Localization, Localisation

Practical and concise answers to common questions in G11N, I18N and L10N

Posts Tagged ‘Internationalization’

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.

Click here for the latest “LANGUAGE LAWS” list by country and region

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.

Localization - Language Laws

Language Laws

Posted in Globalization, Laws | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

SDL TMS 2007 Service Pack 4: Love and Hate

Posted by Nick Peris on June 1, 2010

SDL TMS 2007 - Localisation workflow

I always find it challenging to get a fair idea of what Enterprise tools can do before making a purchase decision. There is so much involved in setting them up that even if a trial version is available, the efforts required to perform meaningful testing are prohibitive.

Many such applications do not come ready out-of-the-box and require extensive customisation before they can be tailored to fit a specific business model.

This is why many purchase decisions are executive decisions, based on ROI reports and presentations showing what the software does. A demo might be setup for you on a dedicated server by the sales person, and you’ll be left thinking “hum…surely it’s not that simple”. This is also why 10 times out of 10, these pieces of software come with a Support package which lets you install regular and much needed updates and bug fixes.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

If you have the opportunity, go knock on a few door and try to find a company nearby which uses the software in a production environment. Contact them, ask to visit, get an independent demo. From my experience (not based on TMS that time) most people will be more than happy to tell you how much effort it took to setup, how many features still don’t work, but also how much their productivity has really increased and perhaps even how many of their employees have done a thesis on the subject! Bottom line: get real-life advice!

SDL TMS, or Translation Management System, is one such behemoth application. Trying to find independent information about TMS on the web is a challenge. In fact, even finding official information can prove frustrating. As for Special Interest Groups… those I found were for customers-only. It seems it’s buy first, we’ll talk later.

So what’s the big deal exactly? Well I’ve been working with TMS 2007 for about a year now and I have a few things to report: some good, some not so good.

What it does well

Let’s start with positive thoughts.

TMS is a workflow tool, designed to connect a customer directly to it localisation vendors and all their armies of sub vendors. It handles big volumes and short turnarounds really well, and is reasonably good at supporting your Translation Memory and Terminology Management needs. It also offers the reporting facilities necessary for all members of your localisation ecosystem to invoice each other, and you.

TMS automates part of the role of the middle men, and is ideal for localisation consumers with a constant stream of translation, especially if they come in the shape of numerous small projects.

Multiple alternative workflows can be set up, depending on vendor selection, TMs to leverage against, TMs to update, need for Linguistic Review etc. Once the correct workflow is selected at the job creation stage, you can be sure it will go through all the steps required. There is little or no human error possible, at least not in scheduling and assigning tasks to the right participant.

TM updates are handled automatically, literally seconds after the last human input in the workflow.

Where it lacks

So are all the vendors really gathering orderly around the assembly line and localising thereafter like a happy family?

Not exactly. There are a few snags.

My main grief is around TM Maintenance or the lack of it. Because TMS automatically updates the Translation Memories at whatever stage of your workflow you told it to, manual editing of the TMs has been neglected. A user can perform a Concordance search, but it is impossible to edit the Translation Units found. One cannot use TMS to fix inherited inconsistencies or any error found in legacy TUs.

This makes implementing Global changes a very untidy task: one needs to connect to the TM Server (hosted by SDL in most cases) using SDLX 2007 Professional. This, to me is total non-sense and here is why:

  1. increasingly, the business model in Localisation is outsourcing.
  2. once localisation is outsourced to agencies, these subcontract Single Language Vendors, who themselves might only be sub-contracting to freelancers.
  3. less and less Localisation consumers employ in-house linguists.
  4. their remaining in-country staff is Sales and Marketing, and has much more pressing matters to attend than editing TMs.

Now which version are these freelancers more likely to have? SDLX 2007 Professional (€2,995) or SDLX 2007 Freelance (€760)? I think you probably guessed it. SDL’s licensing model prevents linguists from maintaining TMs in TMS and seemingly forces corporations which bought TMS to support their outsourcing setup, to fix TMs in-house!

There are some workarounds to this, but for a piece of software of this caliber, I think this is a pretty shocking limitation.

The integration with MultiTerm has similar issues: only some of the functionality are available through TMS, the rest including editing Term entries has to be done using MultiTerm Online or Desktop.

Performance issues also tend to drive a lot of linguists offline! Depending on their setup, a lot of them find it more efficient to download jobs, translate offline in SDLX and upload the finished work back into TMS. While there is technically no difference in the end result, this is a disappointing interruption of the workflow.

Service Pack 4: An End to the Suffering?

Squeezing under the gate at the last second, like Bruce Willis in a classic movie, TMS 2007 Service Pack 4 sneaks in before the long-awaited SDL TMS 2010 and comes to the rescue.

With TMS 2010 now possibly slipping into 2011, it is a welcomed addition particularly due to the improvements it brings. Here are the most significant end-user facing features:

Browser support: IE 8 support added (IE 6 removed in future)

TM import: ITD, zipped ITDs, MDB (SDLX TMs). This is a partial solution to the lack of TM Maintenance feature I’ve talked about in this article.

Continued lack of support for TMX is attributed to the fact that this open-source format has too many proprietary specifications.

Reporting formats added: CSV, Excel 2007, PDF, RTF, Word 2007.

Branding and Fonts are customisable (by Professional Services).

TMS 2010 is expected to have end-user customisable reports.

Segment level QA Model for Reviewer grading

QA Models

This all-new feature in SP4 is crucial if your workflow includes Linguistic Review. All changes made by the Reviewers are now recorded, and the Reviewers can tag them using customisable Error Rating and Categories.

  1. Error Ratings and Categories: support for LISA model, SAE J2450, TMS classic out-of-the-box.
  2. User-specific models can be created. Number of points deducted can also be specified in the QA Model.
  3. Records can be retained at segment (for feedback to translators) or project level
  4. Scoring methods: absolute or percentage
  5. To apply a QA Model: add it to a Configuration (i.e workflow), and it will be available to Reviewers working on jobs passed through this config.
  6. Reviewer usage: click Star at segment level to open the QA model window and enter Category and Rating.Pass/Fail status does not prevent reviewer from submitting or rejecting a job.

Posted in News, SDL TMS, Translation Management Systems | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Transcreation: Translation with Super-Powers!

Posted by Nick Peris on December 1, 2009

Transcreation is another concept which could easily be mistaken for a buzz word. In reality, it refers to vast areas of translation which have for ever been adapting content rather than simply translating it.
Like “Localisation” itself however, it seems to have been appropriated and reinvented by the Information Technology industry (2). So what do we mean by it and do methodologies really differ enough to warrant the use of this term?

Origins of the Concept

If you’ve grown up in an environment where English wasn’t the first language, chances are you have been exposed to transcreated content from a very young age. It may have been through entertainment, television, or advertising; most likely all of the above.

I never knew, nor did it matter to me, that Musclor was not He-Man’s real name. A more famous example of very liberal marketing translation is the story behind the Mitsubishi Pajero’s alternative name in Spanish-speaking countries. I’m also pretty sure that Smurf is not a literal schtroumpfation for Schtroumpf. Spider-Man: India seems a successful example of a multi-national company truly embracing a local culture.

This phenomenon does not only relate to the “Americanisation” of western-culture or even to the intense globalization of this century. Research (3) has shown that forms of Transcreation have been used in Indian poetry and religious writing, where form and content have always been adapted to some of the many cultures and languages of India.

There, is the key to Transcreation in my opinion: recognising the need to become part of a local culture rather than simply communicate in its language.
While translators always aim to reach out to their audience, the software industry often bounds them to the demands of technical content. Transcreation in its modern sense signals the releasing of these bounds, and gives the explicit brief to stray from the source message in favour a better way to communicate the same idea to the target audience.

Videogames Localisation

The term Transcreation is often attributed to Carmen Mangiron and Minako O’Hagan (1). They were among the first to use it in the context of IT, more precisely of the gaming industry.

They recognised the fact that with most games developed in Japan or the U.S., yet targeting truly global markets, there was an inherent need to free translators from the source text in order better connect to local gamers everywhere. In fact even some of the functionalities of games are sometimes adapted to the local culture: the amount of violence, explicit language etc. is not only changed to meet age ratings, but in cases to actually comply with the cultural and legal requirements of different regions of the world.

Countries such as Germany have laws which regulate video game content and manufacturers are faced with the choice of adapting their games or not being commercialised.

Advertising, Copywriting and SEO

The localisation of advertising, or copywriting is an area where the idea of Transcreation is also very apt.
While in a lot of cases translators are not copywriters themselves, they are given instructions to be creative with their work. Rather than just delivering the meaning in a grammatically correct manner, they have the task to also deliver in a form which creates the same reaction in the potential customer.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) copywriting and translation are a further extension of this, where the translator even has to select the words in a very strategic manner. SEO is of course more than just selecting keywords, but even this part of optimisation has to be translated in ways which achieve the best search engine rankings in the target languages, not the source.

Measuring Quality

But is all this really that progressive an idea? Aren’t all translators always trying to come up with the best possible translation anyway?

Things get complicated when you try to measure or monitor the quality of translations where the translators have been asked to stray from the source in order to convey a marketing campaign’s message in the best possible way.

This becomes a highly subjective exercise where chiefly, the client is right.

Here comes the next hurdle: localisation clients rarely have marketing staff in all the countries they market to. So vendors have to come up with processes which ensure that the product delivered meets those sometimes subjective requirements. This in my mind can only be achieved through a durable relationship between the clients and their translators/reviewers. Processes must transcend the limitations of the outsourcing model and recreate the fuzzy feeling of enlightened ownership once only common to the now endangered species of the in-house translator.

Such is the challenge of Transcreation: creative translation requires creative quality management.

References:

(1) Game Localisation: Unleashing Imagination with ‘Restricted’ Translation
Carmen Mangiron and Minako O’Hagan, Dublin City University, Ireland

(2) On the Translation of Video Games
Miguel Bernal Merino, Roehampton University, London

(3) Elena Di Giovanni “Translations, Transcreations and Transrepresentations of India in the Italian Media” (2008), in Klaus Kaindl and Riitta Oittinen (eds), The Verbal, the Visual, the Translator, special issue of META, 53: l. Les Presses de l’Université de Montreal, pp. 26-43.

Many thanks to Carmen for the tips.

Posted in Globalization, Transcreation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Crowdsourcing in Localisation: Next Step or Major Faux Pas?

Posted by Nick Peris on June 23, 2009

Crowdsourcing: Together Everyone Achives More

As the Information Technology industry continues to evolve, so does the Localisation industry. Often in reaction to the former, the evolution of the latter is always the response to a specific need, supported by either advances in technology, processes or both.

Crowdsourcing, far from being only a buzz word, is a tangible trend born of the so-called Web 2.0 era. It has shown signs of spilling over into Localisation for some time and the first stages of this process have been somewhat less than successful. While user-generated content, web-based applications and social networking products/websites are flourishing, crowdsourcing seems to consistently yield controversy.

So what makes Web 2.0 hip and Crowdsourcing, especially in Localisation, decidedly uncool? It is partly the age-old debate on whether the internet should be used for mercantile purposes. But it is also the very nature of Localisation and our struggle to get recognized as an integral part of Product Development Life Cycle. We are despite our best efforts, still seen as an unfortunate cost which gets in the way of Product to market efforts.

Some definitions

Web 2.0 was once an empty buzz word for whatever comes next. “C’est tout simplement l’internet d’aujourd’hui (…) celui que vous et moi utilisons tous les jours. ” said a member of French parliament early this year (2009!), only weeks before he was expected to become State Secretary for the Digital Economy! Also used and abused as a fresh marketing slogan, Web 2.0 seems to have now gained respectability as a description of the combination of Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) and user-generated content. Importantly, ideas reminiscent of the Open Internet ethos and a stronger sense of community also feature in most definitions of Web 2.0.

Crowdsourcing describes the act of outsourcing a task to an undefined, generally large group of people. It also carries the idea of by-passing the professionals in favor of a strength-in-number effort.

Localisation 2.0 is a newer concept yet, partly championed by one specific LSP, which attempts to describe current trends in Localisation tools and processes, designed to respond to the exponential rate at which localisable content is generated in the Web 2.0 paradigm.

Wikipedia: a success story

The free encyclopedia that anyone can edit was created to “distribute a free encyclopedia of the highest possible quality to every single person on the planet in their own language”. Launched in January 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, it has 265 localised editions with a total of other 13 million articles.

The recipe is simple: Wiki is a non-profit, non ad-supported site, where users can publish their own articles and add or correct existing ones. Articles often differ from one language to the next so Wikipedia is a true example of an internationalised rather than just translated website. For example, the article about Wikipedia contains a statistics table by language in its French version which does not appear in the English version.

The model of Wikipedia creates a community with a feeling of shared-ownership and allows it to get the most out of its user-base without ever appearing to be exploiting anyone. This flavor of user-generated content, of which Wikipedia is only one example, should probably not be called crowdsourcing at all, although I put it to you that it may be the only viable way to use a “crowd” as a resource: for its own interest!

Online Translators: the first signs of trouble

Most everyone uses an online dictionary. Everyone who uses a bilingual online dictionary thinks they’re great. Once you double-check your results, and are familiar enough with the languages to navigate your way through synonyms, grammatical rules etc, they do the job. From that point of view, they are no different from their paper ancestors. Just a little more… portable.

But already a line was crossed with online translators: they created the illusion that linguistic skills are no longer required. They created the possibility for non-linguists to type a sentence in their source language and output a “translation”. While this may well be useful to a qualified translator as a reference, it should not ever be used to replace a translator.

An esteemed colleague of mine, well versed with internet searches and other smart ways to get what he wants, recently contacted me to translate “Plastical Surgery at Home” into French (I never asked why and never will…). By simple curiosity, I typed it into an online translator and received the suggestion “Plastical Chirurgie à l’Accueil”. This not only differed greatly from the translation I was about to suggest, it also gave me a good example of why it just doesn’t work. Because of a small error in the source text, the online translator reverted to guessing a word by word translation and used “Accueil” which is an IT translation for “Home”. The suggested target translation really means that someone is offering to surgically alter your appearance behind the receptionist’s desk. Not very inviting

Every time I ask someone “Which Translation Memory system do you use?” and they reply “Google Translate” or “Bablefish” etc. it gives me the shivers!

Facebook: crossing the Rubicon

Facebook has been the center of one or two controversies of late, and its localisation strategy could easily have become one. Whether it was taken out of focus by other issues such as facebook’s Terms of Use changes or whether it was a smart and creative move, remains debatable.

Facebook is available in 63 languages which is considerably more than their main competitor MySpace. Upcoming languages are expected to be Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, Syriac, Urdu, Yiddish and Divehi. It seems clear that the collaborative and benevolent effort behind this did allow faster localisation and opened it up to an array of languages which most likely would not have been deemed economically viable to localise the traditional way. And this is an important point: one of the challenges in localising Web 2.0 is keeping up with exponentially increasing content creation rate and the growing expectation for localised products. With the number of languages spoken in the world estimated in the thousands, how could anyone pretend to have a Global strategy and only localise their product into FIGS or even L17?

The methodology employed by facebook also seems to hold some ground. A web-based application (facebook Translations) is provided, and a staged plan is rolled out beginning with Glossary Translation, continuing with Strings Translation and including post-release Error Reporting and New Features Translation. Community votes decide between alternative translations and consistency checks are run. This doesn’t sound all that un-professional.

But the fact remains: having asked their users to translate the facebook UI for free, facebook are now deriving new users and therefore new advertising revenue through work which was donated not to them but to the facebook community.

LinkedIn: crossing the line

Attempting to emulate projects such as facebook, it would seem LinkedIn have manage to create a pretty big stir before they even got started. By all accounts’ it appears that a survey was circulated to LinkedIn members who are translators, and offended most of them by the wording of their enquiries regarding alternate compensation for translation work.

The survey has now been closed but some results have been published by Nico Posner project manager responsible for LinkedIn’s internationalization efforts. The fact and the matter is that thousands of responses came through, and only a minority selected the category Other, which was the only outlet for translators who considered the only suitable compensation was direct remuneration.

So what does that tell us? The professional translators community is not amused, and this survey is not a PR stunt LinkedIn will be looking to duplicate. However even through the controversy, and the claims of bias in the way questions were asked, there is still a substantial interest for collaborative and benevolent efforts in the linguistic community. The question now is how to liberate this potential in an ethically acceptable fashion?

Google Translate Toolkit

The Google Translator Toolkit is a new-comer (actually still at beta stage). A free and web-based translation application, which uses Machine Translation and includes TM (.tmx) and Terminology (.csv) management tools. In their own words, it is an attempt to bring human touch back into Machine Translation.

So does it work? This tool appears to bring the facebook model one step further in the right direction: it is not designed to help translate Google for free. It is designed to help amateur and professional translators alike to collaborate, share resources, and use a TM and Terminology enabled tool for free.

While it is not comparable to any powerful native CAT tools, it does offer a viable solution: the TM sharing potential is huge, the built-in collaborative tools are the right idea, and the limited file format compatibility remains functional (extract to TMX, create Terminology Databases without expansive tools etc.).

Google Translation ToolkitBut there is always a catch: in this case, the fact that Machine Translation remains Machine Translation. The screencap included here shows the raw output from English into French of one of our articles. It wouldn’t take long to a French translator to recognize the tortured prose which time and time again comes out of such systems. If quality rather than quantity is a concern in a translation job, and if the content to translate is in any way wordy, I find it hard to believe that a translator would do a better work righting such blurb than they would translating in a TM + Terminology enviroment!

As a parting note, I will not provide any pearl of wisdom. First because the wheels are still in motion and we’ll only fully understand what is happening to the Localisation industry once it has happened. Second, because I would like to end by inviting you to translate this article in a language of your choice, email it to LocalizationLocalisation@gmail.com and include an SAE if you would like to receive a limited edition Localization, Localisation pen.
Pen

Posted in Crowdsourcing, Globalization | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

Globalization – The importance of thinking globally

Posted by Patrick Wheeler on May 21, 2009

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon…

In essence, Globalization (Internationalization in MS speak) is your Kung Fu. Bear with me, I have a point here, either that or this is a thinly veiled attempt on my part to get you to read further. 🙂

Globalization represents more than just an all-embracing term used simply to describe the sub-processes of Internationalization and Localization, it is in fact both an ethos and strategy that describes how your organization needs to position and prepare every facet part of its being.

Those familiar with Chinese martial arts or who have spent too much time watching Kung Fu movies will understand the fundamental difference between the Tiger fighting style and the Dragon fighting style. The Tiger style relies on sheer strength and the memorization of moves, whereas the dragon style is based on the principal of a deeper understanding of movement. It’s about anticipating more than simply acting upon and reacting to events.

Staying on the fortune cookie philosophy theme, if you adopt the Tiger approach to Globalization you may make all the right moves, correctly identify your target global markets, prepare and push forward with Internationalization of your product with vigour and determination, and skilfully and swiftly execute product localization, but even this is not sufficient if you want to ensure your business is ready to go global and prepared for the effects of going global.

You need to adopt the dragon Style. In addition to the above actions, you should seek a deeper understanding of the impact that these actions will have on your business and anticipate this reaction. After all, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Once you have decided to go global with your software offerings, you will have to consider how this decision will subsequently impact all areas of your business such as Programme/Project Management, Development & QA, Sales & Marketing, Legal, Accounting, Distribution, Support, etc.

Thinking out loud – So who does what?

Product Management: will need to coordinate with all groups to ensure that localized releases are part of any global product roadmap and are approved by and communicated to all stakeholders.

All global product release schedules need to recognize that the Development and QA teams will have to work in “harmony” with Localization Engineering and QA, and therefore core Development and QA time and resources will have to be allocated to addressing I18n, Customizability and Localizability issues.

Failure to factor these tasks into any global project scope will mean that a simship will be impossible, Developers and QA alike will be frustrated by having to potentially allocate additional time to deal with unplanned for I18N defects, Localization will be stalled until defects effecting Localizability and Customizability are addressed, and regional sales channels will suffer from late availability of localized product.

Development & QA: As mentioned above, these core groups, usually charged with domestic software releases, will now need to work in-synch with their Localization counterparts; the frequency and format of handoffs to the Localization team need to be agreed, I18N exit criteria will need to be established  for design and development phases, pseudo-localized software builds will need to be created for I18n testing, code freeze dates will need to be agreed to allow for the extra volume of i18n defects that will be logged during I18n/L10n testing, the workflow and management of i18N defects through the core defect tracking system will need to be established, and core Development and QA resources will need to be allocated to resolving and regressing i18N, Localizability, and Customizability defects.

The Localization team will mainly be focussed on addressing L10n issues, so the majority of I18n and Localizability issues will need to be resolved by the core Development team.

Even prior to Internationalization, it is essential that those at senior levels within an organisation understand the impact of going global on their core Development and QA teams.

As highlighted in my first post, assuming that the creation of localized software releases is the sole responsibility of a single Localization team is imprudent and unrealistic. Globalization means a significant investment in core Development and QA time and resources and cannot happen in isolation of these groups or without their involvement.

Sales and Marketing: Sales and Marketing teams responsible for the target regions need to be made aware of strategic plans regarding localized releases. Often these groups will be the ones who identified the business case/requirement for a localized software release.

Regional Sales and Marketing teams will have an insight into the features that are important to their markets and any customer issues with in-market localized product that need addressing as a matter of priority for subsequent releases. They will also be able to advise on any region specific customization of software features that will be required. These customizations will need to be considered during design and development under the heading of “Customizability”. Furthermore, it is important for Programme Management to work closely with these teams when formulating the localised product roadmap, ensuring they are involved in any beta program review of the software and they have sign-off as part of the localized product review process. This may all seem fairly obvious and simply requires clear lines of communication, but I have often witnessed a certain disconnect between regional offices and global Programme Management.

The following excerpt from Beyond Borders – Web Globalization Strategies by John Yunker (2003) is a good example of how poor communication and planning within an organization can ensure a rather embarrassing false start on the journey to global domination;

“The marketing director of a professional society wanted to expand the subscriber base in other countries. The society already had many international members, but because none of the publications had been translated, members needed as least a moderate grasp of English to reap the benefits of joining. So the marketing director decided to translate the society’s membership form into Chinese, in the hopes that it would make joining the society much easier for Chinese speakers and increase membership.

Within a few weeks, the society received its first completed Chinese form by fax, the membership directory, unaware of what the marketing director had been up to, looked at this form, filled out in Chinese, and said, “What the hell am I supposed to do with this?” The membership director didn’t understand Chinese. No one of her staff understood Chinese. Even if someone on her staff did understand Chinese, their membership database didn’t accept Chinese characters.

So this person in China completed the membership form and subscribed to a couple of publications and the organization could do nothing about it. The professional society didn’t even know what publications were selected because the publication names were translated to Chinese – and they had no English template to compare it against. It may seem obvious that you shouldn’t create marketing materials in a language your company can’t support, yet companies that jump into global markets too fast frequently repeat this scenario.” (Yunker, 2003, p.82).

Branding and cultural customization are also important considerations that also require input from regional Sales and Marketing groups. Some may favour regional branding and cultural customization over global branding with a universally consistent user-experience. This allows regional Sales and Marketing the flexibility to better connect with their target audience. It is all too easy to alienate your customers if they get the impression that your organization’s software products, website, support etc were not developed with their region in mind. However, others would argue that allowing such distinct and unique branding combined with a high level of customization on a region-by-region basis, simply serves to dilute global brand power, resulting in a confusing and inconsistent user-experience. Additionally, by allowing diverse and inconsistent localized content per region, the global management of this content can be troublesome and costly.

The whole area of cultural customization is vast and there is a lot of information as well as misinformation offered on this topic, and it can be hard to discern urban legend from truth. On the theme of colour and cultural significance of colour in the global marketplace, one publication I read recently would lead you to believe that red cars are illegal in Brazil and Ecuador because of the perception that they cause more accidents. This is in fact absolute bunkum. So approach cultural customization with caution and seek the guidance of local contacts.

Legal: There are a variety of laws governing software being sold in different regions of the world, many of these laws pertain to language and support for the official languages in these regions; such as the Toubon law in France, GB18030 certification for China, and the charter of the French Language in Quebec (Bill 101).

For translation of End-User License Agreements (EULAs) and software warranties, your organization will require the services of legal translators and a review of the EULAs by your in-country operations centres/partners to ensure compliance with local legislation.

Legal regulation on the sale of software worldwide is unlikely to become any more lenient. To the contrary, with proposals such as the EU’s two year guarantee for software (games), which would allow users who are unhappy with “buggy” software to return their purchase, the situation will only become more complex. This is another reason why a well thought-out Globalization strategy combined with a strong focus on I18n is of paramount importance.

With poor I18n, your localized software will inevitably contain more functional and cosmetic defects than the source release, and that could be a real headache when faced with a future where customers are within their rights to simply ask for their money back on the basis of these defects and are not compelled to wait for a hotfix as may currently be the case under the terms of existing EULAs.

Accounting: Your accounting team must be ready to provide pricing in the local currencies of the regions your software is to be sold into. Accordingly, they will also need to be ready to accept payment in these currencies. Ensure you have a clear understanding of how royalties and revenues from localized software sales are distributed throughout your organization.

Distribution: You will of course need to consider your distribution channels, competition, and how you will physically deploy your localized software to your customers. For hosted solutions, automatic updates etc; existing data centres serving your domestic customers may not offer sufficient connectivity/speed to customers in other regions.

Support: Before you have localized software in-market, your organization will need to be ready to support these target markets. It is an all too common mistake to simply expect that this will somehow take care of itself and that existing support channels for domestic product will be sufficient. This is yet another way to disaffect the customers in new markets you’ve worked so hard beguile with your digital wares.

You need to consider the mechanisms for localized support; knowledge base, email, phone etc. What level of support will your in-country operations centres/partners can offer, if any? How are support issues with localized software escalated? Do your call centre representatives have the necessary language skills and knowledge of the localized software to handle calls/emails from all the regions you sell your software in? Do you have a Content Management System (CMS) behind your existing website/knowledge-base? Does the functionality of this CMS lend itself to the management of global content in multiple languages?

Once the knowledge-base route has been exhausted, there is a common preconception that it is a good idea to heard customers to email support, like cows being shoved into a cattle crush, as opposed to presenting them with the option of phone support. This is based on the logic that email support is far more cost-effective than phone support. Whilst it makes sense to encourage customers to avail of email support over phone support, I do not believe it is a good idea to completely eliminate phone support as an option.

Many organizations prefer to remove any reference to phone support from their site. For me, this represents a false economy, whilst you may be saving on call centre costs, you will probably be losing customers, and any chance of repeat business. This is particularly flawed strategy in new markets where you are fighting for market-share.

I have yet to experience an email support system where I have received a (useful) answer “within 24 hours” as promised. Besides, 24 hours may be a long wait depending on the nature of the issue. Even if there is a customer cost associated with phone support, it is better to offer this as an option as opposed to lose customers who may prefer to simply return your software (see “Legal” above) and align themselves with your competitors rather than wait for a delayed response from support.

What happened to Localization??

You may have noticed that I have made no mention of the Localization team/departments specific responsibilities in terms of Globalization. This is a deliberate omission. I will address aspects of Localization in various future posts (after all, the URL for this blog puts me under some pressure to do so!). For now, however, it is more beneficial to recognize that in the grand scheme of Globalization, Localization is actually one of the simplest components. Granted, as “Localization” experts, we are in fact required to be “Globalization” experts and provide guidance in relation to Globalization strategies, but if all other areas of your business are ready to go global, then Localization should be the least of your worries.

Once again, failure to take a holistic approach to Globalization will result in Localization being a tedious, costly, and protracted affair. Localized product quality will suffer and inevitably your organization’s performance in the target region will be poor. Additionally you will have filled the lives of your Localization team with a degree of despair! So for the sake of good Karma, get the fundamentals right and Localization will be a walk in the park.

The above are just some of the areas for consideration when formulating your Globalization strategy. One could certainly write a book on the topic and a number have been written on the topic. Globalization is the broadest and most subjective area when it comes to looking at G11n, I18N, and L10n and is therefore open to the most debate.

What color/colour is the sky in your world?

The Sapir–Whorf hypothesis (roughly) states that through the medium of language, different cultures attempt to define their reality and enforce a structure on the world as they view it. This results in certain perspectives that are unique to particular cultures; this is why Localization and Globalization extend beyond simple translation.

This probably also goes some way to explaining why a Chinese friend and work colleague of mine finds a particular Rice Krispies Squares TV commercial so amusing, whilst I simple perceive it to be mind numbingly boring. Or maybe I just don’t get it! Whatever the case may be, to be truly successful in a particular regional market, your organization will not alone have to speak the language of that region, but also understand the predominant cultural perspectives distinct to that region.

The important thing is to have a carefully considered Globalization strategy that would make Lex Luthor seem nonchalant in his scheming, and to execute the plan in a decisive and coherent manner throughout the organization and without procrastination. Understanding that Globalization is the responsibility of your entire organization and must permeate through every level is a good first step.

This is particularly important in the current economic climate. Whilst many organizations are running home for shelter and scaling back on their global operations, this presents opportunities for other organizations to get traction in emerging markets if their Globalization strategy is sound. It may be a long term investment, but if your competition is busy running for cover, these recessionary times could represent an opportunity to gain market share in valuable new markets. As Warren Buffett said, “Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful.” In other words, advance when your competition is retreating from global markets.

In conclusion, you could of course try the Tiger approach and see what happens, but as another icon of our times (Homer Simpson) once said, “Trying Is the First Step towards Failure”. 🙂 So instead I urge you to think like the Dragon and have a deeper appreciation of how Globalization will impact your own organization and how your organization as a whole will need to evolve to meet these challenges.

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Which comes first, Globalization or Internationalization?

Posted by Patrick Wheeler on April 8, 2009

In my previous blog entry, I covered the limitations of “Localization” as a generic label to describe what we in the software “Localization” industry continually strive to achieve under the headings of G11n, I18n and L10n, as well as the dangers of this branding in terms of how “Localization” can often be perceived as the sole responsibility of a single “Localization” group or department within an organization.

To add to the confusion, there are two separate and somewhat contradictory models used to describe the relationships between G11n, I18n, and L10n. Microsoft’s model and the model predominately used by the rest of the industry! J Naturally you will also encounter subtle variations to both these models within various organizations.

So before examining G11n, I18n, and L10n in more detail, it’s probably useful to familiarize yourself with the key differences and similarities between these two models.

Microsoft’s Internationalization Model

The graphic below (Fig. 1) represents Microsoft’s “Internationalization” Model.   

Microsoft's Internationalization Model

Microsoft's Internationalization Model

The main thing to be aware of, and where this model is at odds with the model used elsewhere in the industry, is in the terminology. In Microsoft’s model, the terms “Internationalization” and “Globalization” are substituted. “Internationalization” is seen as the overall, high-level process, and “Globalization” is a sub-process that deals with the development of a culture-independent/world-ready application. 

N.B. There is some inconsistency in terminology within Microsoft’s own documentation and content; “Globalization” and “Internationalization” are sometimes interchanged depending on the target audience, author, time of day, weather, etc.

The “Industry Standard” Globalization Model

On the other hand, the rest of the industry typically refers to “Globalization” when talking about the overall process, and “Internationalization” when describing the development of a culture-independent/world-ready application. See the more commonly accepted, “Industry standard” Globalization Model below (Fig. 2). 

The “Industry Standard” Globalization Model

The “Industry Standard” Globalization Model

The irony of this inconsistent terminology won’t be lost on anyone working in Localization. J

At first glance you may assume that Microsoft’s model (Fig.1) provides a more comprehensive description of the whole workflow, as there is more detail provided in the high-level model. This is not strictly the case. Whilst the more commonplace model used by the rest of the industry (Fig. 2) is typically only represented by three neat little Globalization, Internationalization, and Localization boxes, there will of course be more detail under each of these headings, but the level of detail/terminology will once again vary from organization to organization. For example, if we expand the model in Fig. 2 further, we would see something similar to the following workflow (Fig. 3) emerging:

Expanded "Globalization" Model

Expanded "Globalization" Model

In Fig. 3, I have placed “Localizability” and “Customizability” under “Internationalization”. In my opinion, these are just a few of the more significant component parts of Internationalization. If we were to expand the I18n process still further, one would see the addition of other major I18n considerations such as Unicode. 

Resistance is (sometimes) Futile

There is no right or wrong model to adopt or champion within your organization. Essentially both models describe the same overall process. However, it is useful to be aware of both models, especially if you have the misfortune of having to delve into Microsoft Documentation relating to Internationalization or the Globalization Namespace. Similarly, when talking to people from the Microsoft/.Net universe, I’ve found it can be easier to simply give up trying to stick to the more widely accepted G11n model and speak in Microsoft terms. Otherwise it can be rather like trying to convince the Borg there is an alternative to assimilation (I ‘m already sorry for that reference!) and you may find yourself viewed with the same skepticism as zoologist who just suggested polar bears and penguins could peacefully coexist. J Apologies to my ex-Microsoft colleagues, but you know it’s true! J

In my next few posts (and as previously promised!), l will endeavor to work-around the (at times) conflicting terminology and take a look at the commonality in what these process models are seeking to describe under the headings of Globalization, Internationalization, and Localization.

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Who’s responsible for Localization in your organization?

Posted by Patrick Wheeler on March 27, 2009

Who’s responsible for Localization in your organization?

Seems like a simple question with a simple answer, right? However, whether they are aware of it or not, most people use the term ”Localization” when they may well be referring to areas under the broader headings of Globalization, Internationalization, Localization & Translation (GILT).

There are historical reasons for this anomaly of course; once upon a time Localization was only considered an afterthought to product development and had no real place in the SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle). GILT is certainly a more accurate and all-encompassing acronym, but even as industry experts in “Localization” we do not typically embrace such broad terminology. Personally I find GILT a somewhat clumsy and uncomfortable acronym. After all, who in an organization would want to say they work in GILT, or are head of GILT! Even if we were to adopt this term within our organizations, I could foresee many blank stares when discussing GILT with those not familiar with what is traditionally known to them as “Localization”. So naturally we default to using “Localization” as an often all-encompassing term to avoid having to give every person we interact with a brief (and most probably unwelcome) history of what is better known as “Localization”.

The problem is, that by accepting our moniker as “Localization” we are also endorsing the view that Localization is still just an afterthought to development and is solely the responsibility of a single department within an organization. I still work as part of a Localization team, as Localization Engineering Manager. Some of you who work in the industry probably have a sign hanging over your little farm of desks that says, “Localization”.

In my experience, this tends to result in those in senior management, in charge of strategic decision making, and those in regional sales offices, believing that by having a Localization department; Localization is taken care of. It’s a black-box. It’s possibly even viewed as a glorified term for translation. Consequently, should any issues arise with Localized product, it’s clear to these groups where the responsibility lies.

So in response to the initial question I posed, who’s responsible for Localization in your organization? The truth is, in the broadest sense of the term, “Localization”, that everyone at every level of your organization is responsible for Localization (If we take it that by Localization we are in fact referring to GILT).

Just because a Quality or Quality Assurance department may exist within an organization, this does not mean that quality is the sole responsibility of this department and is no longer a concern for the rest of the organization. Similarly Localization, or more accurately Globalization, must be a discrete function of every individual within your organization. If not, there will be an inevitable adverse impact on Internationalization and subsequently the quality of the localized end-product will suffer, as will sales in the target region for that localized product.

Each step within the Globalization, Internationalization, Localization chain will have an exponential impact on the next. If you don’t take your Globalization strategy seriously enough, then, in the absence of a firm mandate from the highest levels of your organization, Internationalization will suffer because there will be no development impetus to properly Internationalize your software. If the Internationalization effort is poor, Localization will be painful, perhaps even impossible within certain software features, and you will be looking at a lengthy delta between your domestic software release and your localized releases.

Conversely, if you start with a solid and coherent Globalization strategy that is communicated, in a relevant and contextual manner, to all levels within the organization, then Internationalization will be an integral part of the SDLC, Localization should be a straightforward, finite task, and you will be in a better position to achieve a Sim-Ship of domestic and localized software releases.

Some people may prefer to use the acronym GILT, some may prefer “glocalization”. For me, the answer to this conundrum, and to addressing people’s sometimes limited awareness of what Localization entails, does not lie in changing terms or the invention of new terms and pseudo-techno-babble. It’s too late. The horse has bolted on that one. It would be comparable to Apple insisting that people stop using “iPod” as a brand name and adopt another title for their pre-existing portable media players. Instead, I believe the answer lies in educating all the relevant stakeholders within an organization on the importance of G11nI18n, and L10n and how these relate to them and various groups throughout the organization in terms of responsibilities.

So with this in mind, in upcoming posts I will take a look at the terms Globalization, Internationalization and Localization in more detail, their inter-dependent relationship, who owns what in terms of responsibilities, what they mean to your organization, and what you should know when endeavouring to sell software in a global marketplace.

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