Top Localization Do's and Dont's

Top Localization Do's and Dont's
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October 26, 2016
Renato and Michael
Renato and Michael share their opinions on the three top things localization professionals must and must not do to deliver optimum results. And value.
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Speaker Transcript
Renato Hi, this is Renato Beninatto.
Michael This is Michael Stevens, and you’re listening to Globally Speaking.
Renato Today, we’re going to talk about tips. We’re always asked, when I go to universities, when I talk to clients, I’m often asked, “what are things that I should be doing and keeping in mind?” One of the things that, actually, I don’t like very much is they ask about things that they shouldn’t be doing. I’m not a big fan of negative reinforcement.
Michael You’re positive, you’re a positive thinker. So, today, we’re going to take a little different format, though it is Renato and I talking, we brought lists together; I have my things that you must do when you’re localizing and things that you must never do. I think you have a list of those things as well.
Renato Let’s start with the positive things. What is the first thing, if I ask you, Michael, “you’ve been working in this industry for many, many years; what is the most important tip that you have to give to a potential client?”
Michael The most important tip, I think it’s for clients, I think it’s for translators as well though translators seem to understand this more naturally, and that is words matter. So, know which words are the most important to you. So, when you’re starting a localization program within a company, or maybe you have an established one that’s having some quality issues, it could be because you haven’t identified things like linguistic assets; we’re talking about glossaries, we’re talking about style guides; these places where we have all words are important but some words, especially those connected to our brand, those connected to our industry, are more important.
Renato Absolutely. That’s a very good point, Michael. A comment I would make to that matter is that words have different weights. So, we talked before in our program about pre-sales and after-sales and how pre-sales words are more important. Even in a website…
Michael That was on our marketing podcast, the brand podcast.
Renato When you look at calls for action, those words require a lot more attention in translation than the paragraph that is right below that. So, understand that not every word is the same and not every word is worth the same.
Michael Yes. So, a couple of those things that we listed, and then we’ll get on to your number one must do. A style guide, usually, most people know what a style guide is that companies have for their English voice, if they’re starting with English as the source language. Marketing teams use that all the time and it identifies “this is how we talk in headings; this is the reading level that we want to hit at as far as our sentence length and the vocabulary we use; this is how we talk about measurements” and things like that.
Renato Treatment of people.
Michael Treatment of people, whether it’s formal or informal. It’s important when you localize to have a style guide for each language. Also, glossaries. This is where you pull out the key terms, the key words, whether they be industry words, whether they be specific words related to your brand and make sure you have both an English glossary and then one to match in each language that you’re working in. So, words matter; treat them important. I think that’s a must do when it comes to this process. So, what is your first must do.
Renato My first is an economy of scale concept. Do as many languages as you can at the same time. The reason why I say this is that the cost of setting up a project and starting the effort of translating into one language is the same as it is for five languages, 15 languages, 20 languages. So, it also allows you to ship your products simultaneously in as many languages as possible which protects your brand. As a whole, it is cheaper to do many languages; you can leverage discounts, you can take advantage of economies of scale by doing multiple languages at the same time.
Michael Yes. So, what are some of those costs that lead to the economies of scale, for people who might not know?
Renato The main cost is setting up the project, the translation memories, the schedules, the connections with the translators or contractors that are going to be working on the project; setting up templates. All the effort that is done for one language can be leveraged and done for multiple languages at the same time. So, that saves time, and time is money.

You have bargaining power; if you are doing 20 languages you can negotiate with your vendor to have some discounts.
Michael That’s interesting; I hadn’t thought of that one; that’s not on my list of three. But, one thing I like about that, too, is you get more data around where your product is performing well globally and you can make better business decisions rather than if you just do two languages and they don’t go very well, you think “oh, we don’t have an international product”. For all you know, if you went into 10 there could be places where it thrives.
Renato And if you have to do several languages make sure that you choose languages that will have an impact on your internationalization effort. So, choose a European language with lots of diacritics and different alphabet letters; make sure that you have a double-byte language like Chinese, Japanese or Korean, and a bi-directional language like Arabic and Hebrew. So, if you cover languages from these three groups, your product can be localized into any language that you want.
Michael Why don’t you do your number two?
Renato My number two is do use cloud-based solutions. If you are in denial and you have an ultra…
Michael Are people still in denial about that?
Renato Oh my God! It’s one of the things that always irritates me, this paranoia about confidentiality and avoiding using cloud-based solutions because in the cloud you don’t control what is going to be shared. The reality is that the moment you attach a document to an email you lost any expectation of confidentiality. Julian Assange is going to get access to that email.
Michael The security in the cloud is actually much more stringent than many of the other places we deal with documents.
Renato I think that it’s too many lawyers involved in this conversation and not enough reasonable people having this conversation. It’s one of those things, I remember when I started in this business, there was this whole discussion about the PC, everything was in the main-frame and now you were going to bring this technology to the desktop and people will have floppy disks that they could exchange and take everywhere. Nobody cares about disks anymore. We are in the cloud; live with it; okay?
Michael Yes. But what advantages do people get from being in the cloud? It’s a different way to pay; it’s less expensive than building your own server farm…
Renato Absolutely. And the thing is that technologies available in the cloud are more easily updated so you are more current in terms of what there is in terms of technology. It enables collaboration in a much easier way so you are working real-time and you’re not working offline and then synchronizing files; the whole workflow changes.

The thing about working with the cloud is that it requires a different work attitude. It’s not like this concept of paving the cow paths. You do the things that you used to do offline but now you do it in the cloud the same way that you used to do it. No. What you need to look at is completely change the way you behave towards a file, towards segments, towards languages and towards things that you’re going to do. So, I think that the recommendation is take a cloud-based mentality approach to your language projects.

My third recommendation, my third “do” is do listen to your translators. We had a very interesting interview recently with Canva and we heard that their Polish translator was very instrumental in giving them good advice in a crisis situation. Your translator is, well assuming that he is well selected, is the right person for the job, that you don’t have an accountant translating medical device interfaces, and things like that. But assuming you did a good job selecting the right team to work on your project; your translators are your first line of defense.
Michael Yes, they’ve a vested interest in your success.
Renato And they are the best readers of your product. Very, very often there are some texts that the only person, whoever reads the whole text is the actual translator.
Michael Some of the help articles, things like that.
Renato So, I recommend that our listeners make sure that they have a channel open to communicate with the translators because translators really can create value in the process.
Michael For people who are starting a program again, or inheriting a program, and wanting to do localization, I think a must do is be an evangelist about what you are doing. Be excited about international, especially when it comes to the C-suite, the executives of your company. Let them know how exciting it is that their product or their service is going international and how people are being affected by that; tell those stories; continue to educate those folks about the impact you’re having globally on this. We see this in companies all the time to the point where, sometimes, in their global internal meetings directors of localization and others are getting to present about the international impact they’re having and are prominent companies and that’s an exciting thing.

With that education comes along with setting proper expectations. Some people don’t apply enough budget for localization. They think translation is free; but it’s not, and one easy argument when you’re evangelizing to let people know that it’s not free is to say “how much did you spend to get this English content correct? And you expect to do this in 10, 20, 30 other languages for free?” Then you can also say “we’ll do it at a fraction of the cost of what you invest in the English, often.” So, it’s a remarkable return on investment that you get from educating and having C-levels buy-in. Oftentimes, it can lead to more budget.
Renato Absolutely.
Michael So, I have one more “do”, but we’ll keep that as the end. One of my “don’ts”. Don’t rely on manual processes because they work today. Even if they’re offshored, even if they’re inexpensive, there are better ways to do things through automation. So, if you’re looking at localization from beginning to end in your organization and there are Excel sheets involved, or copy and pasting, those should be red flags that “we could do this in a better way” and maybe you rely on a partner to automate that for you but, ultimately in the long term, that’s going to save you money.
Renato Yes. Automation for automation-sake is not necessarily a good idea but repetitive work is unnecessary in this day and age. So, absolutely, if you’re doing something repetitive and you don’t have the resources to do that in-house, outsource it; it’s a very easy way to get those activities out of your realm.

And that goes very well with my first “don’t” which is don’t build an in-house translation team. This sounds weird but unless you have a very long-term project into one single subject, it doesn’t make much sense to have in-house language teams; for many reasons. One of the reasons is just first of all it’s very hard to manage. Second, it’s not a productive environment because you have to deal with a lot of traditional personnel issues that you don’t with freelancers. So, people have to take vacation, they are sick, their productivity is much lower because you have a lot of internal distractions.
Michael There’s a cost of employment related to it, too.
Renato Well, the cost is something that you deal with and, very often, if you look at the raw numbers, sometimes it would be cheaper to hire an in-house team but you lose flexibility, you lose the capacity to deal with peaks and valleys, you lose the opportunity to work with the best talent because you have to work with whoever is available, whoever is there. And, unless you have, like I said, very repetitive, specific, let’s say that you have only legal translations into one pair of languages, and it’s repetitive in nature, and it makes sense to have a team in-house, even if it is just to edit and review other people’s translations.
Michael And one of the things I hear regularly is “we want to be the best in the world at the core of our business” and anything else that’s going to not be the core of our business, we want others who are the best in the world to do it.

So, say you’re a real estate developer who’s dealing between China and India. If part of you being the success, the best in the world in that role is having someone who can do translations to bridge that gap, it might make sense because it’s part of your core business but that’s not a full in-house language team.
Renato No, it’s usually not a good idea. There are exceptions like everything but it’s not a good idea to have a good in-house team. What’s your first “don’t”?
Michael Well, we covered my first don’t. That was don’t rely on manual process. My second is don’t tie yourself down to costly technology before you understand the full need of the services you’re getting. People think a tool is going to solve everything and that is rarely the case both in localization and outside of localization. Oftentimes, it’s the tools that enable the people to do the work correctly. And, if you think by buying this one piece of technology and dropping it into the middle of chaos is going to solve everything, it often leads to more problems and more frustration. So, if it fits within an overall plan that enables people to do their jobs better, then sure, invest in this.
Renato People often forget that when you make a commitment to a technology, you’re making a commitment that is going to last decades, sometimes, from the IT system, a translation management system, we have companies, still today, working with Idiom which is a technology that has been out of the market, theoretically, for at least 10 years, and it’s still one of the most used enterprise translation management systems. So, it’s a very good point.
Michael And just from a sheer, like the lowest level of the way my brain works, if you’re new to a role and you go out and buy this big tool and spend all this budget, you put a huge target on yourself internally as someone who doesn’t know how to manage their budget in a responsibly fiscal way.

Now, I’ve had people who have proved me wrong, who are clients and done this and done it well; but, in general, my tip is don’t invest huge in technology until you really understand your need.
Renato Yes, and the fact that you have this view of the world of build versus buy. I like to take a third route. I like to take the rent. So, you don’t need to build, you don’t need to buy, you can rent; because, one of the things that by using other people’s technology, and this can be your vendor’s technology and you protect your files, your assets – I hate that word because they’re not real assets – let’s say you own the assets but you don’t need to manage that on your technology. So, by using other people’s technology, three, four, five years from now when there is new technology that is revolutionary, you can rent it from somebody else; you didn’t invest, you don’t have capital expenditures to be depreciated and a lot of dealings with IT departments…
Michael I was just thinking about the IT team and how hard that is.
Renato So, very good tip. My second “don’t” has to do with websites. It’s a little bit of a pet beef.
Michael Oh! I think I know what it is.
Renato Don’t use flags to identify locales on your website.
Michael Or, if you do, have a whole page explaining why you used what flag for each language.
Renato Yes. It’s interesting because we live here in the United States and we tend to be very US-centric, so it’s kind of funny when you go to a German website and you see a British flag there. Many Americans don’t know that’s a British flag!
Michael The Union Jack!
Renato So, the problem with flags is that what flag are you going to use for Spanish? What flag are you going to use for French? Are you going to use a Canadian flag, is the Canadian flag French or is it English? So, there is a bunch of challenges with using that little graphic image, it’s a very bad practice. So, avoid doing that.
Michael Yes, disputed areas are a really hard place to choose a flag on as well so that’s a good one. What is your third?
Renato My third is don’t save on language barriers. Unless your product is not consumer…
Michael Consumer products are where a lot of people invest in this.
Renato Don’t skimp on different flavors of Spanish, different flavors of Portuguese; different flavors of French. French Canadian is very different from French French. And you have 21 flavors of Spanish in Latin America that are very different among themselves and different from Spanish in Spain.

The interesting thing about this is that, okay, if you’re writing a technical manual, you can work with a single version of Spanish, but when it comes to selling locally your product, the forms of treatment, the way of selling products, the world view of people in Mexico and Argentina, the two extremes of the Americas that speak Spanish, and Spain, are quite opposite in some cases. So, don’t save money on that. Do it, localize it for as many markets as you want to be successful. You can bundle a few of them but at least on your website try to sell it locally.
Michael And the intimacy you get with that decision is huge for your brand. One of the things you’ve told me is when you’re talking to a cab driver and you say “oh, what language do you speak” and maybe they speak multiple languages, if you really want to get to their native language you say “what language does your mother speak to you in?”
Renato Exactly.
Michael Yes. And so if products are able to capture that it’s huge brand value there. So, I have two that are tied together. One is a “don’t” and one is a “must do”. My advice is don’t take responsibility for mistakes when you don’t have to.
Renato Are you saying hide it under …
Michael No, I’m not. I’m saying if you’ve hired a company to work with you, sometimes it’s appropriate to throw them under the bus if they haven’t performed because the long- term good of that relationship is a greater value than the short-term set-back. There is a book called *Getting Naked*—have you read that one by Patrick Lencioni?
Renato No, but I get naked every day!
Michael You get naked all the time! So, this book, that was the one principle I took out of this was that it’s a business fairy-tale and very helpful but it’s a story of a consultant where they go into a meeting and something went on and their contact at the company just really nailed them to the wall for a mistake they made at a board meeting. And the consultant walked out and the senior guy was like “all right, that was great”. And the junior guy was going “what do you mean, we just got into a ton of trouble?” And he says “we just saved our guy’s job.” And so, I think this is helpful for people who are buying localization services but also people who are providing them because, sometimes, we do need to be the fall guy when we’re providing the localization services and then improve and get better and know that that person can rely on you to own up to the mistakes that have been made or the errors that have been introduced.
Renato It’s a life lesson.
Michael It is a life lesson; so don’t take responsibility when you don’t have to. That goes to my “must do”. This is just about trust. And trust often comes through transparency. So, if you’re building a localization program and have the opportunity to bring someone in, let them know your business goals, let them know what you’re trying to achieve. The more business conversations you have at a higher level, the better the relationship’s going to be, the better additional advice you’re going to get beyond whatever services or tools you’re buying. It works for everyone.

So, ending on this, “hey, let’s trust each other; let’s get along; let’s work for the same good”.
Renato It’s very good advice, Michael. And it’s what makes the difference between a successful relationship and a failing relationship. Very often you will see that when there is open communication, trust and a common goal you are designing a framework for success. So, excellent.
Michael Good. So, Renato, do you trust me?
Renato I trust you, against my better judgment.
Michael That’s wise. That’s like that first guy who hired me in localization said he hired me against his better judgment which, to this day, I’m grateful for! So, all right, I’ll take that. So, I hope you guys enjoyed our “must dos” and “must not dos” list.
Renato This was fun. We should do another one sometime soon. We can’t talk about favorites anymore because they won’t be favorites anymore. We used our favorites this time.
Michael We used our favorites this time so we’ll come up with some other lists.
Renato So, you listened to Globally Speaking. My name is Renato Beninatto.
Michael And I’m Michael Stevens.
Renato This is a production of Burns360. We can be found at; you can download our podcasts on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher. And what do people do if they want to talk to us?
Michael Drop us a note on the website; we’d love to hear your thoughts on this show; if you have any suggestions on topics, anything, let us know.
Renato Yes, just give us a topic and we’ll riff, we can talk about anything!

End of conversation


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