Writing Content for Localization

Writing Content for Localization

Localization in any organization doesn’t limit only to translating and adapting source texts and other materials to a target market. A good and also cost-effective localization process starts earlier than in the moment when the developers send texts to translators. It naturally contains all necessary technical steps, but we’ll skip them this time and focus on the translatable texts themselves and what you can do to make them efficient from a localization point-of-view.

Many of these tips are quite general so they will help you improve your original texts too. They have been written especially with UI, help and support materials in mind – writing for your landing page might be a completely different ballgame but many of the rules apply there too.

Fluent and Correct

Would you trust a linguist to do code for you? I wouldn’t either (and I’m a linguist). Don’t put too much trust in your developer’s linguistic ability either.

Software and other web content are nowadays mostly written in English, which often is a good choice for localization and translation purposes, as the most translators around have English as one of their source languages. But other languages are used too.

Whichever your writing language of choice is, make sure the texts are well written. If your own or your developer’s English is not that good, have the texts edited by someone whose knowledge is more solid. “Engineering English” might create misunderstandings for your users, and those misunderstandings will get multiplied in localization.

Consistent Terminology

Stick to the terminology you choose and make everybody who is writing content also aware of it. This also means not using one term for several concepts. This might in many cases leave the translator wondering which of the concepts you’re referring to – and even get yourself in trouble when you want to mention those two concepts in the same sentence. Put a system in place to manage and spread terminology in your organization.

Reuse

At school, you learn that you shouldn’t be overly repetitive when writing, so you don’t make the reader bored. This is mostly true, I don’t want to argue with your elementary school teacher, but when writing software texts, repetition is your best friend. And this goes for basically any help and support texts too – or anything you write with localization in mind.  Identify parts of text that appear in many places and don’t rewrite them. The commonly used localization tools identify what has been translated earlier and you can usually have those parts translated automatically. The more similarities the new texts have with old ones, the less their translation costs. Repeated terms and structures are easy for the translators.

Using the same terms and structures also makes things easy for your user: they will be more familiar with different parts of the UI and have a more fluent experience.

Be Concise

Don’t write overly long texts unless you have a true motivation for that. English is often shorter than many other languages, e.g. German translations tend to be around 3o% longer than English texts, so don’t aim at filling all available space already in the English version. Other than that, concise texts are mostly user-friendly, too. You don’t want your users to leave your page because of texts that take ages to read and are difficult to understand, right?

Localization cost is almost always directly tied to text length, so this point is also directly linked to your bottom line.

Text in Graphics

If you want to make localization easy, embed as little text as possible into graphics. Each time you localize texts that you have as graphics means manual labor, which means more costs. Each time you add a language you need to update all graphics manually.

Cultural References

Funny slang words can nicely spice up a text, as will idiomatic expressions. And make you sound like someone who really masters the language. But at the same time, they make localization more difficult and might even be nearly impossible to translate. For translators, there are ways to get around that, but you don’t want to make translating more difficult and error-prone. The same goes rid of jargon and metaphors, you need to get rid of them.

A Final Pointer

Being customer centric pays off in localization too: if a text is optimal for a user in your own language area, it probably is easy to localize.

Photo by Thomas Lefevbre.

Cloud, Crowd, and Professional Translators

Cloud, Crowd, and Professional Translators

Stas Kalianov – Localization Manager at Schneider Electric – spoke at the GALA conference in New York in March about the role of translation agencies in software localization, and about who are the most important people in this workflow.

Through a mix of technology, their internal crowd, and professional translators Schneider Electric has achieved a safe and robust process that gives them both lower costs and more user-friendly translations.

Listen below to how they achieved this with the help of Get Localization and how they chose to leave unnecessary steps out of the process (this re-recording of the presentation has been previously published by Stas Kalianov).

Personal Language

Personal Language

Research states that even newborns can recognize their own mother tongue, the language they have heard already before they were born. In the end of 2012 this was confirmed by a study at the PLU in Washington. It is actually quite astonishing that we have this kind of a sense for language so early on in our development. The way a newborn identifies sentences of her mother tongue might not be identical to how we grown-ups do it, but how they do it doesn’t matter, most important is that the special relationship is already there.

The same process might happen at the other end of our lives, but the other way round: Alzheimer’s patients might lose their ability to speak other languages than their mother tongue. We might forget all other languages we have spoken for years and perhaps mastered close to perfection, but the mother tongue stays with us.

So what do we do with this information? Maybe not that much in every day life, unless you work within geriatrics or are a language teacher. But this is yet another indicator of how important the mother tongue is for each one of us, how deep the connection to our primary language lies within ourselves. However, this is not something we would necessarily be aware of. Some of us might be more comfortable with speaking for example about professional topics in English than in our native language. Or we might consider ourselves even bilingual despite having learned a language only later on in their life. But deep down these newer languages won’t be so close to us as our mother tongue(s).

Then what, is all of this important to you? Well, for one you can take it for granted that merely understanding your message doesn’t guarantee that it will stick with your users. Common Sense Advisory’s research shows that people are also more inclined to buying from websites that speak to them in their mother tongue.

One of the ways to better attract users and make them stay longer on your website or use your app is to talk to them in the language that they have the longest lasting relationship with. And for most people on our planet, that language is not English.

Get Localization helps you talk with your clients by providing an easy solution for managing software localization and ordering professional translations.

Autumn is Conference Time!

Autumn is Conference Time!

 

This autumn we’ll again be heading out to visit a bunch great conferences. Here are a few places where you can find us in the next couple of months:

elia Networking Days in Tuscany (October 6-7), where Jari will be speaking about agile and lean in localization.

Web Summit in Dublin (November 4-6)

Slush in Helsinki (November 18-19)

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Hidden Costs Of Localization

Hidden Costs Of Localization

icebergWhen you think about localization costs, what is the first thing that to your mind? Did you just say translation prices? You are not the only one who would say that. Sometimes that might even be true, but let’s consider a more likely alternative.

We have come across localization projects, where the actual translation cost is somewhere around 10% of the cost of the whole project (and no, I’m not exaggerating). It doesn’t take that advanced math to see where the possibilities for biggest cost savings lie in those cases.  To be honest the ratio of translation and other localization costs is usually not quite this extreme, but would most likely surprise you anyway.

What are those other 90% of costs then? Those costs can e.g. be related to various project management tasks and handling different file formats. Of course, you can’t take away all of that, but for sure some of it.

So here’s a short checklist for you. If you recognize some of the below tasks as something you or your colleagues often do in localization projects, then you have an idea of what hidden costs of localization are:

  • Copy-pasting texts from your resource files to various file formats for translation and then again translations from various file formats to your resource files
  • Sending emails to translators to check how much they have translated
  • Converting your files to different formats
  • Getting charged by translation agencies for converting your files to formats used by the translators
  • Receiving several Excel worksheets with queries from translators

The key to getting rid of these hidden costs? To put it simply, a thought-out process and tools that are focused on you, not only the translation service provider. Lean localization is not a myth, but something most organizations can achieve by taking a critical look at their old habits.

Looking Forward to a Busy Autumn

Looking Forward to a Busy Autumn

Over here the weather is getting colder, but the conference season is getting hotter. We’ll be keeping busy and here are a few places where you can find us in the coming months:

Web Summit in Dublin (October 30–31)

tekom-Jahrestagung 2013 in Wiesbaden (November 6–8). Check out our presentation about Crowdsourcing in the Localization Process and our stand in booth 442 in Hall 4.

Slush 2013 in Helsinki (November 13–14)

Nordic Translation Industry Forum in Stockholm (November 21–22). We’ll be presenting on the second day about ‘Lean Approach – Better Customer Service’.

Looking forward to meeting lots of interesting people and hearing a bunch of killer presentations! Get in touch with us if you would like to exchange thoughts about localization, start-ups, your app, the weather in Finland – or anything else.

See you there!