By Jeff Steele
When Willy Brandt, the former German Chancellor, made his famous quote about selling in foreign markets, he didn’t have software developers specifically in mind. If he were making the same point today, he just might.
Brandt said, “If I am selling to you, I speak your language. If I am buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen.”
No matter what language used, never have his words been truer in the software space. The global explosion in online, mobile, and social media usage has created unprecedented demand for language translation and localization services.
The problem, however, becomes that software developers and language professionals usually don’t speak the same language. As a rule, developers understand the importance of internationalization—commonly referred to as I18N—because it deals with the underlying source code itself. Creating one generic code base that is locale-neutral and has the ability to support numerous languages is a required step of any global software product launch.
Once the I18N process is finished, global products must be adapted for specific countries or regions. Product localization—or L10N as it is called in the industry—is just as critical to the software development process as I18N, because without it, internationalized source code only speaks to machines, not users.
Unfortunately, many software developers, if not the majority, perceive localization as a management function that falls outside of the IT realm. Too often it is equated with translation, and once the product is translated and delivered, many developers believe the L10N process is finished.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the global adoption of technology driven communication tools has led to skyrocketing demand for L10N solutions that happen virtually in real time.
Today, global brands monitor social media comments and feedback in dozens of languages, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Mobile apps are translated into more than a 100 languages within a 24 hour period. Global SEO programs must be localized for international target markets. Agile development requires faster turnaround times.
The examples could go on, but the point is clear. The L10N needs of software companies that play in the international arena have grown beyond I18N-driven functions into what has now become a bona fide—and increasingly critical—managed IT service.
Empowering the L10N Process
Effective I18N and L10N solutions both involve specialized skills that require many different roles and responsibilities at every stage of their development, from the planning period, to project delivery, to ongoing implementation.
However, most software developers don’t understand what these roles are, nor do they have the skills and training required to implement them successfully. As shown in Figure 1, managed services can augment I18N and L10N effectiveness at any phase.
Because managed language services are customized, it’s virtually impossible to give a precise definition of what they entail from a software localization perspective. A working definition, however, is that managed language services involve “the provisioning of specialty resources to aid in the successful completion of any I18N or L10N project.”
Each situation is unique, but the underlying need for managed language services remains the same. If companies want to communicate with international target audiences today, they need to manage the entire process proactively and on an ongoing basis. In addition, when technology is involved, the result requires a combination of Language Service Providers (LSPs) and traditional software development skills.
A good example is a Fortune 100 company that needs a community moderator to manage ongoing communications with its Chinese and Korean communities. The LSP provides the company with bilingual moderators who not only understand what kind of content is suitable or unsuitable for an online support forum, but also work around the clock to review discussion forum posts and comments.
Another example is a global service provider that needs to hire and on-board designated language leads in dozens of foreign markets. It’s the responsibility of the managed services team to work with specific country managers to moderate discussion, flag inappropriate content, and generally manage the firm’s local presence in many linguistically diverse communities.
Today, every global brand needs to monitor and communicate with its user communities, moderate international discussions, expand the user base to new countries and cultures, and continually translate and update international communication programs.
The result is an emerging demand for managed language services, and the ability to use them in order to augment I18N and L10N can translate to staggering opportunities worldwide. SW
Jeff Steele is director of managed Services for Moravia, a globalization solution provider that enables companies in the information technology, e-learning, and life sciences industries to enter global markets with multilingual products. Visit www.moravia.com or contat firstname.lastname@example.org, 310-418-4705 for more information.
Feb2014, Software Magazine