This is a paper presented by Andy Andersen, a recent graduate of the Global Digital Marketing and Localization Certification (GDMLC) program. This paper presents the work being produced by students of The Localization Institute’s Global Digital Marketing and Localization Certificate program. The contents of this Paper are presented to create discussion in the global marketing industry on this topic; the contents of this paper are not to be considered an adopted standard of any kind. This does not represent the official position of Brand2Global Conference, The Localization Institute, or the author’s organization.
As the world becomes more interconnected, international expansion is more appealing than ever before. Lower barriers to entry and developing markets are providing opportunities for businesses to reach customers who may not have been previously accessible to them. The emergence of new technologies and impact of the internet have created this idea of companies being ‘born-global’ in that they can essentially reach international markets from day one. Though appealing to eager businesses, maintaining quality in an instantly global environment requires attention and focus.
It seems as connectivity has increased, so have the demands on employees. Employees are expected to be efficient and effective in pursuit of their objectives. These high demands pressure teams into being interdependent and often reliant on external forces to assist them in balancing their workload. A localization strategy is often found at the core of any international expansion as having one is a crucial component of reaching and appealing to other markets. To aid in these efforts, localization teams will often be created to help to keep the company internationally focused and evangelize for the inclusion language and culture into development cycles.
Localization has an important role in the way a company pursues new markets, but implementation can still be a daunting task. Part of the challenge is that localization is a niche field and quality control is typically more of an afterthought rather than a foundational step in the process. On the other hand, it may also be that many of the tools and services available for quality control are cost prohibitive for hesitant organizations as large investments in tools and employee time can be difficult to justify. Potentially there are many logistical and technical factors that can affect the outcome. In the end, the ability to maintain quality is an essential component to success. Here below we’ll take a look at 5 ways teams can approach quality control in localization while discussing some best practices for being efficient and using fewer resources.
1.) CAT Tools
Of all the tools available to localization professionals the introduction of computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools in the 1990s, has been fundamental to improving quality in translation and localization efforts. These CAT tools have exponentially expanded the capabilities of teams and are improving daily. Irrespective of the scale, all firms can benefit from using a CAT tool. If your organization doesn’t use one, but manages translations, you are missing out on a lot of opportunities to improve your workflow.
Generally, the more well-developed of these tools enable users to efficiently review previously recorded changes, ensure continuity of term usage, check for missing information, tags or discrepancies, and also view contextual metadata linked to translatable content. These factors have all aided in productivity of localization teams and have, in most cases, had a profound impact on operational costs as an added benefit. Combining increased productivity and reduced costs, teams are able to pursue more languages potentially reaching a wider audience and re-allocate the cost savings to other company initiatives.
As CAT tools are now widely demanded by teams in varying industries, there is a high competition amongst providers to be the ‘best’. Many paid CAT tools, such as MemoQ, Memsource, SmartLing, SDL Trados, or XTM offer enterprise solutions that allow for efficient management of large volumes of content. There are free options such as Felix CAT, MateCat, OmegaT which are commonly used by smaller firms and freelance professionals. The paid versions are the more likely choice for medium to larger companies as they offer cloud-based platforms so organizations can operate at high velocity with virtually no downtime. Nearly all of these cloud-based platforms are equipped with technical QA steps and project management features that can be customized by project. Since the systems are cloud-based, teams are able to access them and make updates simultaneously while linguists and other team members work, which is an essential trait of operating globally at scale. Particularly in the tech industry, where deadlines and demands can be strict.
Once you have chosen a platform that best fits your needs, CAT tools should be optimized to ensure the settings are positioned for the best performance. An often overlooked, but important, opportunity for optimization within these tools is a glossary or term base. Virtually every CAT tool now has a glossary function, but they are not always priority. However, choosing to properly complete a glossary and add supporting context will enable vendors working on your tasks to improve consistency across the product and reduce the occurence of contextual errors or inconsistencies. Some companies, like Microsoft, have built extensive databases for their glossaries that they share publicly. This example of widespread resource sharing enables others to learn, build and improve their own term bases while also creating industry standards for terms.
2.) Choose a dependable LSP
It is quite common for companies to seek the services of language service providers (LSPs) and/or transcreation agencies to handle their translation and localization related tasks. Besides a core of language-related services, a major benefit to working with these agencies is that businesses can reduce fixed overhead costs of hiring in house teams. Agencies also provide project and program management which can reduce pressure from a company’s internal employees to coordinate efforts with a smaller group of people rather than multiple per language.
As quality should be a primary goal, carefully consider which LSP best fits the skill set required by your organization. LSPs can be great partners to companies, but choosing the wrong LSP can also greatly reduce the quality of your output. Doing your research on vendors and service providers will enable you to make better quality selections and to choose a partner who has high standards for the work that they do. Ask thorough questions and have high expectations for their responses. Larger LSPs will offer scale and a track record, but smaller LSPs will generally offer a more personal touch and attention to detail. Vendors should be aligned with your company’s localization goals to an extent so that they know what is expected of them. Provide style guides, context, and a glossary or term base and make sure that they are updated as needed. It is extremely important when working with LSPs to create efficient processes, lines of communication, and guide them through your system and company preferences.
3.) Context. Context. Context.
In order to improve the quality of your translations, the next best aspect to focus on after selecting a CAT tool and an LSP is providing context. The translation of any word can vary greatly depending on the subject matter, gender, or case, but also whether the source word is a noun, adjective, or verb. Let’s consider a simplified example of the word “turn” without any given context. If a linguist were to be translating, they might be confused as to the subject matter or part of speech. Some questions they might ask: is it to turn the page? It is a game-like situation where it might be the user’s turn? Is it the turn of the century? A turn of events? This is really important because lack of context slows down timelines and increases the chances of errors occuring. Linguists might choose different words in their translations for each question above.
Instead of waiting for linguists to ask questions, be proactive in collecting needed context. Add instructions detailing how a specific string may be used. Ensure that the LSP and linguists are familiar with your product. You can host informative sessions, live product walkthroughs, or even grant the linguists access to your product so that they can gain a better understanding how it works. In the event that linguists aren’t able to access your product, do your best to provide screenshots with the explanations as well as an limitations or special demands for the string such as a character limitation. Being thorough with your context can make the difference between average and great translations or localized adaptations.
4.) Do remote testing
Coupled with more traditional methods of managing quality in localization, emerging technologies have given way to a whole new perspective on understanding the user experience. These technologies grant companies the capability to see their content from the perspective of the user. This is an important aspect in quality control because companies are now able to reduce dependency on external quality control teams which can be instrumental in improving their workflow. In the pre-mobile days, employees could try to visualize their content through the use of things like virtual proxy networks (VPNs) or by depending on in-country colleagues and LSPs. This would give employees general overview of how their content would be rendered in-market, but would still lack the ability to capture the more holistic user experience. More recently, this trend is quickly evolving and now there are ways to do remote testing from actual devices in-country and receive measurable data without having a presence at all. This technology is revolutionary for companies and may continually become more integrated in localization and even engineering processes as companies strive to do more thorough product reviews before releasing.
There are many platforms that handle device testing for companies such as Amazon, Firebase, and Xamarin among many others that are predominately engineering/performance focused. However, there are also many companies offering outsourcing for remote testing capabilities such as Global App Testing while others like HeadSpin enable centralized teams to access actual devices from locations all around the world by simply logging into their user interface. The ability to gain perspective on what your users are seeing internationally can be really practical. Though companies like these are paid platforms or services, they offer unique benefits in way of your quality control efforts.
5.) Frequent in-product reviews
It is important to consider your products and localized content as living. Though you’ll often close one task or project down and move on to the next one, ensuring that your translations are current and frequently reviewed is a lasting step. Translation quality is about persistence in practice rather than a simple set of steps. It is very difficult to get all translations and localizations correct on the first attempt. Furthermore, company branding and terminology may evolve which means content will need to be updated to reflect those changes. Be diligent in your efforts, ensure that you take care of bugs and issues, but also take time to review content, minimally on a quarterly basis.
There are many other suggestions that could be added to this list, but there is no exhaustive list of what makes a great quality control for your company. Industry standards exist in various forms, but ultimately quality control will be handled differently by each company tailored to their specific needs or based on the structure of the company. The quality control that takes place in localization is not that dissimilar from other industries. Just as an automobile manufacturer would have quality metrics and methods for releasing a completed vehicle, no localized content should be released without undergoing a proper quality review. Though mistakes in automobile manufacturing can lead to different outcomes than localization, mistakes in either field can have an undesirable impact. While a faulty car could have mechanical issues leading to recalls and incurred costs by the manufacturer, errors in localization could lead to loss of sales, poor brand image, and even potentially improper product usage in the case of instructional content. These production blunders occur more frequently than most companies would like and can often be avoided by making your quality control more robust.
Following the traditional methods of quality control in localization is great in that they have been tested and proven, though that does not always make them the most efficient. Be proactive in industry changes and developments and do not hesitate to be an early adopter of new technologies. Often these technologies offer better, more efficient ways of doing things, which can equate to reduced costs as well as improvements to your products.
Andy Andersen is the Localization Manager for Tinder Inc. He is passionate about the integration of language with modern technologies. Andy has a background in International Relations from the Louisiana State University with additional certification studies from the University of Washington.
A language and culture enthusiast, he also devotes time to his blog called Backpacking Diplomacy and travels whenever possible. Backpacking Diplomacy is dedicated to the concept of cultural diplomacy and personal development through experience.
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 A Practical Guide to Localization by Bert Esselink. Pg 461