| by Alaina Brandt

News Stories

Cartoon designs of different fruits with smiling faces
Emily Cipriani MATLM ’22 designed and created all of the artwork for her localization vendor management card game, Fruit Vendor.

Translation and Localization Management student Emily Cipriani has created a fun and engaging way to bring nuance and greater value to localization vendor management.

Localization vendor management may seem fairly straightforward: localization teams within a company match projects with qualified translators, who are responsible for producing compelling copy that will resonate with customers. Yet language service companies and buyers of translation and localization, alike, often fail to appreciate the gap between assigning a project to anyone who is simply a translator—or worse just happens to be bilingual—and making strategic assignments that take into account all manners of nuance present in such efforts. Emily Cipriani MATLM ’22 hopes to change that.

Cipriani was asked to address this issue—specifically, how to match specializations, education, and technology capabilities to localization project requirements— when designing Fruit Vendor, a localization vendor management game based on the popular Apples to Apples party game. The request came from Alaina Brandt, a professor in the Translation and Localization Management (TLM) program. Brandt had a concept for a card game, and Cipriani executed on the concept to create Fruit Vendor.

Cartoon fruits (including grapes and a melon) with smiley faces.
Fruit Vendor logo

To play the game, the dealer, who is called the judge, deals vendor cards to each player then plays a project card with a generalized set of localization specifications (project requirements). Each player, except the judge, selects from their vendor cards the vendor who would be the best fit to provide the translation services described on the project card. The vendor cards include key data points for analysis, including specializations, education, experience, and, of course, rates. The twist? The vendor cards are all fruit characters! So after everyone has played the vendor card they believe would be the best fit for the job, the judge chooses from among characters like Bookish Banana, Lawful Lychee, and Telecom Tangarine. While designing the gameplay cards, Cipriani said, “My Adobe Photoshop account is a giant fruit salad of different icons for playing cards.”

Gameplay is dialogue based. The judge can clarify their conceptualization of a project card for the other players, add detail to the requirements, and talk through decision making when selecting the vendor to award the project card to. For instance, the judge might point out that for an emergency project, a vendor who doesn’t have strong specializations and technological capability is not a good fit, since the judge wouldn’t want to get stuck having to train a vendor on the correct terminology to use or how to use the required technology when the stakes are high. The judge must also be careful to not assign work to a Bad Apple. If the judge awards a project to a player who has a Bad Apple card in their hand, that person can play their Bad Apple card to steal all the project cards the judge has won. That aspect of the game illustrates the cost of working with translator scammers: money, clients, reputation!

That aspect of the game illustrates the cost of working with translator scammers: money, clients, reputation!

When asked about challenging aspects of designing the game, Cipriani recalled, “An early draft of the game design had avatars of people, but we quickly realized that the process of assigning gender, skin color, and even small details like glasses had the potential to reflect bias in the vendor selection process. I came up with the idea to change the avatars to fruit, which ultimately created a more entertaining, thematic gameplay. Making the game fruit-themed ultimately inspired the title of Fruit Vendor.” Cipriani went on, “Other elements of the game also demanded tough calls on bias. We avoided prioritizing specific languages by labeling the vendors as native speakers and native speakers of the target dialect. This, however, also triggered interesting conversations about what it means to be a native speaker. There are plenty of competent, highly educated vendors who are heritage speakers, for example. We also wanted to avoid the idea that high rates are a bad thing. Most of our vendor cards with higher rates also have high competencies, as reflected in high educational attainment, experience, and technology skills.”

The Importance of Specialization

Professor Alaina Brandt had this to say about the game: “Vendor managers regulate an unregulated industry by making sure that linguistic work is assigned to providers who are truly specialized. According to the Common Sense Advisory, ‘a small team of vendor managers can make dozens of project managers substantially more efficient.’ Still, many companies and buyers don’t yet see the strategic value of prioritizing this function or assigning work to vendors who are truly specialized. To reach the widest audience, especially the next generation of localization buyers, we wanted to make learning about this important function fun.” Brandt continued, “I had the concept for the game, and it was Emily who executed and delivered. When we finally sat down together to play, we weren’t certain if it would actually be compelling, but playing the game turned out to be so much fun.”

To learn more about the game, visit the Fruit Vendor website. You can also buy a print copy of the game via Game Crafter.

For More Information

Alaina Brandt