Localisation – More Than Just Translation

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Localisation – More Than Just Translation

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Are you thinking about moving your business into international markets? In this blog we look at seven critical things to consider when localising your product. Localisation is often misunderstood and the source of much confusion for the uninitiated. Here we introduce some key terms, concepts and trends around localisation. In future articles we will look to expand on this and show how the Sage Localisation team use many of these concepts during the localisation of Sage products. We will also look at localisation pitfalls and why delivering localisation projects on time and under budget can be a challenge.

1.       Localisation ("L10n")

Localisation (Shortened to "L10n" with ten letters between "L" and "n") is the process of adapting a product to a particular language, culture, and a desired local "look-and-feel." Localisation could be seen as language translation with adaptation for the geographic region in which the product is targeted towards.

2.       Internationalisation ("I18n")

The product should be developed so that localisation is relatively easy to achieve - for example - product designers should facilitate the natural expansion of the text after translation by using screen labels that dynamically resize. This enabling process takes place during the design and development stages of the product and is termed internationalisation (shortened to "i18n"). Internationalisation is built into the product from the ground up, rather than retrofitted.

3.       Globalisation ("G11n")

Globalisation refers to a broad range of processes and activities necessary to prepare and launch products internationally. It incorporates the hands-on localisation and internationalisation steps already discussed but also addresses the business issues associated with launching a product globally, local market launches, in-country customer support for the launched product and the adaptation of marketing tools, among other initiatives.

4.       The Translators Role

A large part of the localisation job involves a human translator. In addition to fluent language translation the translator needs to consider other issues such as time zones, currency, national holidays, local colour sensitivities, product names, gender roles, and geo-political sensitivities. A successfully localised product is one that appears to have been developed within its targeted geographic - it should not feel like it was simply translated.

The translator involved in a translation project should be translating from the source language into their mother tongue and never vice versa. It is generally recommended that the translators should reside in that country to ensure full and proper usage of any local dialects - this ensures the translation and adaptation is correct and current for that region. All translators should have professional accreditation and would be educated to degree level in the area of linguistics.

Managing translators is a key role for the project manager. The benefits of using freelance translators for each language or to work with an accredited Multi Language Vendor need to be weighed up before the project commences. This will be discussed in later blogs.

5.       Translation Tools

A translator's job is greatly assisted with the usage of translation tools. The fundamental purpose of translation tools is to allow the reuse of terminology by using a Translation Memory ("TM"). The use of Translation Memories results in three key benefits:

1) Increased translator productivity due to reusing translations that may have already been completed. Reusing terminology from earlier versions is called "leveraging".

2) Increased quality of translations due to reusing pre-approved translations and enforcing linguistic consistency across all elements of the product (e.g. software, help, documentation and marketing).

3) Overall lower cost of translations as the translator will only be remitted for the content that the translation memory doesn't recognise.

6.       Machine Translation

Translation tools that utilize translation memory technology should not be confused with the recent development of "Machine Translation" (MT). Machine Translation is the automatic translation of one word or sentence for another word or sentence in another language. In that regard, Machine Translation is often referred to as transformation. Common examples of machine translation systems are Google Translate and Bing Translator. The trouble with Machine Translation is that it has no context for the word or sentence being translated and the linguistic quality of what is produced by Machine Translation is low. The results of Machine Translation will always require a post-translation editing job by a human translator. This tends to negate the touted benefits of cost, quality and time.  The technology and algorithms that drive Machine Translation are still improving and while quality is increasing, it is still not at the point of not requiring some form of human editing for context, grammar rules and geographical adaptation which is key to localisation.

7.       Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is a relatively new phenomenon in the localisation industry. This happens when a company relies on its customers to translate its own product. This is especially effective when the product has a loyal fan base spread across the world - resulting in a very quick expansion of the product into new regions. The translators (the users of the product) translate the product for free. Linguistic quality is driven by the users and addressed in successive releases of the product. In 2008 Facebook involved over 30,000 users around the world to help to translate the site into 16 launched languages. In 2012, Twitter is looking towards 500,000 volunteer translators to translate millions of words. Wikipedia is also available in a large number of languages, but this is rarely a word for word translation, and is often more akin to specialist contributors in that country re-writing articles in their own language.

More information can be found on the Globalization and Localisation Association (GALA) website. Please tell us your localisation experiences or if you have related questions or ideas for future articles.

  • Very interesting article! I would love to learn more about existing localisation standards and constraints.

  • Very nice article Ger. It remind sme of difficulty to translate our company name Sage in French. Sage is a French adjective which means 'quiet' in French. It is used for babies when they are too noisy :"Sois Sage !". Unfortunately, it was used in a campaign in North America called "Be Sage". It can be a total misunderstandings like car names meaning really something bad in some countries.

  • Very helpful article. Hope you share more

  • good article, thumb up for this post

  • Your article about translation in localization is very interesting. It helps me to learn more knowledge about how the translation works in the process of localizing a product. The definitions about localization, internationalization and globalization are quite similar to Esselink’s which he has mentioned in A Practical Guide to Localization. And I am specifically interested in the part of “The translator’s Role”. I agree with your opinion about the requirements which are needed to be satisfied by translators in the process of translating in order to make a product appropriate to the target locale. In addition, from my point of view, the translator should obey the rules and use terminology rather than be creative when translating a localization project. Be creative may cause misunderstanding sometimes. They should look the use of language in a more dehumanized way. As Pym mentioned that translation in localization should only to find the equivalent (Pym). This doesn’t mean that I consider other requirements of translation are unimportant. According to Gouadec, the translation should meet some requirements such as the client’s aims and objectives, the user’s needs or specifications, and the usage, standards and convention applicable (Gouadec). In my point of view, in the case of localization, the translator should tend to make the translation be simplifier and more consistent in terminology than other forms of translation like literary translation rather than creative. However, the requirements you have mentioned in your post such as paying attention to the local color sensitivities can help target user to understand the written text better. So, in my opinion, translation in localization should be control writing and also take comprehensive account of other requirements.