MIIS Localization Roundtable

By Farah Arjang

On February 24th, four professional translators from the localization industry gathered at the Monterey Institute of International Studies to talk about their experiences in the localization industry. This session was one of the many in the roundtable series that Romina Marazzato, head of the Master of Arts in Translation and Localization Management program at MIIS, has been organizing to familiarize students and freelance translators with real world of translation and localization management.The presenters at this roundtable were Jean-François Vanreusel of Adobe, who works as an Internationalization Engineer, Moon Ju Kim, a technical translator and Project Manager at Apple, Lutz Niederer, a technical translator at eBay, and Stephan Lins, CEO of Medialocate.

Translation vs. localization
The translators first talked about internalization and localization as the most important aspect of globalization, and then they explained the difference between localization and translation. Translation is just translation, with no consideration for any local audience, whereas localization is modifying the translation so that it makes more sense to the local audience who are the eventual recipients of the translated document.Lutz of eBay takes pride in the localized German eBay website, whose success, he believes, is due to the company’s local translator in Germany—who is in contact with eBay in real time—and to the three to four times a year that Lutz travels to Germany for an update of the culture and language, as well as working in person with the local German translator.

In order to correctly incorporate all provisions when a program or web content is initially created, there needs to be a close relationship between the localization team and the software developers, programmers, or the original designers of the websites. When the format and the content in the source language are created, the programmers need to consider all the limitations that the target language translators might have in conveying the same idea in the same format. None of the four companies represented by the panel is currently using machine translation in localizing their websites or products, but they do use proprietary software programs for their translation memory.

Trial runs
To tackle some of the problems of localization before a program is developed, Adobe, for one, has a process called “pseudo” programming, in which a fake program goes through the process of translation to catch problems or issues such as the differences in the alphabet or use of a particular string that might arise in the real translation.“Sim Release” (simultaneous release) is another challenge for the localization team. Every product at Adobe, eBay, and Apple is released simultaneously around the world, which means extra pressure for the translators and the localization team, who always receive changes at the last moment. Software companies are now planning to sell their shrink-wrapped products online, which means yet more pressure on translators and localization teams.Translators also need to know the ins and outs of the product being localized. Jean-François pointed out that anyone localizing Adobe Photoshop is expected to know digital imaging and basics of photography; similarly, the translator working on Adobe InDesign localization should know the program well and be familiar with the basics of the publishing world.

Moon Ju Kim of Apple, a graduate of the Monterey Institute, talked about her experiences as a technical translator and project manager at Apple. While she agreed with most of the other speakers, she also could not emphasize enough the importance of communication among the translators working on the same localization project. Her advice on work ethic was to be a team player, have a problem-solving attitude, and be up for working in a fast-paced environment, as the localization industry is changing in large ways almost every day.

Lutz, in fact, was amazed at how much the industry has evolved over the past five years since he first started working at eBay, and added his advice to be multi-tasking, detail-oriented, and persistent in order to be a successful localization team member. His last word was “Believe in yourself and make the engineers or content writers develop the programs in a way that works for any other language!”

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