Localization & Language Laws
Posted by Patrick Wheeler on July 12, 2011
Do you speak Eskimo?
I decided to compile the following list of language laws that may be relevant to consider when localizing for particular markets. Some are industry specific (Medical Devices, Toys etc) and some are fairly generic pieces of legislation. My personal favourite being the requirement to localize to Inuit in Canada. Ok, fair enough, you’d have to be targeting localization towards a region of Canada (Nunavut) with a population of just over 33,000 people, and the scope is not all-inclusive, but hey, for some reason I find it amusing. 🙂 To clarify (post-feedback), my amusement stems from the consternation that can be caused on highlighting such lesser known pieces of legislation to the wider organisation. Not due to any perception on my part that such laws are “trivial”. Otherwise I wouldn’t go to the effort of including them in the list below.
Doubtless there are many other pieces of relevant legislation in various regions, so this list is by no means comprehensive and will be subject to future edits. This is just a first attempt to create a list of the known language laws and policies that may impact localization considerations. So if you should know of others, please comment and I will update the list as appropriate.
Certain pieces of legislation may not be relevant to language, so I have not yet included them in the list. However, regional legislation can certainly have a global impact. For example, data protection laws; European data protection directives need to be considered when sharing or hosting data internationally. Knowledge of these directives and their implementations at a local level are gradually coming into the mainstream as an increasing number of businesses move into the Cloud with SaaS offerings.
The European Commission provide standard contractual clauses that can be used when your company is dealing with data processors established in third countries (Countries outside the EU that are deemed not enjoy an “adequate” level of data protection). Basically these are contractual templates that can be used to ensure that an “adequate level of data protection” exists for the end-user and to protect your organization in terms of due-diligence. These clauses do not negate the requirement to make an end-user aware of where their data will be held and for what purposes it will be used, so prior and explicit user consent is still required. In particular, following a decision by the so-called “Düsseldorf Group”, German data protection laws (Bundesdatenschutzgesetz) now add another layer of complexity and a further set of requirements.
Naturally there is a great deal of flux around such policies in different regions, as government bodies rush to catch up with a Web 2.0 world where a growing number of people and organisations are trading goods and services internationally using a range of different mediums and platforms. These policies can be subject to change on a nearly daily basis, making it hard for businesses to keep track and ensure compliance.
Market focused rulings in certain regions can also have a broad impact on businesses. For instance, a sweeping statement from the Chinese General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) office back in late 2009 essentially put an end to any plans of western MMO Games producers with intentions of entering the Chinese market. The GAPP banned foreign investors from operating online games “in any form” within China. This decision came as a surprise even to the Chinese Ministry of Culture (MoC) who expressed shock upon hearing the news.
In summary, it is important for localization professionals not only to be focused on the technical aspects of their trade, but also to familiarize themselves with regional legislation relating to delivery of software and services, both at a high level and pertaining to particular markets of interest, so that they can advise and provide direction on such matters within their organizations.