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Business development / International

Not just Google Translate: West Philly’s MTM LinguaSoft helps firms go international

MTM LinguaSoft specializes in the little-known practice (at least here in Philly) of "localization engineering."

Seoul, South Korea. Photo by Flickr user @mariosp via a Creative Commons license. Photo taken on May 6, 2012.

Myriam Siftar has spent more than a decade helping businesses expand outside the U.S. She has firsthand knowledge of the global economy.

Siftar, a Parisian-turned-Philadelphian, started that line of work at the University City Science Center shortly after the dot-com crash, where she worked with French companies looking to expand in Philly.

Now she runs a company she founded ten years ago called MTM LinguaSoft, which translates digital content for companies looking to enter an international market. (MTM LinguaSoft translated the Philadelphia Convention Center and Visitors BureauDiscoverPHL” website into five different languages, though those sites have since been taken down, Siftar said.)

To call it simply translation, though, would be an understatement.

Siftar’s team at MTM LinguaSoft does three main jobs for companies:

  1. Translation of content, like website or mobile app copy (priced per word).
  2. “Localization engineering,” or working with developers on how to integrate that translation (priced per hour).
  3. Testing the final product (also priced per hour).

The company also translates marketing materials, like search-oriented keywords.

Just don’t mistake it for Google Translate.

Myriam Siftar, LinguaSoft

(Photo courtesy of Myriam Siftar)

“Some folks don’t recognize the risk they take by using Google Translate or just asking someone who’s bilingual,” Siftar said. “Just because you can speak two languages, doesn’t mean you can translate.”

That becomes especially important when it comes to content having to do with safety, like a technical manual for how to operate a piece of machinery. Siftar said a big part of her job is educating companies on the importance of getting a professional translation.

It’s also never a matter of word-to-word translation, Siftar said. There’s cultural context and other meaning that has to be translated, too. MTM works with freelance linguists, translators and cultural consultants to get the job done.

Spanish is the language that MTM translates into most, with Chinese and Portuguese rounding out the top three. But Siftar’s seen huge growth in Korean and Portuguese, year over year. That’s a reflection of the global economy, she said.

MTM also works with foreign companies looking to expand to the U.S. Her biggest clients in that respect are German companies.

Though she said it hasn’t hurt her business or recruiting efforts, one thing Siftar has noticed is that localization engineering just isn’t as well-known in the Philly region as it is on the West Coast or in Boston, where the bigger localization players are. (In Philly, CETRA does similar work, though it’s more focused on real-time interpretation, and so does Magnum, Inc., but it’s not focused on software, Siftar said.)

Siftar, 46, of West Philly, leads a team of four. She came to Philly from Paris as an exchange student, got her MBA at Drexel and has stayed here since.

And, by the way, MTM LinguaSoft is currently seeking a Localization Project Manager.

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