnt Bengali as well, which is very simplified, and I’m conversant with Hindi.
I started learning Spanish and I noticed that the entire sentence structure is liable to change, depending on the noun. That’s why I gave it up. But the next thing on my bucket list is to start reading and writing Bengali (since I speak it anyway), to get better at it as well as discover its many wonderful works of literature!