The Importance of Localization Engineering

Localization EngineeringThe role of localization engineering and whether it is necessary is often misunderstood when it comes to translation and localization projects. Many are under the impression that localization engineering is unnecessary in the context of a software localization project. In addition, a common question is, “My product has already been engineered, so why do I also need localization engineering?” and it’s understandable to ask this. For others, the term “localization engineering” conjures expectations based on standard software engineering. With this blog, I want to paint a clear picture of what exactly localization engineering is and how it is used, for those who may be unsure of its purpose and role, and to help you receive the maximum benefit from it.

In many ways the translation industry is a world unto itself, full of its own unique history, characters, and practices. Simply put, it has a culture. When a business decides to develop a product and target it to global audiences, it engages in business with this translation world, bringing its own unique culture and requirements along with it. When this occurs, all materials must be both translated and localized for the areas that the company chooses to target. As a key part or the localization process, localization engineering makes it so that the final version of the content:

  • Appears custom built for the target audience’s cultural and linguistic background
  • Maintains its original meaning
  • Is appropriate for the target locale business and cultural norms

Word-for-word translations are typically ineffective, and must be localized so that content relevant in the target market. If translated material does not fit the conventions of the local culture, then it has not been properly localized and businesses run the risk of alienating or offending target consumers. Many businesses with hopes of going global will ask the question: “Do we have to localize for each region we choose to target?” The answer is not necessarily.

Each language has a generic or general form that serves as a standard which can be understood by all countries and cultures that speak that language. For example, a client can choose to do only one Spanish translation, but still send it to Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and Puerto Rico. Deliverables are “neutralized” before localization, and what remains is adapted generically for every target area speaking that speaks the language. In order to make sure that there are no country-specific inflections in the documents, localization testing is utilized.

Here are a few real-life examples that illustrate the importance of localization engineering. This is what can happen when businesses ignore localization and instead opt for a quicker and cheaper word-for-word swap, courtesy of:

  • In a Tokyo hotel – “Is forbidden to steal hotel towels please. If you are not a person to do such thing is please not to read notice.”
  • In a Belgrade elevator – “To move the cabin, push button for wishing door. If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor. Driving then going alphabetically in national order”
  • In Japanese, Microsoft’s marketing slogan read, “ If you don’t know where you want to go, we’ll make sure to get you taken.” Not sure Bill Gates would agree!

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