This article was originally posted on the Wordbee blog. Wordbee are the makers of the popular translation management platform and CAT tool for translators.
When planning to expand abroad, international companies and organizations often need services that go beyond translation. More precisely, they need to adopt a cultural approach that allows them to reach the intended public; at the same time, the product needs to be adapted in a way that its users can use it effectively and efficiently. What international companies need is localization.
Localization (l10n for short) refers to the set of techniques and strategies to adapt a product or a text to the culture and customs of a specific target group and region. Wikiversity dates it back to the 1980s, with the spreading of personal computers, first in offices and shortly after also in our homes, and when software companies began to look for international audiences for their products.
In our day and age, not only software, but also other products and services need localization to reach the intended audiences abroad.
Localization requires a careful balance of cultural, linguistic and technical strategies. To help you step up your localization game, the Wordbee team has put together a short list of essential resources, your Hitchhiker’s Guide to the [Localization] Galaxy.
Cultural aspects of localization
Erin Meyer, a professor at INSEAD, was born in far and deep Wisconsin and spent most of her professional life abroad. In 2013, she summarized her experiences as a manager and consultant for international organizations in The Cultural Map. Meyer’s book provides numerous concrete examples (instructive and oftentimes funny) that dispel many cultural clichés, to help the reader understand how cultural patterns of behavior frequently impact our perceptions (what we see), cognitions (what we think), and actions (what we do).
The purpose of Meyer’s book is to improve the reader’s ability to understand and effectively deal with these three aspects of culture.
The Wordbee marketing team interviewed Anna Schlegel in 2018 for the International Buzz Podcast. In her book Truly Global, Schlegel, Senior Director of Globalization Programs and Information at NetApp and Co-Founder of Women in Localization, shares why a truly global enterprise must try and be local to each customer. She first makes a compelling argument for why a company needs a localization roadmap, and then, drawing from her direct experience, she shows how you can go about planning one. The book contains excellent ideas on how localization teams can grow, what can go wrong and how to prevent it, strategies for prioritizing your efforts, and how to focus and plan for long-term success.
Language-related Localization resources
It is vital to use the right terminology when talking with translation buyers and translation services suppliers, as well as when engaging with clients and new professionals.
The Language of Localization, compiled and edited by Katherine Brown-Hoekstra, is the result of a collective effort by localization experts to help you share information to a tee. Each of the 52 contributors explains a localization-related core concept. The definitions grouped in three topic-specific glossaries (business, linguistics, standards) are complete with essays about the importance of each term and various reference sources.
The book is available in paper format and electronic. Alternatively, you can bookmark and follow the website, where you can read a new definition every month.
Although meant for software products and, more specifically, MS products, the Microsoft Quick Start Localization Style Guides are an excellent starting point for language-specific guidelines. When localizing technical documentation, these guidelines can help define the tone and level of formality to use when addressing your target group/users. Each guide can be consulted online or downloaded.
In his book Thank you for being late, American journalist Thomas L. Friedman wrote: “As the world speeds up, stocks of knowledge depreciate at a faster rate.” This definitely applies to publications and resources related to the technical elements of localization. For this reason, the Wordbee team selected few evergreens.
In 1998, John Benjamins A Practical Guide to Localization, penned by Bert Esselink. Thanks to Google Books, most pages are available online. The book could prove largely outdated today, but for students and newcomers (whether technical translators, localization engineers, technical writers or project managers) this publication is a good primer on localizing software, online help and documentation files; developing, engineering, and testing multilingual software; planning translation and localization projects, finding resources, and ensuring product quality.
Project and localization managers who want to plan efficiently will also find useful reference in just another oldie but goodie, Building a Localization Kit. The result of eighteen months of research, retrieval, and collection of information, this resource provides all the instructions necessary to produce a localized version of a software product.
The Game Localization Handbook (authors: Heather Maxwell Chandler and Stephanie O’Malley Deming; publisher: Jones & Bartlett Learning), is another useful primer on how to localize gaming software. It includes advice, interviews, and case studies from industry professionals, as well as practical information on the various steps, from pre-production and production to translation and testing of localized SKUs. The book is meant for producers, translators, project managers, publishers, students, and anyone involved with the production of localized games.
Organizations and expert associations like GALA, TAUS and Common Sense Advisory offer up-to-the-minute practical resources in various forms (webinars, downloadable guides, reports) on numerous localization issues.
For a more theoretical approach, there are specialized publishers like John Benjamins, publisher of books as well as journals on linguistics and translation, Routledge (that published the pricey Handbook of Translation and Technology and The Future of Translation Technology) and Bloomsbury, that last year collected article by industry experts in The Bloomsbury Companion to Language Industry Studies.