Why GALA, Why the Board?

It’s that time of the year again. GALA board elections. This time, thanks to the trust of my company, I’m also a candidate. If I need to summarize my objectives in one sentence, I would say I want to improve the reach and the visibility of the localization profession and community. In other words, I want localization community to step out of its comfort zone even more and seek out new members and new opportunities.

All my professional life, I have been obsessed with the divide between the use of technology and the comings and goings of everyday life. Practically, this meant two things:

On the one hand, I was trying to teach people about technology in a way that it becomes integrated into the things we do at work and at home. This was not very pronounced when I told geeky stuff to IT people, but it began to make a lot of sense when I started teaching computer tools to translators. It was painful to see that translation tools had to be taught in a separate class, and translation itself was done without the tools. Although there are now a handful of institutions that offer integrated training, I had to realize this was no accident, and I wrote about my findings in a blog post.

On the other hand, in my own small way, I was trying to design technology that feels more organic to its users. For example, here are three design decisions that I made in the early days of memoQ and that I am proud of: working without having to save files, a single window to access all program features, and integrated and simplified terminology. The actual decisions are not interesting now: my point is that they were based on my teaching experience, more precisely, on the difficulties my students experienced.

Balazs Kis

How is this connected to the agenda to improve the reach of the localization profession?

In the operation of an organization, the use of language is part of everything the organization does. This is true for the professional life of an individual as well. Still, the use of other languages – namely, translation – isn’t as natural. In fact, translation and localization is still being treated as a side issue in most organizations. I believe this is mostly because of the divide between art and technology. It doesn’t occur to an organization to think of language work as a systematic part of their – often very technical – processes. Often it doesn’t occur, until it’s too late, that it isn’t enough to include localization as a single step right before the moment of the delivery of one’s product or service. And when you redesign processes with this in mind, and even automate them, you create technology. But you all know that. It’s a large chunk of the world that still needs to be told. And then it’s the divide between organization and technology that needs to be filled.

The status of translation and localization in the operation of an organization can be assessed through localization maturity models. But we don’t know this about most organizations out there. And I believe – no, I am convinced – that there are a lot more organizations struggling with languages and localization that we don’t see and that don’t see us.

But who is ‘us’?

I believe it’s the transition and localization – industry, profession, community, choose the term you prefer –, a bunch of people and organizations that know how to do translation and localization in a structured way, and integrate it organically into the processes of an organization.
I keep hearing that the reach of the localization profession is limited. I even have the feeling that some of us are betting that the translation market will stagnate or shrink in the coming years. I believe otherwise: I think the localization industry/profession can and should expand, and this is the shared interest of every player here, no matter the size or the activity. If I’m elected to the GALA board, I plan to advance this agenda.


If someone comes and wants to talk to the “localization people”, GALA is probably their best chance. In our field it’s the most diverse, most inclusive professional organization I know.

What does it mean to advance my agenda? Well, I’ve been an educator all my life, even when I was designing teBalahnology. The thing I would do best is probably evangelizing “outsiders” about the localization and language industry/profession, and also about the interaction between humans and technology. However, this is worth nothing without listening to others, and without making a systematic effort to find out where and how we can send our message most efficiently.

My secondary objective – if there has to be an order of importance – is to foster a discussion about the proper place of technology in human work and life. Our profession is particularly prone to highlighting the dichotomy between these – it has ever been there in the borderlands between art and machinery. I think it would do all of us good to realize that doesn’t have to be a conflict between art and machinery (think of Leonardo da Vinci). However, this also requires that we come to an understanding about the purpose and role of technology in our work and life. I have been a closeted advocate of ethical technology for quite some time now (see this blog post from three years ago). I’m not entirely sure about my own organization’s track record in this respect, but I’m sure we all need to become more conscious about this.

I believe that GALA has already been doing an amazing job, so if I’m elected to the board, my tenure will definitely start with learning, listening, and helping out, and I will refrain from suggesting change for the sake of change throughout.

Finally, I would like to thank my company memoQ for nominating me. I also feel honored to belong to this very special professional community, and I will be ever grateful to have fallen in with language technology and the translation profession all those years ago. Thank you for all the votes I will get, whether I will be elected or not. And if I’m elected, it will be an honor to contribute to the profession in a new way.

Author: Balázs Kis

Balázs Kis is chairman of the board of directors at memoQ. He is also one of the founders of the company. Balázs has decades of experience in IT, translation, and natural language processing. He has a degree in IT engineering and a PhD in applied linguistics.

Read his personal statement here.