Localization Academy

How What3Words Does Localization – Jamie Brown

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Dive deep into the unique world of what3words and their approach to localization in this captivating interview with Jamie Brown.

Welcome to this episode of The Localization Podcast where you’ll learn about the following:

  • How to nail any presentation
  • What makes what3words a global language game-changer
  • Techniques and factors for adapting new languages in what3words
  • The role and influence of a Chief Language Services Officer
  • Marrying data with emotion in localization decisions
  • How technology shapes modern language use and evolution
  • Terrified of people… drinking champagne?!

Andrej Zito 

Let’s start with talking about TEDx. How nervous were you before TEDx?

Jamie Brown 

today? Well, I wasn’t at all nervous. There was this long days programme, there were maybe eight people talking 20 minutes, he was in a big Theatre in London 100 people in the audience. And I think backstage, when they called me down to do the talk, I think they’re expecting you to be really nervous. But I guess there was a few things they didn’t know, which was, number one, I actually enjoy public speaking. I’m in this quite privileged position, I guess, when I was a child, I used to have really quite bad speech impediment, and it’s got much less bad over the years, and you, you’ll be able to hear it every now and again, but it’s not terrible at all anymore. And so I feel completely free now. Because when I was a child, and in my 20s, you know, talking to anybody, let alone talking to a theatre of 800 people was terrifying. So actually, you kind of go the other way, almost. And just really enjoy the fact that you’re able to do it physically, as well as emotionally. So that was one thing. I had an excellent speech coach who helped me not only to craft what I wanted to say, and put it into a great structure also, sort of helped me prepare for the whole thing, which was so useful. And lastly, you’re gonna walk out on stage, to 800 people in a theatre? All the lights are on me, and you literally can’t see anybody in the audience. So it was like talking to myself in my bedroom.

Andrej Zito 

Well, then explain to me, why is it that you are slightly nervous? Right now? Is it that you’re lacking the 800 people? Or is it that there’s too much light on me? Or? What’s the difference?

Jamie Brown 

Is the middle point, I haven’t prepared my speech. So I don’t know that you aren’t going to say, I don’t know exactly what you’re gonna ask me. I swear the knows that.

Andrej Zito 

I can totally imagine myself. I think you mentioned that you were like eight. There were eight speakers on the day. Yeah. Like if I had to be waiting, I think the longer I wait for something, the more nervous I get, especially for example, I see that the speakers are doing such a great job. And then I would feel like, oh my gosh, am I going to at least match their level? You know, like, it’s worse.

Jamie Brown 

today. What was really interesting, I was on maybe number six, that was eight, I think. And I thought I was going to go to the theatre, have my soundcheck first thing in the morning and then watch the first five presentations. And actually they specifically told me to not for I did my soundcheck, and then they said, Okay, take yourself off somewhere, come down. And we’ll see you back here in four hours. Which is actually really great advice, you know, for a TEDx or for speaking at a conference and things like that, you know, you don’t, it’s not very helpful. At that point, I think, to compare yourself to other people, you know, even if you’re interested in what they’re going to be talking about. I don’t think it’s the best preparation. And nowadays, usually, there’s a recording happening. So. So if you do end up missing something you wanted to hear, then you can always watch it afterwards.

Andrej Zito 

I think you might be hopefully I’m not making a mistake here. I think you might be the first person who ever did a TEDx talk that I get to interview. Tell me how this one person come to such an opportunity.

Jamie Brown 

How did I get them into speaker today? Good question. I think you know, particularly in the UK, what three words is a very recognisable point product. Most people now in the UK have heard of what’s the word? Very many people have used it. And I guess it’s it’s such a neat bit of tech. Everybody who hears about it is blown away by the simplicity of the idea and the numerous ways in which you could be useful to them or in situations that they can understand And so everyone really wants to talk about it. So talking about what if the word is easy, because there’s so much to say, and people simply find it interesting. And languages, I guess, as well, like the majority people in the world, have language can use language speak every day. And people are generally pretty interested in it. And what few words and languages is also a very sort of interesting corner of too interesting things. So, yeah.

Andrej Zito 

So does that mean that somebody asked you or someone from what three words to come and give a talk? Or is it does it work that you as a person can, I don’t know, apply somewhere to give a speech and they select people?

Jamie Brown 

I believe you can apply, and I won’t say was actually invited to do it. But yes, I mean, there’s TEDx franchises around the world. And I believe lots of them will take applications to curate whatever programme they’re having to put together.

Andrej Zito 

When you said that, there’s so much to say about what three words, I guess, well, we’ll talk about that later. But when it comes to the, to your talk, since you had so much to say, How did you select the things that you wanted to put into your speech? And what are the things that maybe you left out? And you wish you didn’t?

Jamie Brown 

Interesting? I think so like I said, I had this incredible speech coach called Tyra imagined. And she helped me in so many ways to put together the talk that eventually became draft one was not that we went through a lot of process. Draft one was really the standard. What is what for your words, presentation, and it’s one that I give very often, to people all around the world. And she really, Tyra really helped me to tease out what was important. And also what fit their programme. Like I said, there’ll be curating a programme for the day. And the theme of this one is called Life finds a way. So they were really looking at sort of how individuals achieved stuff because of their backgrounds, I guess. And so, you know, one of the one of the things that really sticks in my mind is I had this talk, and I would say please with it, and it was a very standard, what three words presentation, really. And I went for it. And I sort of stopped and was pleased with myself and waiting for her reaction, and I kind of expected sort of praise and adulation. And she said to me, great. That’s all really interesting, but why you? And I said, well, because I’m the head of languages that work with. It said, yeah, I get that. But why you? Why are you Jamie Brown, the individual, not your job title, why are you giving this talk? And I started once I, I didn’t really understand the question. And I took it away. And all of a sudden, I realised, and I don’t, you know, there’s no particular reason to dwell on this one fact. But I realised that it was because I grew up with a speech impediment that made me want to get into language and linguistics and localization. It made me very interested in giving people a voice that didn’t necessarily have one. And I feel very strongly that to use a lot of tech in the world nowadays, you need to be able to speak English or one of the other major languages and I wanted to be the person who was taking technology truly global in the sense that, you know, if you are monolingual or trilingual or whatever, but not in any of the big languages that the major tech products are localised into it not to be the one that was helping you to use them basically. Yeah, so that’s why me Okay,

Andrej Zito 

Is there anything else that you learned from your speech coach, that you may be apply in your day to day communication with your team?

Jamie Brown 

Oh, that’s a really good question. I think, you know, we’ve talked a lot about context. And a lot about, you know, don’t assume that somebody you’re talking to understand the full 360, or what you’re trying to say. Be very clear, make sure you’re bringing the audience with you, you know, and that’s the same effects of theatre of 100 people, or an internal company presentation, or a team meeting with the two people that bought into you, you know, like, or an online jet or anything it is. But, you know, engaging with what your audience want. Done that, I think, in a way that makes them curious about it was that she left a big mark, when

Andrej Zito 

you mentioned that your speech impairment kind of like, is one of the reasons why you got into localization. So this is a typical question that I ask almost everyone, how did you get into localization? Where did you first maybe as a child or teenager started seeing interest in languages?

Jamie Brown 

Really interesting question. For me, it was a very long and winding path.

Andrej Zito  

We have to have, that’s why I booked you for two hours. Jamie’s origin story, let’s start.

Jamie Brown 

I’m gonna get off topic many times in the next few hours. But honestly, it was it was a very long bug. As a child, I was very interested in language. Really only to the level that I learned languages at school, we did French. I then learned Spanish and a bit of German later on. But I was always very interested in them. And I was interested in the way that they worked. And I was interested in how you can express yourself using words, particularly like one thing I really love is words that other languages have English hasn’t. And I was kind of really interested in the way that language facilitates expression. And different languages can be expressed in different ways. I was never, I was never very good at speaking them out loud, for obvious reasons. So I never thought that it was an avenue that I could really go down. I didn’t think languages was for me, because I wasn’t able to speak them out loud with my grammar. So what are somebody who can’t speak study is music. So I was a classical musician I did to classical music at university, I worked in the opera industry for a few years. And then in my late 20s, I wanted to take a bit of a 180 And basically, quit my job stuck a pin in the map and move resume. And it was sort of only when I arrived in Brazil off the plane, it occurred to me that I didn’t really know many people in Brazil, I didn’t have any money, and I couldn’t speak Portuguese. I also know that are a really bad idea. But because I’ve always been interested in language it is I was actually able to pick up Portuguese really quite easily. And I progressed in it very quickly. And my speech impediment was sort of levelling out a bit at that point. And actually, most people I knew, complimented me on how my Portuguese was, because I knew that long that basically flew in a few months and it was it was all going really well and honestly at the age of 28 That was the first time anybody had ever complimented me so it was that was great. So as in was over about a year I came back to the UK instantly did a master’s in linguistics because I realised actually it was the thing that I always had been the most interested in but I just felt wasn’t something that was available to me. And then yeah, I started the job at what few words only a couple of years after I did my masters. So yeah, yeah, that’s why

Andrej Zito 

I’m why Brazil. Was it really just random like He just you know, there are Did you did you use your brain?

Jamie Brown 

A little bit. I did know a couple of people in Brazil. And the other thing was, I knew I didn’t want to go to a country that I could sort of speak the language already. And I could sort of speak. Well, I spoke French quite well, I spoke Spanish at school. And I sort of wanted to go to South America. And I didn’t want to go to a Spanish speaking country. So Brazil was kind of the obvious choice.

Andrej Zito 

Like when you said that, it was the first time somebody complimented you on you talking? I’m not sure if this is somewhat related to it. But I remember when I first moved to Singapore, I felt like it’s a place where maybe I could belong to, for the first time, did you have similar feeling in Brazil? Just because you felt like maybe you could talk to the people even though you didn’t know the language perfectly. But was this was a speech impairment, something that you felt like was limiting you before Brazil? And like Brazil was the one that opened? Open your mind? Or like, you started thinking differently about yourself, and you’re like, what you can do with your speech?

Jamie Brown 

Ya know, you’re hit the nail on the head. I’ve never thought of it in quite those terms. But yes, you’re absolutely right. It had always limited me up until I read, then sort of worlds were open, I guess. I feeling like speech and language was something that I was able to do. And also, Brazil is a very, it’s a very open hearted country. I’m, I’m also quite shy. And one of the things that really struck me about Brazil, when I moved there was, sometimes you’d be sitting around a table, you know, you’d have been asked to go to a bar in the evening, and you’ll arrive and there’ll be maybe 10 or 12 people there already. And you will be sitting around having a beer. And in increase in Possehl. There’s absolutely no way of knowing which people around the table already knew each other, which people are lifelong friends or brothers or relatives, and which people are literally meeting each other for the first time, because they interact with each other in exactly the same way. And I found that really lovely, because that is not the case in the UK, let me tell you. And it allows you to, it allows shy people to feel included, and to feel like they’re not the ones that have to break into a particular social situation. So it’s interesting, like your question, and you said about moving to Singapore, a place that you sort of feel fits you. I don’t know if I felt like Brazil fit me, but I felt like it welcomed me in, I guess, and kind of in the way that I wanted to be welcomed into a place. Maybe hadn’t been like before. But yeah.

Andrej Zito 

So then why did you decide to move back to to the UK? Was it really just to pursue the studies? Did you miss the life back in UK?

Jamie Brown 

I did. Good question. I don’t I miss the life in the UK. And there’s certainly I mean, you know, we’re talking 15 years ago now. But there’s certainly things that I still miss about Brazil. I don’t think I’d ever really intended to be there long term. You know, I’ve got a very large and close family who were all based in the UK. So I was there for about a year and then I wanted to come back and sort of apply what I’d learned in Brazil I guess, but also get back into family life and the friends I’ve got in around the UK. Now as you can see, I mean, you know as well as anyone like living in a country that isn’t your home is very interesting and rewarding thing to do. I had a friend who lived in so she’s also British. She did Spanish University me Mexico for gosh, like maybe seven or eight years, and is now living in Spain. And she said, the decision to leave Mexico, where she basically made her life and to move back to Europe. And again, you know, because Spain is easier to get to the UK from and, you know, her parents live here and very close to them, and they wanted that opportunity in her life again. But she said, and I’ll always remember it said, leaving Mexico was like ripping one of my own legs off. Because it is, you know, you make it your home. And it’s a very hard decision to move away from that.

Andrej Zito 

One more question about this whole Brazil experience, when you mentioned how the social circles work, like in Brazil, that you don’t know if the people have a long term relationship? Or no? Do you think it’s just a mindset thing? Like is that something that once you experienced it, once you experienced it in Brazil, you can basically apply it anywhere, because I have to be honest, that is one of the fears that I usually have is like when you are new to certain group of people, and you feel like at least in your head, that they all know each other for so long. And you’re you’re not part of the group yet. Maybe you’re going to be restricting yourself, like what you say how you behave, and so on. So with your experience after Brazil, is that something that may be I don’t know, when you go to a networking event? Or somewhere where you don’t know anyone? Do you feel like okay, these are this is like Brazil, you know, like, I don’t know if the people know each other, just got to be myself, am I going to be shy? Or once you came back to the UK, you sort of knew how the UK circles work like, and it’s always in the back of your head. Okay, these people probably know each other for so long. They’re close friends, what am I doing here?

Jamie Brown 

Yeah, I’m certainly much less sharp than I was in my 20s. I don’t know if I could genuinely put that all down to having lived in Brazil, I think, you know, people generally get less shy as they get older. I’m certainly still terrible at networking. I mean, like my idea of absolute hell is to walk into a room of people who are all drinking champagne and eating kind of bass and having to walk up to them and introduce myself out of the blue. But it’s like, absolutely the worst thing you could possibly ask me to do for an evening? I don’t think I’ve become really resilient. But.

Andrej Zito 

But why is it such a terrifying image for you to do that?

Jamie Brown 

I mean, isn’t it for anybody?

Andrej Zito 

Well, if you think about it from the I don’t know, curiosity perspective, like there are so many new people interesting. They could know a lot of different things. They could teach you something. Is it just the whole image of people? I don’t know drinking champagne, so they look like they’re snobs? Or why is its Why is it such a bad image for you?

Jamie Brown 

I think in those kinds of networking events, part of it is the fact that most people are already having a conversation. So there’s little pockets of people around the room, and they’re all talking and they’ve all introduced themselves already. And finding your ear to go and introduce yourself and to sort of infiltrate that conversation.

Andrej Zito 

Well, you have, you should have it very easy. Hey, I’m Jamie. I did a TEDx talk.

Jamie Brown 

Yeah, yeah. Well, we do that better. To an English person. I like the idea of interrupting somebody else’s conversation, because you want to be in the conversation as well. Is Alive. So I mean, yeah, there’s a very cultural barrier there. And I’m sure you know, English. People aren’t the only nationality they have that. But yeah, it’s a hard thing to do for sure.

Andrej Zito 

Alright, let’s talk about what three words what is it? For people who don’t know about it? And I think I mentioned to you during our intro call that I once read about it, but otherwise, if I didn’t read that article, I also wouldn’t have any idea what what three words is about. So how would you explain what three words for I mean to a five year old? Have you ever prepared such a such a speech?

Jamie Brown 

The five year old crowd probably not. But I’ll give it a go. Basically, have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to tell somebody exactly where anywhere, but you didn’t have any way of communicating that. So, you know, I live in a town in the UK, we have very good street address in here. So if somebody wants to write me a letter or post me a parcel that I can tell them my street address, and that natural parcel is going to end up in the right place. Even in the UK, that’s not always the case in the countryside. Addresses won’t always take the postman exactly to the right place. They sometimes, you know, end up on the other side of the valley or something like that. And so if you can tell the postman exactly where they need to go to the nearest three metres, then that’s going to help everybody is going to help him not get lost, it’s going to help you see where possible in time. If, for example, you crash your car in the middle of the countryside, and you ring No, no, nine, or 911, in Canada, I guess. And they say, where are you? And you say, Well, I don’t know, I’m on the main road between these two towns. But you know, other than that, I’m a stranger to the area. I can’t tell you I can see from trees and a field and some cows. And that’s all I can tell you. How, how are you going to tell them exactly where you are. Because in that situation, you can’t drop a pin on a map and show and show my GPS coordinates, you know, long string of numbers are very precise, but they’re not very human friendly, particularly over the phone, particularly in that sort of stressful situation where you’re in some trouble, and you need to tell somebody quickly where you are reading those numbers out, you know, there’s all kinds of problems. What three words is human friendly solution to that. So basically, what the company have done is divided the entire world into three metre squares, there’s an awful lot of them and assigned every single square, a unique address that is made up of three random words. So for example, my front door of my house is half twin times. And that’s the only three metre square in the entire world that has that exact what we wrote the dress. So if I say to anybody, I live at PAF twin ties, there, you can type that into their, what you wrote at, and it’ll show them both outdoor accurate images. If you’re in the middle of the countryside, and you’ve run 911. And you have to tell the call handler where to find you go the app on your phone, read out the words they’ve been put into their system, and hey, presto, they know exactly where you are within three metres. And that’s, that’s really it. It’s a very simple concept. But it’s one that really is being useful. And so I joined very early actually, I think it was founded in 2013. I joined as a freelance project manager in 2014, became full time a year after that. Because by that time, I was home from Brazil, I had done my master’s in linguistics, I was working in a in a research centre. And so they brought me in, because they knew that they wanted to go global, you know, the company’s ambition has always been to be the global standard for addressing and the founders knew instinctively, you know, what are the words is a very unique product in that words and language are literally the product itself. You know, usually words and translations of them are simply sort of the user interface that allows somebody to use a product. But in this sense of what the worth, it literally is the bullet. So they knew that if they were ever going to go global, they really had to cover as much of the world and speakers and languages as they could. So they brought me in really quite early on to work on initially new language versions, which is a whole process in itself. I’m sure we’ll cover in a while. But then also later on localization. So really, what are the companies talked about when we talk about localization, so marketing, asset translation, translation, translation of product, user interfaces, that kind of thing. And also my team work on sort of the more language technology side of things now. So speech and but of course, many languages, OCR scanning with your phone, different lambdas, and Martin spirits, input methods that I was initially brought on to that sort of linguistic research, I guess, building products and other languages.

Andrej Zito 

And when he joined, was it just pure English for the product? Or did they already have some,

Jamie Brown 

they had a couple of other beauty versions. So it was available in Spanish, Russian and Swedish. So four languages, and then we built them there. And now it is loads that we’ve just launched language number 55.

Andrej Zito 

When he joined, so this is a bit of surprise to me, because I thought that you were the one put the first language in. When you joined, did you think the process of how they added the languages before you was adequate? Or was there a lot of room for improvement?

Jamie Brown 

I mean, there’s always room for improvement. You know, they had a very, very fast process, they knew the product that they wanted to create. They knew the things that are what the rows address should be. And the things that are what was addressed should not. And they put procedures in place to make sure that the words then what we won’t address are ones that we think should be there. So for example, we try very hard to remove negative offensive vocabulary. We try to remove words that could be confusing when spoken out loud. So for example, the word sale in English, you could write that down, Sal, or you could write it down Sal Lee. And in that use case of ringing nine on one, you don’t want to have to be explaining to the call handler which version of the word sale, you mean. So they’re homophones. And we try very hard to remove homophones as well from our product, to make sure that people don’t have that confusion, and also other things. And yeah, so they had put all those processes into place. And they’ve thought very hard about what sorts of words they wanted, what sort of words they wanted to exclude. I guess where I came in was really twofold. The first being that I understand a lot of languages. And as a linguist, I understand how they work, how they work, how they work together. I know that many many if not most languages in the world have more complicated grammar than English does. You know, in most other European languages, if you’re talking about the different forms of a verb, for example, you know, in English, you’ve got walk walks, walked walking, and that’s basically it and they will feel like very basic forms of the word you know, very clear what they are. None of them would feel particularly out of place or unusual as part of what we read the dress, but in lots of languages, you know, it gets much more complicated and particularly with burbs, you know, there may be 40 5060 plus forms of the same verb once we’re talking about tenses and people and all the rest of it, and actually, of what people wear to dress could well start to build A very clunky, if it was, for example, I will walk, you walked, they are going to walk. So, and that’s a very personal thing to people, you know what creates a lot of people as a dress that you would expect to what he wears a dress to be, is a very unique thing to different people, but understanding that and putting processes in place to not only choose the appropriate words what you’re worth, but also make sure that they’re in forms that are user friendly to people who speak their language is quite a complicated thing. So that’s one thing I added to their process, I guess. And I said, there were two things. So I’ve got to tell you the other thing that’s been cleaned out my mind right now. Oh, yeah. So, training team. You know, I think one thing that I’m a big advocate of in localization in general, particularly, building new language versions of Word, three words, is, I want to speak to the people that are doing the job for me. Because, I mean, for a lot of reasons, you know, I think it’s the right thing to do to have a relationship with freelancers that are working with you. I also can’t look at at our new Slovak language version of what we words and make a judgement on whether the native speakers that have helped us to create it did a good job. So I’m, I’m a really big advocate of having a personal relationship with people knowing that you’ve trained them well, knowing that they’ve had opportunity to ask anything that isn’t clear or challenge you if you say something that they don’t necessarily agree with, because, you know, I don’t be the vast majority of languages that we work on. So what I can go on is experience some other languages, but that’s not always relevant. So having that training, personal relationship, and large team as well, you know, when I started, we started working with a lot more linguists in each language to get a real broad understanding of how that language community uses those words. So yeah, that’s okay.

Andrej Zito 

We can get back to that a little bit later. For now, what I’m interested in, and I’m not sure if you can answer this because this technically happened before you joins. But can you maybe describe to us how the selection of the words work for the language number one, the very first original, let’s say source language? They how do they pick the P that pick the words?

Jamie Brown 

I was not there for this, as you might say, I believe that. So basically, if you’re trying to end a project with a particular number of words, but you know that you’re going to exclude some words, for particular reasons, the obvious thing to do is to start with too many words, and allow yourself to take them out where it’s appropriate to do so. So, it was mostly done by people, you know, founders, people who were working in what we wrote in stages, people who had that very clear vision of the product that they were intending to create, and the reasons why they would want to take words out of that database.

Andrej Zito 

I have one more question. It may be stupid question. Some questions? Let’s get into the debate. You know, like, okay, so what you guys do is completely different than what let’s say the mainstream localization, you know, teams do. And we localization, we usually talk about internationalisation. You know, how should the English be written so that it’s easier to to localise or to translate and so on? My question that might be stupid is Was there ever case? Is it even possible? I think no, but I’m still going to ask where the, let’s say the English words had to be changed later. either on or is it just you decide on the words once? And then it’s set in stone? Maybe make maybe we can expand this to any other language, right? Like, is it possible to update the words? Because at some point you realise something doesn’t work? Or would it cause too much confusion for the end users.

Jamie Brown 

They’re set in stone. So we don’t change words. For a number of reasons. Number one, it would be annoying if you’d written your walkthrough as addressing your business card and then had to read printable. Also, because the app works offline, which is extremely important, particularly for that emergency services use case, you don’t have to have a data connection to use what he writes. So we can’t go changing the words and the products and changing addresses because we need a data connection to update it. And you might want. Okay,

Andrej Zito 

good. You answer my question. So now that we know that the words are set in stone, I assume that the process that leads to that needs to be somewhat thorough, before you actually finalise the words. So we already touched on that a little bit. But now I guess it’s the right place to start talking about how do you actually add a new language? What is the process? What does your team do? How do you collaborate with the freelancers? And so on?

Jamie Brown 

Yeah, really good. Question. And you make a very good point. The languages team at what a few words, we only get one shot, you know, the one is it. There can’t be any bugs? Because we’re not going to affect them.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, I think that’s actually quite important. This thing, this distinction, right? Because like everything that I do, in my experience, you know, software, apps, marketing, you can always update it, right? That’s a huge difference. There’s like a lot of pressure, I would say to, for you to make it right.

Jamie Brown 

That is, you know, yeah, like with anything else, if you spot a typo in your copy, you’ll just change it in the next update, is it? If you roll out a new product feature, and it crashes for people, then the bug is great. It is. Absolutely it is the pressure point of languages work. What if we weren’t. And the way we get around it is really, we are just very, very, very careful. We check and check and check again. So with every word that ends up in our final product, it isn’t the case that one person has approved it for being suitable. It isn’t the case that two people have or even three, four or five, you know, we’re really going to some quite surprisingly high numbers of people looking at every single word to be absolutely sure that it’s a word that we want to have in our word list.

Andrej Zito 

Can you give me an idea of how many people actually review the list of words?

Jamie Brown 

Yeah, I mean, it’s double figures. Basically, what we do so to answer your other question, and to go back to the beginning of a new language project, I guess some people might look at what three words from the outside and just assume, you know, I’ll these guys have found a list of words in a language plugged into their algorithm cross their fingers, and away they go. That isn’t that isn’t the case. So we do a lot of things we work with a lot of people that speak that language. We train them all in not only what what the word is and how it works, but also our vision for what the words in that language. We take their input as well in terms of how we might structure the project, what kinds of words okay, what kinds of words aren’t okay? So they really help us form our strategy for that particular language. And it’s not always straightforward. You know, sometimes there are things there are real hurdles that have to be overcome and some quite creative decisions made to make what the words work in our language because it’s not a given that a language will be what three words friendly, I guess. A good example would be Japanese. If you speak any Japanese

Andrej Zito 

I was just playing Japanese game yesterday. And my roommate is Japanese but no, I don’t speak Japanese but I hear a lot of Japanese recently,

Jamie Brown 

okay. So Japanese has got three writing scripts, which are all sort of used together when working language is sort of one or the other, they will use kind of alongside each other to buy Japanese, Japanese words. One of the writing scripts is kanji, which is basically characters that come from Chinese characters. And the problem with bits, and what are the words is that using those characters in Japanese will very, very, very, very frequently create words that are homophones of each other. So words that sound the same, but can be written in two or more ways. And that’s bad for what three words, because as I said earlier, we remove words from our product. So what we did in Japanese, for example, with the input of our Japanese speaking language team, was, we made the decision to actually only use one of the Japanese writing scripts. So we write everything out in hiragana, which is a phonetic writing script. And each of the characters in it represents one syllable. And that’s the only way to represent that syllable on paper. So that essentially removes any homophones from the written language. So that’s one, one way in which, you know, you really need those native speakers to help us to formulate the language strategy, I’d come over any hurdle that might trip us up. Because there’s no way I could have made that choice on my own. Because I don’t speak Japanese, I’ve got no idea how Japanese people would react to seeing words that they’re more commonly used to seeing written in kanji, written out in Aragon. And actually, as it turns out, they’re completely fine with it. And it’s a very elegant solution, which is great for us. So we’ve got a big team of linguists, we try and sort of represent the entire language community, because we’re trying to create something that feels user friendly, regardless of who you are. We understand that while everybody may speak the same language, as an umbrella, actually use language in very different ways. You know, my niece is 25 years old. And she sometimes he’s I’ve never heard of, and I’m only 42. I’m not, you know, like, Bear Bear. There’s not a huge amount of years between us. But we don’t use the same English as each other. And I guess, part of our processes, we’re trying to create a product that feels created for you personally, regardless of how old you are, or what parts of the world you come from, or what parts of the country you live in. You’ve probably because all those factors will affect the language. So, yeah, we collected a lot of data about each word. And using that, to create the most user friendly product that you can

Andrej Zito 

do the language themes in any way work with, let’s say, original set of English words, or like the whole idea of source and target is completely irrelevant for you.

Jamie Brown 

completely irrelevant. And that’s actually one thing I probably should have said a bit earlier, is that each of our language versions is actually totally independent from all of the other language versions. So my three year old address, my front door in English is puff twin ties. If you flipped the language in the app to any of our other beautiful languages, the words you find in the same square won’t be translations of those English words. And that’s for a number of reasons. But the main one, I guess, being that, as you know, you simply can’t translate one word in one language neatly into one word, every single other language on the planet doesn’t work like that. You know, we might have had the word snowman in our English list. But in French, that translates to bomb dinners, which is three words all in itself. So is simply not possible to do or it might translate to a word that is actually then a homophone in another language, or has a double meaning and the other meaning is a very offensive word or somewhere About so the decision was made right from the beginning to not even try and use English as any kind of source text. Rather, create every single language we have from scratch completely independently, which then also allows us the opportunity to build something bespoke for that language community that feels like we’ve really considered how they use their language. And the kinds of things that make it user friendly. Depends specifically,

Andrej Zito 

how many words are we talking about? How many is it in total, to cover the whole earth

Jamie Brown 

to a couple of holes if you need 40 pounds? Which is a lot of math.

Andrej Zito 

So what is the I don’t know technology behind it? So you, you put together these big teams for each different language? How do they insert the words? How do you have them review the words that other people suggested? Do you have some sort of like a platform for it? Or are you using benches spreadsheets are? Notorious.

Jamie Brown 

We’re not using spreadsheets though. We do have a linguistic coding platform, I guess, then collect the data. But then I can use the end of a project to work out which words should have been put up too much. Were also able to tell our algorithm that for particular languages, the short and common words, would go in one particular part of the world. And the longer and less common words would go in another when you’re talking about that number of words. Not everything in that group is going to be short, everyday, table chair type words, for there are going to have to be some of those younger, more conscious of words. But we try and make sure that they’re used in places where people probably won’t be using that language.

Andrej Zito 

How do you decide on which language should be added next?

Jamie Brown 

A number of reasons. One would be we look at the major languages of the world. One World Languages, world will provide us with the best reach around the world, how many speakers will will we be engaging by different language? There is about that commercial opportunity. And it’s about like the beginning, becoming a global standard. And trying to get to that magic number. Every single person who’s with us, we’re doing pretty well. So far, we’re, of course, it’s a very hard thing to try and quantify, but we think we are over 5 billion people can ask us what to write in their native language, which is great, obviously, for everybody yet, but we’re getting there. So that’s one thing. Another very important consideration would be if there’s a particular commercial opportunity to do so. People are often surprised that I think that nine language we launched with Mongolian and with most tech companies Finmark language they choose to localise into isn’t currently in, particularly in Europe. But that was because the national postal service of Mongolia, were in touch and they said we want to integrate you. We want Mongolian to use it as letters to three word address. But obviously, that’s going to have to be in Mongolian language. So that’s why it was so early. So we’re looking at those opportunities as well. There’s been two

Andrej Zito 

I would now like to talk about the people you work with that helped you put these words together. You talk about them, of course, obviously they’re very critical for you guys are doing how do you find them? Or let’s say I don’t know somebody is listening to this interview. And you know, their language is not covered by what pre words yet. How can they? I don’t know. How do people start work? What’d you? Do you reach out to them? How do you find them? Can they apply somewhere?

Jamie Brown 

The first thing says, if anybody is interested in, we haven’t offered your language yet, find me on LinkedIn won’t be a message. And I’ll take the details. Usually, we would be more focused in terms of we know. So the first thing we do really language project is we’ll start the search and the language to understand it to structure to answer particular questions that we might need to know. You know, is there a standardised spelling? are homophones likely that are what writing script is it in that kind of thing. And we’ll also be recruiting for our team who will end up joining us and be trained and be working on strategy to where we’ll look in all of the usual places that you might look for a linguist or translator or a proofreader or whatever you want to say. We would look on LinkedIn, we would go to we very often go to universities in places that language, try to find people who we don’t exclusively work with linguists. Everybody, we do have a lot of linguists on each team, and everybody has to be a language enthusiast and pride themselves on their spelling and grammar, I guess. But at the end of the day, yes, this is a linguistic exercise, but it’s also product building exercise. And it’s an exercise in creating a user friendly product. And not everybody who uses what few words, is a professional linguist. So really, on those teams, we also want the opinions of people who are trying to understand how that language is being used across

Andrej Zito 

the board. How long does usually the engagement with the linguists take

Jamie Brown 

depends on the language, sometimes. Some languages are quicker than others, some languages, there’s more for us to learn about that language than others. Some languages are better resource online than others. The quickest it would be I would say, from the very beginning, starting to research language, to the Bucha team, to be able to launch it publicly in our apps, I would say is five or six months, isn’t, it’s not a quick process, you know, we take a lot of care and pride in creating things. We want to treat the languages with the respect they deserve.

Jamie Brown 

And we take our time doing it to make sure that we do some languages and tape marks. You know, we’ve had projects that have taken the year.

Andrej Zito 

Is there any language that you wish you already had, but you still don’t have it? Like a personal goal of yours one day.

Jamie Brown 

There’s the Cornish language, which is spoken in the southwest of England, which is a part of the world I’m from, I would very much like to be able to offer what we went from.

Jamie Brown 

When you’re talking about engaging new users and looking at speaking numbers around the world. korniche isn’t a big hit.

Jamie Brown 

So there’s a very good reason that we haven’t yet, but one day, I think mine sort of little personal passion project might be to create a Cornish language. Because also, I think, you know, I’m very passionate about endangered or minority languages. We were very pleased that we have actually a Welsh language project. Because of emergency services in the UK. If you are a speaker of Welsh, you have the right to be able to ring nine by nine and speak to the problem in batch. And so you then should also be able to give them a Welsh language for your dress rather than English one. So we have a Welsh language version, and I think it’s Really important, you know, these languages that get whose use has diminished over the years, I think keeping them alive. And helping people to have ways in which they can use them in their everyday life, I think is actually a very important thing. So that that’s something that I personally very much enjoy, when we’re able to facilitate that we both

Andrej Zito 

may be from a different bucket, your role is officially a chief Language Services Officer. And the reason why I’m pointing this out is that I’ve seen a few posts on LinkedIn where people are sort of arguing or they’re suggesting that, you know, people from localization team should have a seat with the otter chief people, because they’re very important for the business. But they all feel that localization is still being looked at, like a service or like an afterthought, better than someone who deserves an equal seat. So what does this position mean to you? Do you think like, you are in a better position, then let’s say the mainstream localization teams, as a chief person,

Jamie Brown 

I think it’s huge, to be honest. As you say, Chief Language Services Officer isn’t a very common job title. Not many people have it. And I’m very fortunate to be in that position, but also work for a company that takes language so seriously. I think that’s quite an unusual thing, to be honest. But this all comes back to, like I said a while ago, words are literally the product. And our founders sort of ambition right back at the very beginning of the entire project was to become a global centre for addressing. And they recognised very early on, and feel very strongly that language and localization is a very big part of that. So I’m personally very fortunate to work for a company like that. I very deeply sympathise with him people, in my role who worked for companies who haven’t, who aren’t quite in that mindset. I completely agree that localization or language professional, has a very unique voice and part to play in that senior management team. And I like to think that I offer that to what a few words. And if there was one major bit of change that I would like to bring to industry, I guess they will be

Jamie Brown 

to increase the number of people who are sitting at that same table. How we do that, I think, is maybe a longer term play.

Jamie Brown 

And, you know, it’s about proving the worth, I guess, that I can get used to important.

Andrej Zito 

What does your current position allow you to do? That maybe you wouldn’t be able to do let’s imagine that you were just just localization manager, hypothetically speaking,

Jamie Brown 

I think it provides me with the opportunity to have that direct channel into the, into the people that are making the decisions. And you know, I, I include myself in that I am part of the team that makes decisions for the company. I try and make sure that localization and language, but also I think, more broadly, that sort of wider consideration of people around the world, then language is a big part of that. But culture is culture is another very big part of it. And I like to think that I’m able to bring that consideration when we’re talking about a vast number of

Andrej Zito 

things. How do you think people who are not so fortunate as you? How should they, I don’t know, convince the rest of the chief officers that they should have a say in what the company does, like they should be equal partners to them.

Jamie Brown 

I think there’s a number of things you can do. I don’t think there’s one magic. I think evangelise I think, talk about what you do. Make sure that people know and understand what do and appreciate it. and brought into that process. I think one thing that I don’t think is necessarily a mistake. But I think one thing that often happens in companies is that people submit a brief for localization that goes with Automation Manager. And then something happens over here in some black box, quite often done by people who aren’t employees of the company, and then it comes back in a form that the person would be in, can’t queue a standard language. And actually bringing people into that process, helping people realise the kinds of things that go into creating a very good localised version of whatever it is, the kinds of things that are trying to play to Team either in house or not, are thinking about, and looking at the care in which content that was created by a company is localised to other markets, I think, is a really important thing. I don’t think it hurts for people to understand. I think showing how you add value, I think is another really big thing, localization professionals should be doing, showing how they are supporting those mock entries into countries that were otherwise out of the realms of possibility for that, for that company. Get your hands on any data you possibly can. To show why localization matters, you know, one thing that we looked at a lot is cost per instals, in the App Store. So how much do you have to spend to get one person to download eventually, and then iterate that localization. And then test again, to see whether the cost per instal has gone up or down? Change it around, understand those markets, you know, is it? It’s not necessarily just the text? Like, are the images that you’re using in the App Store? Are they the ones that are enticing people to download your app or not? Things like that, but find those numbers that show people that what you’re doing can change the goalposts for your company?

Andrej Zito 

Well, that was the that was the question that I was thinking about. Because many times when I talk to people about this mostly on the podcast, especially the ones who are on the vendor side, they always say, get your data, show the value in terms of numbers, or in terms of dollars. These D D also agree with that. Do you think that using the numbers and dollars and profits? is the strongest argument? Or is there something that you can bring? Maybe that’s more on a personal or emotional level to why people should be doing stuff? Or is it really just about justifying the business? I don’t know, costs and potential profits? Because I can imagine that in your case, you know, like, since you mentioned this whole thing about I mean, your story with speech impairment and how it may be drives you. There’s that element to that I would assume in how you talk to other people. It’s not only about, okay, let’s get what three words everywhere, so that we can make money or so that everybody can? I don’t know, I don’t know, what are you? What are your thoughts? I just,

Jamie Brown 

well, I completely agree that is a human. And there’s a human element to add to everything a company does. And it’s not always about bottom line, don’t think. I think, you know, I’m very fortunate to work the words that I have quite a high profile within the company, people knowing who I am. I talk internally to the whole company pretty often. What I do is a very interesting parts of the company, and most people who work a lot if you were to put it into languages and culture, that’s just the kind of people that are attracted to work there. And they like hearing about stuff but the localization language services do do. There is a pretty easy way and honestly, I think it is an easy win. Generally speaking, but most people who are interested on some level in languages in a way that actually, that’s not necessarily true of, you know, I can’t think of any particular examples, but like sales techniques, or building new technology, or coding or finance, you know, like, they’re all interesting things. But I think language is a much more universally interesting topic. The vast majority of people in the world use language every day, they speak language, they write language. They understand what language it they have this sort of instinctive understanding language. And they find localization interesting. But you have to talk to them about it, and have talked about it in a interesting and engaging way. And in a way they are going to understand and find those hooks to hook on to. And then once you’ve got the whole company interested, and they’re all evangelising on your behalf as well, then it’s a sort of swell of momentum, I guess. It helps, it helps with everything, it helps localization professional to be looped into projects earlier, because people can see the value that talking too low to a localization manager. Early on in the project, rather than at the end of the project, when you’re submitting a brief for localization, they can see the value of that, you know, they had those conversations, they understand the kinds of things that translators might be asking, or need clarification on, understand what sort of structures have an English source copy might not work for localization purposes, they, you know, that kind of thing. So really, getting people to talk about languages and localization in your company is a really key bit. Honestly, I don’t, I don’t think it’s particularly hard thing to get.

Andrej Zito 

Well, maybe it’s easy for you, because you are the enthusiast. There was actually my question. So is there actually any language that you don’t like?

Jamie Brown 

But like? Absolutely not. I like every language. Barrier, I mean, seriously, I think every language, you know, I, we’ve worked on 55 plus languages over the last eight years. In my team, we’ve travelled the world. And we’ve talked to three or 4000 Plus, in super interesting people and found out everything we know about language and their culture and their country and communities, then there’s always something new to learn or to understand about every single language, you might start a new language project, and you think I’ve worked on those languages that are pretty similar to this that come from a very similar part of the world or linked in the same language family is this new one? What could I possibly not have come across before? And there’s always something always something that makes me think there’s, you know, languages are not well behaved. They all have a mind of their own. They will, will trip you up when you least expect it. You know, you think you’ve got all the answers, and then all of a sudden, you find the exception to the rule. And that’s a beautiful thing. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it can be really frustrating. But overall, I think it’s, I think it’s beautiful learning that we’re all very privileged to be

Andrej Zito 

Is there any rule that maybe when you were learning or researching about the new language that surprised you the most

Jamie Brown 

interesting, I’m a so many off the top of my head, you know, the last Well, the last one language that I worked on was Slovene. And I thought what could I possibly have to know about Levine worked on lots of very similar languages. And then I come across the jewel face Levine has to build forms, and one for the jewel sofa To the thing, and then the plural, which is three or more of it. So there’s a different word for two apples, and there was three apples never come across that four. And then, like a what the word, it’s a really interesting point about this is that, usually, that’s just the way it is. And you use the right form of the word when you’re translating some content. But what are the words brings up a whole other question of? Okay, and how would you feel about the dual or the plural? If it came up in a while if he wears a dress? Like, is that okay? Because in English, Apple and apples are both perfectly common, obvious, valid words that you would expect to see in a lot of the words a dress, but, you know, I sort of had to find out from this Levine language team, like, do you feel the same about the dual and plural and the singular? Were they all words that we can add into the mix that you wouldn’t mind coming up in three words as addresses? And the answer was yes. And all that. Recently, we’ve not actually done this language yet, but I’m a bit of a language geek. And I do find I was just worried about languages that I haven’t worked on yet, because I wouldn’t do. I, I found out that in Somali. Now, nouns can often change their gender, when they’re in the plural, singular noun, and it’s plural aren’t necessarily the same gender. It’s interesting Somali speakers yet, but I will do you wonder. And Elena.

Andrej Zito 

Yeah, if you’re listening, and you’re Somali speaker, please get in touch with me. All right, let’s move on to something else may be outside of what you normally do or not. What are you curious about right now?

Jamie Brown 

I think there are two big things that I would want to say. The first one, I’m actually not going to say because I think everyone is so new at the moment. I am curious about how AI is going to change the languages in study. But so is everyone else? I’m not gonna say that. I am curious about how the technology how technology is going to change the use of language. I think, you know, we’re still in the very early stages of the technological era. It feels like we’re sort of way into it. But I think in the grand scheme of things, we’re really not. And I want to know, you know, what, if you weren’t localising into lots of languages, more languages than most technology localises into? What is the impact that tech companies choosing, often for financial reasons what languages they’re going to offer? What impact they’re going to have on the rest of the languages in the world, you know, like, numbers that we’re all familiar with. There’s 7000 languages in the world, of which half are expected to become extinct next. I don’t know what is 50 years, maybe that still leaves us with three and a half languages that are going to be around 100 years time. Yeah. What will use of those languages been looking like in a technological era where we’re all attached to our phones, but we can’t use them in our native language? Well, yeah. And I think it’s a really important question, because, you know, as we all know, language is so intrinsically, intrinsically linked to our sense of self, and our community and our culture, and it roots us to who we are aware of fraud, and language. Death, I think is a very important topic that we should all be talking about. And localization professionals are the ones maybe that can do the most, to keep languages alive, and to make sure the language is still being used. And I don’t think it’s necessarily just on those language communities that speak that language themselves to keep the language alive. I think it’s everybody’s responsibility. And technology, I think, has the power to marginal marginalise and lots of languages. But it also has the power to do the exact opposite it the right way. And if these were people who care about reserving. So yeah, that’s what I’m curious about, how are we collectively going to make sure that the right thing happens?

Andrej Zito 

Is there anything that you’re curious about that’s not related to languages? Like, like, personally? Are you really such a geek, that you spend your whole free time researching remote languages and how to save

Jamie Brown 

them this weekend?

Jamie Brown 

I’m curious about a little bit too close language but curious about the world about culture and history and things not being the same as they are at home. Why and experience in that, and I just went to was Becca, Stan, and we travelled down, essentially, what was the Silk Road to Samarkand, which is a city that I’ve only really heard of quite fleetingly in my life. And most people that I talked to at home had never heard of, and it’s the most, the most incredible place I’d ever been to. It’s like, walking into the 15th century, in the middle of Central Asia, on the route that people were trading between Asia and the rest of the world. And the opportunity to go to go and do that, I think is my I have a personal I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to like, in boxes and numbers and be able to, to quantify things. I always want to have visited more countries than there are years in my age. I’m currently 42 years old, and I’ve been to 49 countries. So sort of always trying to keep that

Andrej Zito 

buffer.

Jamie Brown 

Because I’m a medium. I don’t know, when I’m 80. I’m not going to be travelling to all countries, I’ve got to have a 20 year buffer at that point.

Andrej Zito 

Well, once you’re at, you have no idea how the trouble is going to look like you just fall in matura. The

Jamie Brown 

here you guys.

Andrej Zito 

Okay, I’m going to ask you this question, because I asked pretty much everyone. Although I guess the term our industry means something different to you than for the rest of my guests. And we already touched on this, why, why that is different for you. But my question is that I ask everyone, what do you think is wrong with our industry?

Jamie Brown 

I think, in general, and we’ve touched on this before, so I’m sort of cheating. So. But to answer this question, what is wrong with our industry is that localization and an understanding of languages, is looped in too late to the majority of projects, and things people do? I think localization professionals, in every company should be invited to project these things earlier, should be invited to give their opinion and improve the process for that project, I think because I have a very important thing to say that is often missing from the room. So putting that as well in our industry is we’re not limited to projects.

Andrej Zito 

Final words from you, Jamie, if you could speak to the minds of everyone in the industry, what would you tell them?

Jamie Brown 

I would say evangelise keep on talking about the day. Keep on getting people excited by what you’re doing. Keep on showing people the value of what you do. And that’s like the thing before not only financial, keep on being the one who is always asking that question. Talking about it. Just talk about languages and people will listen because deep down everyone is interested in it.

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