Localization: Culture and Context Cuts Both Ways

We often make the mistake of assuming that all source material intended for localization for a target country or region is in English and that conventions from the source locale content can be easily accommodated in localized versions.

But, here’s an example from Nintendo to show the kind of problems that can arise when localizing for another country, in this case for the US market localization of Tomodachi Life.

Nintendo came under fire from fans and gay rights organizations this past week after refusing to add same-sex relationship options to the game "Tomodachi Life." (Source:  CNET)

Nintendo came under fire from fans and gay rights organizations this past week after refusing to add same-sex relationship options to the game “Tomodachi Life.” (Source: CNET)

We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in Tomodachi Life,” Nintendo said in a statement released Friday. “Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to change this game’s design, and such a significant development change can’t be accomplished with a post-ship patch.”(Source: AP via NPR)

What internationalization (i18n) teams need to watch out for to enable localization for global markets increases all the time.

The message is assume nothing, which is what i18n and its neutral code approach is all about. Investing time in knowing your market’s cultural, social, and political dimension pays off when developing an architecture that easily accommodates adaptations and changes for target markets.

Reverse engineering is expensive sure, but a loss of revenue from an inability to deliver a localization suitable for the target market and being on the receiving end of negative customer feedback is worse in the long run.


Silicon Valley and Localization: The Movie

Well…. almost. It’s a great video of a recent International Multilingual User Group (IMUG) meetup in Silicon Valley on the topic of Localization at Startups.

Localization at Startups :: IMUG 2014.04.17

Localization at Startups. Another great International Multilingual User Group Meetup!

Localization at Startups. Another great International Multilingual User Group Meetup!

A hot and popular topic, and one I’d love to see covered in other locales, too. Seems the Valley can’t get enough of this kind of insight. With good reason.

Are you listening, Enterprise Ireland?

#PinkTheValley: Localization Unconference Silicon Valley 2014

Keen followers of mine on Twitter (@localization) will know that I have been tweeting about the start of the Giro d’Italia in Ireland in May 2014. I’ve been using hashtag #pinkthecity. Well, now it’s time to #pinkthevalley

#pinkthecity hashtag seen on Dublin City Council street cleaning vehicle, advertising the start of the Giro in Ireland.

#pinkthecity hashtag seen on Dublin City Council street cleaning vehicle, advertising the start of the Giro in Ireland.

Yes, the Localization Unconference 2014 in Silicon Valley will also be in May. Friday9-MAY-2014 to be exact.

An equally glamorous and in-demand event for the seriously fit localization professional as the Giro is for cycling pros, fans, and wannabes, pink is the color of the #locunconf too. Not that there’s a dress code or anything…

It’s being held in the Salesforce offices in San Mateo, California.You can find out more on the Localization Unconference website.

See you there!

The Localizer’s Best Friend: t()

I’m always on the lookout for software development solutions that are smart, disruptive, novel, and that challenge assumptions to solve a business problem. I recently attended an SF Globalization meetup event in San Francisco hosted by Airbnb. There, I saw localization (and UX) convention stood on its head by something anyone working in developer relations would be proud to evangelize about. It was a great event, dinner was provided for free, and I learned how Airbnb built international product. It was a  story told with honest and candid insight by a multi-skilled team. Very refreshing views were heard, far too many to go into now.

The Airbnb engineering team used Rails, instrumenting a t() (translate) helper method as the foundation of an infrastructure to deliver quality translations. The responses to audience questions, especially to the one if Airbnb used a translation memory, “We use a normal SQL database….”, made me smile. I was immediately reading up more about the Rails i18n module.

The t() solution was built to meet a need and to suit the Airbnb business model. It handles plurals, context, locale changes, and so on.

Here’s the t() method process overview:

t() method used to build the Airbnb translation tool

t() method used to build the Airbnb translation tool

Here’s how the tool provides context for translators, using screen shots:

Screen shot capture in tool for translator context

Screen shot capture in tool for translator context

It’s good for handling singular and plural and other language semantics, too:

Singular and plurals in t()

Singular and plurals in t()

And of course, where would user experience be without enabling locale specifics:

t() handles locale variants, such as terminology changes

t() handles locale differences, such as terminology differences.

The event also revealed that Airbnb relied on community translation and Google Translate as a bootstrap translation tool, that’s another day’s blog. I am indebted to the Airbnb team for the use of these images here. I cannot share all the slides shown in the meetup, but you can read more about the t() method and how it took Airbnb into the Japanese market.

If you see Airbnb on the agenda at localization or UX industry events, check it out. Inspiring stuff. And, they must be doing something right, as they’re poised to become the world’s biggest hotelier



Localization Unconference – Canadian Edition

Oleksandr Pysaryuk (@alexpysaryuk) shares the insights on the organization, takeaways, and people from the Localization Unconference in Toronto. And what might be next…

On a chilly Ontario morning of January 23, Achievers office in Liberty Village in Toronto welcomed 43 localization enthusiasts to the first ever Localization Unconference in Canada.

Those other ICE (In Context Exact) Matches: Tweet about Strings Freezing

Those other ICE (In Context Exact) Matches

The rules were no prepared presentations, no selling and “there is no spoon”. We brought ideas and brainstormed, voted and discussed the usual suspects (machine translation, crowdsourcing, translation quality, localization and Agile), as well as new arrivals (developer tools for localization, distributed translation memories, identity theft in translation industry).

Localization UnConference topics

Localization UnConference topics

Localization Unconference topics reflect the energy and enthusiasm for inquiry in the industry

Some takeaways:

Translators need context, just a different kind.
Some translators don’t like to read long instructions but prefer to just translate, with screenshots. However you also need to provide detailed description of functionality and purpose, use cases, style guides, and be there for support. Enhance it all by giving translators your game to play or software to use while they localize it.

Developers like to be world-class.
Developers love and cherish their code. If you tell them that following i18n practices will only make their code world class, they salute i18n.

Learn to speak developer language.
Engineers talk system performance and security. Prove how exporting translatable text into XLIFF will strain the system less than CSV export, and your developers love you forever.

Measure translation quality differently.
Ask you customer directly how they feel about language quality. Or ask you sales team in the target region to evaluate quality, or even to localize your content. They will start feeling like they own the quality.

Your localization and your Agile are unique to you.
Reverberations of Agile are true for everyone: how to identify changes, when to start translating, how to manage small projects, how to deal with changing terminology, how to manage testing when things iterate, how to price small projects, do you need a localization stakeholder at every sprint meeting. You do? But what if your company has dozens of products with hundreds of features? Know your unique context: what the product development cycle is and how releases are planned in your organization, and then figure where localization fits best.

The unconference is keeping it pink and multilingual! I hear there might be the first unconference at the next OTTIAQ event in Montreal, in French. And one at Translation Forum Russia 2014, in Russian.

Special thanks to Teresa Marshall (@pschesi) for supporting the Localization Unconference in Canada and consulting the organizers.

Get to know the Localization Unconference Toronto faces here: https://www.dropbox.com/sc/f6zmbo6yixbufp9/nn0O7N-Qo3