How Do Things Get Localized?

I recently talked about the definition of Localization and the important difference between it and translation, and specifically why that’s important in the Travel and Hospitality industry. It seems logical to revisit that line of thought now and talk about the Localization process itself.

Localization Process, Lionbridge FAQA typical Localization project consists of the following phases:

  • Preparation
  • Kick-Off Meeting
  • Glossary and Style Guide Development
  • Project Execution
  • Post Translation
  • Final QA Check

Even if you know nothing at all about Localization projects, you probably could have guessed that they usually begin with preparation and end with a QA check. It’s the actual project execution stuff in the middle that I think can be really interesting (and maybe a little scary to newcomers), so I’ll talk about it briefly here, and then point you to a great Lionbridge FAQ  where you can learn more about the whole thing, soup to nuts.

Localization Project Execution Isn’t Mysterious
Don’t get me wrong, the Project Execution part of a Localization project is very cool and interesting, but although it’s made up of many steps, it’s pretty straightforward and goes like this:

  1. File Preparation: this is where your LSP (Language Service Provider) creates source files by protecting all non-translatable text (like the style elements you might have on your website), and prepares a localization kit which contains detailed instructions for the translators.
  2. Translation Memory (TM) Preparation: if one already exists from a previous project, the LSP just makes it available to everyone working on the project. (A TM is just a file that lists previously translated strings of text – both the source and the target translation – so translators remember how these strings should be translated from one project to the next.)
  3. Translation, Edit, Quality Control: look how far into the process we are, and we’re just now getting to the part where words are being translated. That shows you how much prep work needs to happen first! So yes, this is where native speakers take content from one language and write it in another and follow it up with a QA process to ensure the consistency and accuracy of the translation based on the customer requirements. Along the way, everyone is looking at more than just words, they’re verifying the overall continuity throughout the project – ensuring the final result doesn’t look like it was written by multiple translators (because sometimes on large projects, it is).
  4. Expedia Buttons - Search HotelsGraphics Localization: this isn’t always necessary, but if your travel site contains things like static maps or graphic buttons (see Expedia.com example to the right – showing both English and Brazilian Portuguese buttons), this is where the LSP converts them from the source language into the target language. You’ll know you have a good LSP when they make the necessary adjustments to the graphic’s dimensions to accommodate longer or shorter text strings, and when they recommend culturally appropriate images and color schemes.
  5. Linguistic Quality Inspection: even though this step is listed toward the end, it’s actually going on throughout the whole project. Imagine a shirt manufacturing plant where quality inspectors wait until the end to peek at a box of 100 shirts on their way out the door, only to discover they were all heliotrope when the customer ordered puce. What a wasted effort! In the same way, linguistic quality inspectors check localized samples throughout the project to ensure accuracy and adherence to project requirements, and are able to make necessary adjustments early on.
  6. Build / Desktop Publishing: this is where the LSP takes all the localized content and puts it into context – e.g. a mobile app, a traditional website or a printed brochure. In some cases, the target language might take up more or less room than the source language, so it’s important for the LSP to resize things now, like dialog boxes or the layout of a printed document.

As you can see, a lot happens during the localization process, but I hope this description helps demystify it a bit. If you’d like more, please read the Lionbridge FAQ, “What is Localization? How Does it Work?” And I love talking about this stuff, so you can always contact me with any questions.

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