The world is a huge place, yet from a digital point of view, it’s a manageable village where you can easily share your product. That product can quickly become a hit if it functions perfectly and fulfils real needs and desires. But first: you must speak to potential users in their own languages. With 100% accuracy.
This complex translation process is called localization, and if you want to enter the international market, you start here. You will adapt all marketing and the product itself to the language, legal norms, cultural customs and other conditions specific to your target market. In addition, there will be national and local legislation to comply with, and while in total all of this can be daunting, Skrivanek is one of a number of companies that can expertly process every aspect for you.
Product localization is the essential first step for success when entering foreign markets, and even if you think you have a good command of the language into which you plan to localize, it’s appropriate to investigate full language service agencies. This is because translation agencies have a wealth of professionals, language experts and specialists at their disposal, and can offer you comprehensive solutions coordinating the entire localization process. In addition, with political and cultural climates always in flux, you will benefit from experts ‘on the ground’ in your target countries to ensure that your phrases, symbols, and a thousand other elements, are saying what you think they are at this particular point in time.
What is translated?
When you haven’t experienced localization, the word might make you think of translating colloquial expressions, or ensuring that a product’s documentation meets your target country’s requirements.
“But these are only the tip of the iceberg,” says Jan Hirš, Head of the Project and Localization Department of Skřivánek. “Many other activities are involved.”
Software localization: This refers to translations that enable users to work with an application in their own language, understand all components of a graphical user interface (GUI), and enter information using diacritics with the local keyboard layout. The localized product must function in the same way as the original application and be absolutely compatible with local operating systems and hardware.
Localization of websites and multimedia applications: If you want to connect with customers from all over the world and to offer your products on the global market, you must ensure a high-quality translation of the mechanics of your websites (whether static or dynamic), whether they use HTML, SGML, XML, CGI, PHP, ASP or Flash technology. Consider the most appropriate way you might adapt the content of your site to the local environment and customs, and how you might enliven it with multimedia or e-learning applications that contain animated or dynamic objects, images, audio and video recordings, and comments.
Online help localization: The translation of your help tips and explanations into the local language when they are in HLP or CHM format, compiled from HTML or RTF files, or from DTP applications (e.g. FrameMaker) using tools such as RoboHelp and Webworks, into the local language.
Localization of devices and equipment: In the case of electronic devices and equipment for fields such as medical technology, the machine industry, office and mobile technology, etc., users must understand what a device is offering them at all times. It is therefore essential to localize interfaces between devices and users, by translating commands and text displayed on screens, including the labels of switches and buttons, and also the accompanying documentation, bringing it into compliance with local regulations and standards.
Image localization: User interfaces and manuals may contain images, screenshots and explanatory graphics that must also be localized so that the instructions linked to them are comprehensible. Translated captions are helpful.
A Look Under the Bonnet
An interview with Jan Hirš, Head of the Project and Localisation Department at Skřivánek
For a closer examination of the technology and processes required for localization, we turned to Jan Hirš, Head of Skřivánek’s Project and Localisation Department based in Brno.
What do localization processes usually involve?
The localization of software and similar equipment is usually divided into two categories – localization of graphical user interface (GUI) interfaces and localization of documentation. Localizing a GUI mostly means translating software text that the user sees on a device’s monitor, display or screen. Such translations are usually done with a specialized localization tool capable of extracting text directly from files whose format is not primarily text (.SYS format drivers, Java programming language files, etc.). But we also translate already extracted text delivered by the client in XLS or XML format, or formats used on websites. In all cases, we attempt to find a solution which allows us to work with the same types of files our clients use, without the need to convert formats, to copy texts manually, etc.
Documentation is usually processed in graphics program formats, XML format, or less frequently in ordinary MS Word. Here, preparation and finalization are more straightforward, but we must always make sure that the translations of documentation are consistent with the translations of GUIs. Otherwise, the documentation accompanying the software or equipment would use different terms (for functions/buttons) than those appearing on the equipment itself or in accompanying illustrative documents, which would make it very difficult, if not impossible, to work with the application.
The largest volume of translations we are asked to provide is the localization of PC software, followed by that of specialized equipment, such as medical devices, metalworking machines, metallurgical machines, and so on. But we also carry out localization of various mobile applications or instructions and installation manuals for PC hardware.
So, how can the client be assured that the translation will be one hundred percent correct?
The foundation for ensuring that translations are accurate and complete is adherence to set procedures, such as a translation followed by proofreading and then a thorough final check. We try to remain in contact with our clients through every step of the localization process, initiating routine consultations to resolve any ambiguities in terms or phrases. We always attempt to gather as much data as possible with regard to precise requirements for terminology, style or formal matters, from the very beginning of the process. If we are familiar with these requirements, it is much easier for us to ensure that our work complies with the client’s needs.
Another part of software localization is testing of implemented translations of various procedures and suggested scenarios for a particular application or device. This ensures that all of the text has been localized, makes sense in context, is easy to understand, and that no errors have occurred in the content or functions during integration of the localized text into the device.
Do you seek advice on the use of professional terms?
As a starting point, we take terminology which is generally recognized and used in the IT environment of the particular target language, for example those used by operating system developers. However, many clients have their own specific terminology requirements that go beyond this scope, so they provide us with a glossary of terms. Others have a more limited idea of what to translate and what not to translate, so we provide them with our own suggestion of how to proceed. In both cases, we make sure that the required terminology is used consistently throughout the text in all target languages.
Into what languages do you offer localization?
We are capable of offering localization services in about 50 different languages. We most frequently localize texts from English into Central and Eastern European languages, as well as into languages from Western Europe, primarily German, English, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. However, our expert teams manage the localization of Asian and Arabic languages as well.
Customers want a job done as soon as possible. How do you proceed?
In cases of large volumes of text with a short deadline for completion, it is always necessary to involve multiple translators. Of course this carries the risk of inconsistencies between separately translated parts.
In order to ensure consistency among the individual linguists’ work, we use special translation tools that allow multiple translators to work on a job at once and to share completed translations with the entire team of translators in real time. Another important tool is a glossary of terms, which serves to ensure the uniformity of terminology and allows individual translators to add their own suggestions as they work. If approved, these terms can be made available for use to the rest of the translators in real time.
One of the projects we implemented most quickly was the translation and finalization of approximately 1.5 million words, which was completed in 6 months. To give you an idea, this corresponds to about 6000 pages of text. It was a contract for one of our Czech IT clients, which consisted of GUI texts and documentation, and it required us to assign one project manager, seven translators, two proofreaders, one person to carry out a final check and a special online tool for sharing translations between all of the translators in order to ensure consistency.
Deliver Only Quality
As you can see, localization is an important step requiring detailed attention. It is useful for companies expanding overseas, and absolutely essential for introducing a product into the competitive global environment. Well-executed localization is the foundation for success in foreign markets. If you are considering this exciting choice, you may find the information contained in this article useful for decision-making and company strategy as you move forward. Contact us for more in-depth consultation.