29 April 2021

Emily Martyn

UEA Spanish and French graduate Emily Martyn works for a language learning company with a roster of 145 languages ranging from Arabic to Zulu. As Languages Manager for uTalk and its bestselling app, she tells us about her working day and gives UEA students an exclusive offer. For just £5 anyone with a UEA email can access every single language on the uTalk app until 31st August (usual price £99.99). See utalk.com/access/uea  

A day in the life of a Languages Manager at uTalk 

Today I woke up wondering why Greek, Maori, and Hausa use the same word for both hand and arm. 
I’ve got language trivia on the brain because I’m hosting an online language-related quiz for polyglots later this week on behalf of the language learning company I work for.  

First things first, I get the day going with a strong Columbian coffee (a habit I picked up from my days working as a TEFL teacher in Spain). At uTalk we start every day with a quick online morning meeting, so I take my brew with me to my desk and get ready to share. Our team is very international - everyone speaks at least two languages - but we’re based in London so we run our meetings (mostly!) in English.  

During the meeting, I remind the team that this afternoon is the start of Expolingua, a four-day long online event for language lovers which we are not only participating in but also sponsoring. (This is where the quiz comes in!)   

The team is excited as it’s a great opportunity to show polyglots around the world what our app can do for them. Our mission as a company is about helping people to make friends all over the world thanks to our addictive, games-based language learning app, uTalk Learn Any Language, which uses recordings of native speakers so beginners can learn a language as it’s really spoken.  Of course, there are a lot of last minute bits and pieces to finish up ahead of the event so we quickly wrap up the meeting and I move on to my first task for the day: website localisation.  

As part of my role as Languages Manager I have to make sure that our website is fully localised across the various territories we cover on utalk.com, and soon we are going to add a new app subscription model to the site. This means that our beginner level language learners will be able to subscribe to all of the languages we have on our app (currently a whopping 145) in one go! Perfect for polyglots, beginner level linguists and anyone intrigued by endangered and minority languages (such as Manx, Saami and Ladino – a Spanish-related diaspora). 

However, the new subscription text needs to be translated into all 25 languages we support on our site, and that’s where our freelance translators come in. Since I sent the new subscription text to them on our translation engine a few days ago, the translations have already been filtering back to me thick and fast so I now need to carry out some quality assurance checks. Even the best translators can make mistakes, and whatever the website update or localisation task, I always end up with a handful of queries and things to double check with our translators ahead of settling on the final version to publish on our site. 

As I scan through the translations I am looking to make sure there are no typos, odd punctuation marks, or spacing issues. It’s also paramount that the formatting of the target text matches that of the source. Having to support 25 localised websites can be tricky; for example when it comes to languages written in non-roman scripts such as Chinese the layout of the web pages be a particular challenge to get right. However I am pleased because this time there seem to be very few bits that need tweaking.  

Today is the final deadline; I run a few queries that cropped up during the checks past the various translators (this is where skype comes in handy!) and make the final last minute changes to the localised texts. My part of this project is now complete. 

This leaves me with just enough time to call a new potential contact who might be able to help us create some content for a new language we are hoping to add to our app (watch this space!) ahead of lunch. I’m not really hungry yet but the first event of Expolingua (a panel of language influencers) starts soon and I don’t want to miss out on hearing about their language learning resources and tips. I grab a bite to eat and go for a quick breath of fresh air ahead of the event kick-off.  
And it was well worth it! The session offered an insightful perspective on lang-tech and I’m looking forward to connecting with some of the panellists in due course.  

Two more talks later and uTalk is up! Now it’s our turn to present “Irish, Ladino, and Belarusian – Around Europe With Endangered Languages”. I support my colleague Charlotte (who delivers the talk) by monitoring the participants chat box on zoom, and everyone is captivated by learning more about these fascinating languages.  
I am feeling inspired but also brain-tired now. But, before I turn my Mac off for the day, I do a quick Google search on a question that’s been buzzing round my mind all day: why do some languages have a word for hands and some don’t? It turns out that people living in colder climates are more likely to wear “gloves” and so are more likely to have a word for “hands” apparently! 

So I’ll leave you with a quick pre-quiz question: Which endangered language on the uTalk app has the same word for both hand and arm? (Answer in the first line!) 


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