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The GALA Standards Initiative Gathers Steam

By: Arle Lommel (GALA)

01 December 2015

The GALA Standards Initiative team has been reaching out to the globalization community to develop and implement comprehensive plans for education, promotion, and coordination of standards activities for the localization industry. This article presents an overview of current activities.

Since April, the team behind the GALA Standards Initiative has been gathering support, reaching out to the globalization community, and making plans for activities that we believe will help to make standards truly work for the localization industry. These activities are outlined and explained in our public plan. This plan emphasizes three pillars: coordination of standards activities, education and training about standards, and promotion of standards and their use in the industry. A full copy of the GALA Standards Initiative plan is available from our website.

GALA published several drafts of the plan and gathered multiple rounds of feedback during the planning phase, and beginning in July, the program was officially launched.  Two months later, we are now at the point where we can report on our first accomplishments and activities. While our accomplishments are still nascent, they show what a dedicated effort can achieve through industry collaboration and input.  And there is more to come.

Key Accomplishments

Making the LISA Standards Portfolio Available

When the Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA) ceased operations earlier this year, it left the LISA Standards Portfolio in an uncertain state. LISA’s standards had been open standards, but were maintained and copyrighted by LISA. As a result there was no official home for the standards. The GALA Standards Initiative provided support for me to work with the LISA Administration and the creators of these standards to create a repository for the LISA Standards that will keep them available to the community. In addition, GALA has supported my work in continuing development of the Segmentation Rules eXchange (SRX) specification in ISO TC 37 and serving as the secretary for the new Localization Industry Standards (LIS) Industry Specification Group (ISG) at the European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI), which has taken over the LISA standards portfolio for further development. Participation in these efforts will help provide continuity for these standards in their new homes.

Coordination and Reporting on Standards Activities

Historically communication between standards bodies has been ad hoc and inconsistent. As a result standards have often taken different approaches to the same task or been difficult to integrate with each other, making it hard for end users to take advantage of them. In other cases there is the sense that standards development is an academic activity taking place outside of the industry. In order to address this situation, the GALA Standards Initiative is establishing liaison relationships with a variety of standards bodies. It will use these relationships to advocate for the concerns of participants, inform the broader community of important activities, and help the various bodies know about activities going on elsewhere. We have already established official liaison relationships with a number of standards bodies, and I have been actively participating in their efforts. These bodies include the new Unicode Localization Interoperability (ULI) group, the ETSI LIS ISG, OASIS (XLIFF and OAXAL technical committees), and ISO TC 37 (currently pending approval by TC 37), with other liaisons planned or in process. The Standards Initiative is also working on a more informal basis with additional groups such as the W3C’s internationalization and Multilingual Web efforts on areas of mutual interest to help ensure that standardization represents the industry’s perspective. GALA will be releasing regular reports and updates on the activities of these groups so that industry parties will be aware of their activities. These reports will help ensure that ongoing standards work is responsive to real industry needs.

Language Interoperability Portfolio (Linport) Project

The Linport project is a joint, collaborative effort founded by GALA, the European Commission, and the Brigham Young University Translation Research Group (BYU TRG), with support from the International Federation of Translators (FIT).

The Linport Project seeks to address a set of related business and technical issues that can lead to significant costs for companies involved in localization:

  1. There is no standard way to send and receive translation jobs. LSPs, large and small, must deal with email, FTP, DropBox, and other methods. For complex jobs, it is not uncommon for files to be corrupted or missing, leading to delays for clients and vendor alike. The overhead of handling files and communicating with clients about administrative (rather than translation) details is often one of the largest components of project cost and is one that can eat into profits rapidly. One large LSP cites costs of millions of dollars per year in this area.

  2. One of the root causes of “poor translation quality” is frequently a lack of clarity concerning the business and technical expectations for translation projects. For example, if an LSP assumes that a media project should be routed to a media translator with expertise in entertainment because the client does not specify that specialized knowledge in electrical engineering is needed, quality is likely to suffer.

Most CAT tools deliver some sort of package format. Package formats allow for a degree of automated processing and file handling and quality assurance by helping ensure that needed resources are included with translation jobs, particularly in cases where a tool is used to prepare projects for outsourcing to freelancers. These formats, however, are designed to work with specific tools, limiting their broader applicability, particularly in large production chains where providers might wish to use multiple tools. These package formats also focus on sending files and other resources such as translation memory or terminology databases, but tend to include only minimal metadata about business aspects of the translation process.

The Linport Project began in May as a legacy of the last LISA Forum on standards. Much of our time until now has been spent in working on merging the original “Container Project” with the European Commission’s related Multilingual Electronic Dossier (MED) project, a project which addressed similar issues within the Commission but which represented a significantly different architecture.  Merging these efforts is an important demonstration of how we are trying to support and facilitate cooperation and communication across complementary efforts.

If you are interested in learning more, please visit the Linport project’s website. Taking a clue from the history of the Internet, Linport is being run on the model of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF): anyone who is interested may participate online and contribute with no fees or financial requirements. The requirement that participation be free and open to all is a central goal of the GALA Standards Initiative.

Also, we have two upcoming working meetings to introduce Linport to the public and involve more volunteers. The first of these meetings will be hosted by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation (DGT) on 27 September in Luxembourg and is free of charge (see http://linport.org/linport-s1.html). The second, half-day meeting will be held on 10 October in Santa Clara in conjunction with Localization World. There will be charge of $75 to attend this meeting, with all net proceeds supporting the GALA Standards Initiative. See here for details.


To support the staffing and outreach behind the GALA Standards Initiative, the program will require funding of approximately $100,000/year. In its first months of open funding, we raised approximately $25,000 with additional pledges outstanding. We encourage parties that support the goals of the initiative to make contributions by visiting us the program website, where information on current supporters and funding opportunities are available.

Special thanks to our initial supporters who have made the program launch possible.

Upcoming Efforts

What’s next?  We will begin two additional standards-related activities in the coming months. Both of these activities will begin with open calls for industry participation.  Once completed, the results will be submitted to appropriate standards bodies.

  • Quality assessment project. In September, the GALA Standards Initiative will start work on a new specification for the assessment of localization quality. Tentatively called the Modular Framework for the Assessment of localization Quality (MFAQ), this project will provide a catalog of localization errors as well as ways to represent them. The project is expected to improve the ability of the industry to assess quality in ways relevant for specific domains and tasks, helping to eliminate the current one-size-fits all model of quality assessment.
  • Model Service Elements. The GALA Standards Initiative will focus on developing definitions and models for localizations services. These models will serve as the basis for business resources (model contracts, RFPs). The goal of this activity is to provide a consistent basis for localization business activities that ties them to the technical and business processes required to achieve particular goals.

You can read more about these two projects, as well as other forthcoming projects, in the full plan.

Get Involved

Like any new program, we need the support of volunteers and funding to stay in tune with industry needs and to sustain industry attention and focus on the program’s deliverables.  To get involved with any of the current or planned activities, please contact me at [email protected].   Or, plan to meet with the GALA staff at any of the following upcoming events:

  • September 21. Multilingual Web workshop, Limerick, Ireland. Arle Lommel will be speaking on the GALA Standards Initiative.
  • September 22–23. 16th LRC Conference, Limerick, Ireland. Arle Lommel will join a panel on standards on September 22.
  • September 27. Linport Symposium, Luxembourg.
  • October 10. Santa Clara, California. Preconference sessions on Linport and model service elements.
  • October 11–12. Localization World in Santa Clara, California. Drop by the GALA booth to meet Arle Lommel and discuss standards.
  • October 18–20. tcworld, Wiesbaden, Germany. GALA will be hosting a booth where you can meet Arle Lommel to discuss standards. He will also be conducting a session on quality assurance issues for the localization industry.

We look forward to your involvement, and we look forward to demonstrating the value of this new program to the industry at large.

GALA Standards Initiative Founder and Charter Level Supporters

Arle Lommel is coordinator of the GALA Standards Initiative. He has been active in the localization industry for over a decade and has been involved with standards development for much of this time. Formerly with the Localization Industry Standards Association, where he headed standards activities, he is now working on building an open and inclusive program for the promotion of standards and coordination of efforts at GALA. He has a BA in linguistics and an MA and PhD in ethnographic research. His particular areas of interest and expertise include data interoperability, terminology interchange formats, and quality assessment.