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Nataly Kelly
Nataly Kelly is the VP of Marketing at Smartling, the cloud-based enterprise translation management company.

Her latest book, “Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World,” was published by Perigee/Penguin(USA) in October 2012.

Her previous book, “Telephone Interpreting: A Comprehensive Guide to the Profession,” is the first full-length book ever published on the topic, and has received praise from industry gurus and academics at leading universities. She has formally studied 7 languages, has traveled to 34 countries, and has obtained higher education on 3 continents.

A former Fulbright scholar in sociolinguistics, Nataly has published articles on various aspects of Ecuadorian Spanish in academic journals from Colombia and Mexico. She also writes about community interpreting and its impact on the integration of linguistic minorities in highly diverse societies, with a special focus on the role of emerging technologies.

Nataly is a certified court interpreter (Spanish), has worked as a freelance translator and editor, and is a familiar face on the language industry conference circuit. She has served as an elected member of the board of directors of the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care and currently serves on the American Translators Association interpreter certification committee as well as the advocacy committee for the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators.

As a consultant, Nataly has assisted with the design of a language access curriculum for Georgetown University Medical School and presented to health care providers as a member of a national speaker’s bureau for Pfizer’s Quality Forum programs. She has served as an invited speaker on the language industry for the European Commission, and was a member of the National Project Advisory Committee for a web-based training program for culturally and linguistically appropriate disaster response offered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.

Entries by Nataly Kelly

Why So Many Translators Hate Translation Technology

(51) Comments | Posted June 19, 2014 | 1:12 PM

In general, technology should serve to make our lives better. Software can automate manual steps, reducing the human workload. Translation, like most language-related tasks, is complex. Machines have not yet gotten to the point where they can use language the way people can. Translation is, at a minimum,...

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As the Internet Becomes More Global, Language Matters More than Ever

(1) Comments | Posted June 11, 2014 | 12:10 PM

Mary Meeker's annual internet trends report was released recently, and as in years past, it highlights the fact that the internet is becoming increasingly global. As companies race to keep pace with the globalization trend, their attention naturally turns to the number of languages spoken by...

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Why Translation Is Like Music

(1) Comments | Posted June 2, 2014 | 2:35 PM

People often ask me if translation is art or science. The reality is, it's a combination of both. A good parallel for the translation profession is the music industry, which has been revolutionized by technology.

See this video from Smartling, "Why Translation Is Like Music," below.

There is definitely an art to creating the perfect version of a sentiment in another language. It takes human creativity and talent. However, translators also perform many tasks that are of a more scientific nature, especially when they use translation technology.

A great deal of confusion exists about translation technology. People often think that that "translation technology" refers only to computer-generated translation, such as Google Translate. In reality, translation technology encompasses much more than that.

Various types of technology for translation have been around for nearly as long as computers have. Most of them are not completely automatic. They don't automate the entire translation process -- they automate pieces of it, such as sending files to the right places, or automatically tracking common terms in a glossary. They do not perform the actual linguistic transfer step. Humans are still best at that.

Professional translators use software for many reasons. It can speed up their work, ensure better quality by enforcing language-specific standards in various areas, such as preserving sentence structure or ensuring proper typesetting. It also has the side benefits of speeding up the process and making it more cost-effective.

That said, it's a dangerous thing to talk about translation costs, because people who are new to translation often imagine a utopia in which all translation is easy to obtain, instantly available, and free of charge. Professional translators rightly get upset when discussions of translation and technology are reduced to a discussion of costs, because it oversimplifies the matter, and can pull the focus away from what really matters, to them, and to the people who will actually read the translations - getting the message across accurately and precisely in another language. That is no easy undertaking. It takes skill, dedication, and hard work.

So, how is translation like music? It is a field that is vast and diverse. There are people who do it as paid professionals, and there are others who do it without training or for their own enjoyment, and who of course, do not consider themselves qualified to make a living from it. It's very hard to assign a value to music. The notion of "quality" is subjective and somewhat difficult to measure.

It's one thing to play a bit of piano, but another to be a concert pianist. It's one thing to speak two languages, but another to be a professional translator. Each language is like a different instrument, with a sound all its own, and with notes that are easy to play in some, but that are very difficult, nearly impossible sometimes, to replicate in others.

Language is a vital form of human expression, and arguably, an even more important one than music. So vital, in fact, that we too often take it for granted.

Click here to watch a video interview with Ray Kurzweil on the topic of translation technology, and click here to see a comprehensive list of all of the different types of translation with their risks and...

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Multilingual Superbowl Ad Displays Linguistic Diversity -- and Native Heritage

(1) Comments | Posted February 6, 2014 | 3:39 PM

Earlier this week, I wrote about the much-talked-about television advertisement from Coca-Cola that aired during the Super Bowl, featuring "America the Beautiful" in many languages.

The ad stirred America's melting pot in more ways than one. Many of the reactions were negative, but many were also positive. To follow up, a company spokesperson from Coca-Cola reached out with the company's official statement:

For centuries America has opened its arms to people of many countries who have helped to build this great nation. "It's Beautiful" provides a snapshot of the real lives of Americans representing diverse ethnicities, religions, races and families, all found in the United States. All those featured in the ad are Americans and "America The Beautiful" was sung by bilingual American young women. We believe "It's Beautiful" is a great example of the magic that makes our country so special, and a powerful message that spreads optimism, promotes inclusion and celebrates humanity - values that are core to Coca-Cola.

Celebrating diversity. Who could argue with that?

However, a second look at the ad reveals that there is something even more important about it than just the reflection of America's linguistic diversity on the surface.

Coca-Cola featured the Native American language Keres in the ad, a fact that probably went unnoticed by all but around 11,000 people in the American Southwest who actually speak this ancestral language.

The song lyrics did not even exist in Keres prior to the Coca-Cola project -- they had to be translated, which was no small task. As Christy, the Keres singer in the ad explains, "Translating the words to 'America the Beautiful' was difficult because Keres is not a written language, so we had to go back to our elders to help translate."

Giving credit where credit is due, Coca-Cola did not choose to feature just the languages of America's many citizens who were originally born elsewhere, but included one language that was spoken here long before English ever arrived. Thanks to the ad, the beautiful sounds of Keres were heard by the 111.5 million viewers who tuned in for the Superbowl.

Attention for Native American languages, like Keres, by major brands such as Coca-Cola is a more common occurrence these days. Microsoft has localized Windows into Cherokee and Google has supported various projects for languages with very small populations of speakers. George Lucas and his film company even recently subtitled a Star Wars movie in Navajo. When they do so respectfully -- involving the communities in the decisions about their language and how it will be used -- companies reap many benefits while making a contribution to society at large.

America is diverse, not just geographically, but culturally and linguistically as well. Let's hope that the trend of shining a light on less common and endangered languages, especially ones that help us appreciate this country's native heritage,...

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Coca-Cola Super Bowl Ad Reflects the Reality of a Multilingual America

(185) Comments | Posted February 3, 2014 | 7:44 AM

One of the most controversial Super Bowl ads this year did not rely on the usual tactics, such as humor, shock, a catchy tune, or clever turns of phrase. Instead, the much-talked-about advertisement from Coca-Cola simply presented the song, "America, the Beautiful" in seven different languages. Outrage swiftly ensued, as...

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Why Machines Alone Cannot Solve the World's Translation Problem

(8) Comments | Posted January 9, 2014 | 5:08 PM

Sixty years ago this week, scientists at Georgetown and IBM lauded their machine translation "brain," known as the 701 computer. The "brain" had successfully translated multiple sentences from Russian into English, leading the researchers to confidently claim that translation would be fully handled by machines in "the next...

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Ten Common Myths About Translation Quality

(21) Comments | Posted July 18, 2013 | 5:30 PM

The world of translation can be a confusing place, especially if you're the one doing the buying on behalf of your company. Many purchasers of translation services feel like you might when you take your car to the mechanic. How do you really know what's going on underneath the hood?...

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Mobile Advertising Nearly Doubles Worldwide, Reaching $8.9 Billion

(0) Comments | Posted July 17, 2013 | 12:50 PM

A new study from IAB reveals that worldwide mobile ad revenue rose by a massive 82.8% last year to $8.9 billion from $5.3 billion in 2011. That's right -- while many traditional advertising channels are slumping, mobile ad spend nearly doubled from one year to the next.


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Cultural Beliefs and Global Marketing by the Numbers

(1) Comments | Posted July 10, 2013 | 5:05 PM

Companies that sell their products and services internationally often underestimate the importance of being familiar with the target culture. More often than not, what you don't know about a local market can hurt your brand. A lack of cultural awareness frequently becomes evident through mistranslations. Many companies innocently...

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7 Trends in Global Internet Growth You Can't Afford to Ignore

(1) Comments | Posted June 6, 2013 | 11:08 AM

Mary Meeker's annual report on Internet trends is a must-read for everyone who has a stake in what happens online. And isn't that most of us anymore? Meeker, a partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, was nicknamed the "Queen of the...

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Why Translators Are the New Blacksmiths

(10) Comments | Posted April 25, 2013 | 11:30 AM

A few months ago, during a talk at Google, I shared the idea that translators are the new blacksmiths. Here are six reasons why:

The translation profession is shifting from craft to science. It took three thousand years for humans to learn the science of converting metals...

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Profiles in Translation: Speaking the Language of Love

(1) Comments | Posted February 13, 2013 | 3:23 PM

As America gets ready to celebrate Valentine's Day, here's a bit of trivia from elsewhere in the world. In many parts of Latin America, Valentine's Day is not just for people who are in love. It's known as the "Día del Amor y la Amistad" -- the Day of Love...

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Could the Birth of a Word Prevent the Death of a Language?

(2) Comments | Posted February 9, 2013 | 12:00 PM

Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

When I first saw Deb Roy's TEDTalk, "The Birth of a Word," I was struck by the power of data-rich research to reveal important...

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Why Immigration Reform Is Good for Translation, Just Not for the Reasons You Think

(13) Comments | Posted January 30, 2013 | 4:07 PM

The United States will soon face immigration reform, as President Obama highlighted in his inaugural address this week. Which parts of the language industry stand to benefit from comprehensive reform, and who will have an advantage?

Common Sense Advisory conducted a large-scale study of federal government spending on...

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Seven Surprising Ways Immigration Helps Build a Stronger America

(29) Comments | Posted January 23, 2013 | 3:35 PM

President Obama has pledged to make immigration reform one of his top legislative priorities in 2013. He highlighted this commitment again in his inaugural address on Monday. Republicans are also reevaluating their stance on immigration. Here are seven frequently overlooked ways that immigration contributes to life in the...

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Profiles in Translation: Inside the World of a Professional Baseball Interpreter

(1) Comments | Posted January 23, 2013 | 11:02 AM

Baseball interpreters have been in the news a lot recently, due to the decision to allow interpreters to approach the pitching mound during games. I recently caught up with Kenji Nimura, an experienced professional interpreter for Japanese, Spanish, and English for players in the Major League. Nimura was...

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Six Things I Learned About Publishing a Book That Very Few Books Will Tell You

(74) Comments | Posted January 5, 2013 | 3:51 PM

Landing a book contract with a major publisher, Penguin, was a dream come true, and I thought I knew what awaited me. Prior to that wonderful day, I spent many years acquiring knowledge about the publishing process, mostly by reading books, articles, and blogs. Even so, there were quite a...

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Google, Kurzweil, and the Information Transformation Age

(1) Comments | Posted December 20, 2012 | 10:44 AM

Last week, Google announced the hiring of Ray Kurzweil, who will work to solve complex language processing problems, among other things. In an interview last year, Kurzweil pointed out that language processing issues are among the most difficult problems to solve. Kurzweil will join the same...

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Kiss, Bow, Shake Hands, or Cold Call?

(0) Comments | Posted November 12, 2012 | 1:56 PM

I can't even count the number of times I have walked into the office of an international marketing department or a translation company to find a copy of Terri Morrison's book, Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands sitting on an executive's bookshelf. It's a classic guide for global business...

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Keeping Voters' Tongues in Check

(0) Comments | Posted November 1, 2012 | 10:14 PM

As the presidential elections draw near, Obama and Romney are paying closer attention than ever to the language they use to make their cases. Every word they state can have an impact on potential voters. Unfortunately, both candidates are likely to miss out on countless votes precisely because of a...

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