Translation is one of the oldest professions in the world. It goes back centuries; even before the making of the Rosetta Stone. It is a very diverse industry with heavy fragmentation and worldwide dependence. Translation is an art and can only be handled accurately by properly trained professionals–typically native speakers, residing in the countries they are translating for. These individuals often work at a translating company.
Software localization on the other hand is a more recent profession. It got its start after the PC infiltrated businesses and homes worldwide in the late 20th century. Companies at times consider the software localization market a niche segment of the overall translation market. This is because it depends heavily on translation. Some 65% of a localization project consists of translation-related tasks.
It is worth noting that companies that offer localization have to perform translation. But the reverse is not true. Software localization requires complicated processes, tools and specialized technical know-how. They are essential to fulfill the remaining 35% of the localization project’s needs. While I have deep respect for translators, most are not setup to handle all localization tasks. Why is that?
The Complexity of Localization
Advances in internet technologies, development tools, authoring tools, and platforms have expanded the use of different file formats and build environments. Software applications and manuals are no longer based only on simple text files or Word documents. Engineers are now using Java, HTM, XML, ASP .net, PHP and a slew of other formats in many applications and products.
Furthermore, with the continuous move toward technology convergence, companies are marrying software, electronics, mechanics, chemistry, biology and other sciences to develop high-end solutions to effectively compete in the ever more demanding high-tech world.
Translators forced to handle software localization projects alone, are now expected to understand different subjects and file formats. We expect them to accurately translate only the text needing translation, without modifying tags, links or code. Heaven forbid they use the wrong process or make mistakes! Engineers and localizers will have to exert a significant amount of leveraging and debugging time to fix, build and test the localized product.
So, although translation may be an art, localization is both an art and a science. Don’t short-circuit the process or underestimate the effort required. It takes experienced engineering and translation professionals working together to properly implement an efficient translation-reuse process, as well as experienced managers to coordinate efforts to bring a localization project to a safe and on-schedule landing.
Asking a translator to handle your entire localization project is like expecting your developers to write development plans, develop software, perform SQA and create documentation, all while ensuring on-time delivery of each and every step.
Whenever my twelve-year old daughter bakes cookies, she either burns herself, the cookies or both. This keeps reminding me of the old and true Arabic proverb: Give your dough to the baker even if he eats half. International users are notorious for shelving poorly localized products and using the source version instead, or even worse, a competitor’s version. Don’t risk burning your company’s reputation overseas just to save a few dollars; look for the right translating company and hire localization professionals that can thrill your international clients!
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