At some point you may have wondered or asked yourself: what does the term localization really mean? If you have, don’t feel bad. Few people outside the industry can describe what is actually involved in the localization process. And it seems like even fewer realize how complex and potentially time-consuming the process of producing accurate, superior-quality localizations truly can be.
Contrary to what many people assume, localization does not only confine itself to not merely about text translation. Let’s start with some definitions that are often incorrectly and interchangeably used to mean the same thing. According to the Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA) localization is:
The extent to which systems and business processes are tailored to meet the needs and cultural expectations of audiences within identified markets, or a particular region or country (i.e. locale) other than the one where it was develop. This is done by adding locale-specific components and translating text from one language to another. These markets can be international or domestic.
Translation is the process of converting written text from one language to another.
Internationalization is the process of designing an application so that it can be adapted to various languages and regions without requiring engineering changes.
Globalization is the process of integrating localization throughout a company, after proper internationalization and product design, as well as marketing, sales and support.
Those involved in the foreign language translation and localization business understand that there are multiple factors that come into play during a translation or localization project. For those needing the service, however, two of the crucial questions that should be addressed include:
How do you want your organization’s brand and message presented to non-native speakers of your source company language?
Would you want to risk offending your international target audience with poor translation/localization?
Inferior quality translation not only has the potential to offend a culture and its values, but even worse (from the commercial standpoint, at least) it may negatively impact any possible chance for a sale to your prospective clients. In the context of globalization, localization usually effects specific areas of content and requires expertise that is hard for an organization to find internally unless they have international offices. Expertise in these areas includes:
The words, images, audio, and video that are integrated with the information architecture and visual design to communicate the brand. Areas of consideration will include functionality, visual design and the content itself. Critical factors affecting accurate localization include an understanding of: symbols and icons, product/function availability, legal and financial, graphics using gender, age, people and well known places and items of country-specific reference. What needs to be adapted to locale standards will vary with each business and the application or materials involved.
Issues include literacy, pedagogical methods, language correlation, word order and wrapping, line breaking, sort order, language terminology.
Issues include content access and connectivity, multi-byte enablement and support for foreign character sets, fonts, numbers and date formats, written and spoken language expansion and contraction. Technical consideration also relates to the structure behind the application or website, such as the file structure or repositories for the translated content, based on the number of languages involved. This affects the functionality of the content as the user navigates through the materials to ensure that the right language content is presented and the visual layout is correct. Further complication arises depending on the backend structure of the application or website and whether content is static or dynamically presented.
Is a shared set of learned assumptions, values, and behavior developed over time, which influence thoughts, feelings, and day-to-day actions. This being one of the hardest areas to get right, factors include local knowledge, metaphors, ethnicity, role and gender models, behavioral norms, graphics, icons, fashion, gestures, interests, and color. Color is extremely symbolic: “green with envy”, “blue” or can “see red”.
These issues will all affect your brand, which is the combination of the brand experience from interacting with the website or marketing materials, as well as the psychological aspect, known as the brand image, consisting of all the information and expectations associated with a product or service. It has long been known that business-critical know-how transmitted in a language foreign to the recipient will have a 60% failure rate, with a correspondingly disastrous effect on ROI and company performance. (Laufer & Yano “Reading in Foreign Language” 13(2) 2001)
Are You Ready, and How Do You Assure Success
When thinking about localizing materials for other cultures, whether it is a comprehensive localization of your website into multiple languages, or a marketing brochure that needs to be translated into Spanish, the following can help you to decide on a strategy for getting your message across properly in one or more languages:
Calculate the ROI and pros and cons of spending the money to have your translations executed by professional, reputable resources.
Ask yourself if you want to risk offending your potential target market with subpar quality work in order to save some money by having it done internally by a foreign-speaking employee as a part- time responsibility.
Determine if, in the long term, targeting overseas or ethnic domestic markets, and communicating with them in their native languages will enhance the brand reach of my company.
Ascertain whether properly localizing your 4. content into multiple languages will ultimately increase your market share, add to your revenue stream, and foster good will with your intended audience.
Deciding what to localize is a marketing and business development decision. Content is usually customer facing and includes marketing collateral and communications, the product itself, product manuals and user guides, marketing websites and materials for support services. Organizations should consider market demand and revenue, competitive analysis, budget and available resources.
The costs vary depending on the localization services needed, which can include actual language translation work, pre and post-translation engineering of software, multimedia or web-based source files, documentation and help formatting, and the level of testing and project management needed. The size and complexity of the project, the content involved (i.e. software, website, documentation) and the knowledge of regulations and subject matter expertise will affect costs and the timeline of the project. These issues are then compounded by the number of target languages that will be required. Fortunately over time or for subsequent releases, the costs of localization decrease and the return on investment increases through the use of industry-specific technology such as translation memories. This can lead to savings of 10 to 50 percent or more.
Calculating the revenue and net return derived from localization can be more challenging than determining the cost. Market data and sales history numbers for the existing language product are the most reliable components. A trial project with one language and the review of pre and post-usage information and Web trends from your IT or marketing team will give you justification for considering expanding to additional languages.
Without current data, many companies use estimates or market trends to predict expected revenue, basing them on market and potential sales forecasts of the target audience or market.
The 12 largest global markets, in terms of GDP, consist of the US, Japan, China, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Canada, Spain, Brazil, Russia, and South Korea. Localizing a Web site into French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese enables nearly 220 million Internet users from these countries to access that site in their preferred language.
With the right marketing information and business strategy, even a small company can make its products and services available to millions of potential consumers around the world.
The Bottom Line
Most organizations do not have the internal resources and cultural expertise required to successfully plan and execute a multilingual project. Even when these resources do exist, their availability can be limited and usually do not allow the work to be done cost effectively, on time, and with the quality that will be accepted by the target audience or locale.
While smaller. One-time translation projects can certainly be handled in-house, there are many benefits to outsourcing larger multi-language projects to the right full-service multi-language service provider. Benefits include:
The benefit of project management experience completing many similar projects through a single point of contact
Qualified and redundant locale-specific resources for each localization task
Experience and investment in the latest technologies to assure efficiency and reduce costs
Support of multiple languages and the ability to provide simultaneous launch of multi-language projects
Freeing up of your internal resources to act as subject-matter experts instead of being responsible for completion of all tasks
Some of the criteria to consider during the selection process include:
Resource availability and flexibility in process and pricing
Number of languages that can be provided
Partner approach with interest in long-term relationships and improvement through best practices
Technical competence and expertise with similar projects
Commitment to quality and customer service reflected in customer retention.