Emily Benson

Gengo-dō: Dogfooding

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Last year Gengo launched a new initiative called dogfooding, where every member of our team regularly tests and uses our own platform. While most of our teams already use Gengo daily, including Marketing, Ops, Engineering and Support, we wanted for everyone to have the chance to test and try out different platforms.

The word “dogfooding” traces back, unsurprisingly, to actual dog food. A 1980 commercial for ALPO dog food features famous sci-fi actor Lorne Greene saying that he doesn’t just endorse the product—he actually feeds it to his own dogs! From companies like Microsoft and HP to Google, the tech world quickly adopted the practice.

A faster feedback loop

Every month, our team translates content (up to $10, or about 175 words) and posts the translation online. We started by just translating with our own product, but also tried out other translation services, reporting our experiences back to the whole company. The result? We already get tons of useful feedback from our users, and were able to supplement those with a few observations of our own, including:

  • Per my French translator’s comment, it seems the order form could ask a few more basic questions (gender, etc.) depending on the target languages selected
  • Unfortunately the word count on the order form was completely wrong when I first pasted the text :( I will submit a Pivotal bug.
  • My translator did an amazing job. I gave very little information and s/he understood the message beyond the given sentence that was provided.
  • I asked the translator to do a literal translation, just to see what would happen. The translator was kind enough to send me both a literal and more natural translation.

Business use aside, dogfooding reminded us why we love working in translation in the first place: we love it. Gengons used dogfooding as an opportunity to carry out unique projects. A member of our Project Management team translated a letter that his mother was using to find out information about her Italian ancestry. Our translator even recommended the best ancestry services to use! Another member of our Crowd Operations team translated a Facebook post for his favorite charity organization, Paws and Stripes. My personal experience is not as noble as my fellow Gengons’, but was just as fun.

My own experience

Tokyo Design Week is an annual showcase featuring architects, graphic designers, fashion designers, visual installations and much more. After checking out some Oculus demos and drumming robots during Design Week, I fell in love with with a graphic print submitted by a local Japanese artist. He was participating in a challenge where artists riff off the famous Hokusai The Great Wave off Kanagawa woodcut, creating their own interpretation of the piece.

Fast forward a few days and I still couldn’t get my mind off the print, so I decided to use Gengo to translate an email to the artist, Atsuki Kikuchi, asking if there were any prints available to purchase. Kikuchi-san responded with the most generous gift—that he would give me the print for free.


Here’s my letter, in the original English, and in Gengo-translated Japanese:


Hello Kikuchi-san,

It’s very nice to meet you, my name is Emily. Last weekend I attended Tokyo Designers Week and amongst all of the incredible exhibits of art and product design, I fell really in love with a piece of your work. It’s the one that has two water glasses, on the top one is standing upright and on the bottom the other is tilted a bit. Something about the piece really drew me in and a week later I cannot stop thinking about it. I’m writing firstly to say how much I appreciated it and how beautiful I thought it was. The other reason I am writing is that I would really like to purchase it. Do you have prints of it that are available for sale? If so, what in what sizes and price ranges are the prints offered?

Thank you so much and I really look forward to hearing back from you.

Emily Benson




先日、Tokyo Designers Week に参加させて頂いたエミリーと申します。

私は、数々の驚くべき展示品の中から、菊池さんの作品に特に感銘を受けました。私が最も感動したのは、2つの水の入ったコップで下のコップが少し傾いてい る作品です。この作品は私の中でとても印象深く、1週間経った今もそのことばかり頭に浮かんでしまいます。このような作品に出会えた感謝と、本当に美しく 思ったことをお伝えしたく、ご連絡をさせて頂きました。また、可能であれば是非購入させて頂きたいと思っています。販売されているプリントの商品などはござい ますか? もしあれば、サイズや価格帯などをお教え頂けますか?




Picking up the print and meeting Kikuchi-san was an amazing experience that I otherwise would never have had, were it not for dogfooding. The rewards of translating things like this for everyday purposes are plentiful, like learning about an inspiring local artist, or growing closer with a global community.


My challenge to you? Use translation to reach out to someone who you otherwise could not and see where the conversation takes you. We’d love to hear your story.

Enjoy this? See more examples of our actual, unedited translated content through Open Data here. Interested in using Gengo for your own large projects? Let us know!

Emily Benson
Emily Benson
Bostonian turned Tokyoite, Emily handles enterprise marketing at Gengo. Passionate about translation, she joined Gengo after working with Lionbridge, the world's largest language company. When she isn't adding stamps to her passport, she can be found learning all sorts of languages, from Hebrew and Japanese to Klingon (nuqneH!).