I’ve written about setting expectations with service providers and I’ve explained what your editor needs to know here, and transcribers here – now it’s the turn of localisation services (or localization providers).
What is localisation / localization?
In brief, localisation involves turning one variant of a language into another variant of that language. For example, text written in Portugal might be localised for Brazilian Portuguese, text published in France localised into Canadian French. In my case, I work from US (or other non-UK) English into UK English.
Some quick characteristics of localisation:
- It’s not just a question of changing spellings, although that’s obviously important – grammar and particularly punctuation can be very different in US and UK English.
- While -z- spellings are “allowed” in the Oxford variety of English, I have to be careful not to use this style, as my clients like to see the text “looking British”, even if they’re not expert in what that means, and that means -s- spellings all round!
- Sometimes quite complicated cultural issues need to be unpicked and changed – for example references to sports that are very common in the US, even in metaphors, often don’t translate well for British readers.
- These cultural differences can be even more wide-ranging: for example, I have been asked to localise for “all parts of the English-speaking world” and therefore having to use pretty bland and universal terms and references.
- Sometimes the original text has errors and I might need to alert the client to those.
- You have to be open to using lots of different systems for this work: I might be presented with a document in Word, Excel, output from a translation tool in weird columns, or translation software.
- You have to be aware, like translators, that there is sometimes only a small amount of space for the text – the localised text might need to conform to a particular character length or space, and that can be difficult as UK words are often longer than their US counterparts.
- You have to be aware of what NOT to localise, e.g. the US Department of Defense would be spelled like that, as would the World Health Organization, because those are their official titles.
- Really, you have to be experienced in the other culture and language as well as your own: I got into this because I used to work for the UK office of an American company, so was used to the differences between the languages and had written business communications in both variants.
- Like translators, you should never localise out of your mother tongue into the other variant, unless you are truly bilingual.
Who needs localisation?
All of my localisation work comes through third-party agencies rather than directly. These will be translation or editing agencies which have clients around the world. Therefore all the advice I have given about agencies in my original article applies here, too.
Sometimes, localisation is combined with another skill such as editing or keyword insertion for SEO (search engine optimisation) purposes. Clients should expect to pay extra for combined services, as they involve the service provider concentrating on more than one service. Not everyone can offer this, either!
What does your localiser need to know in advance?
Your localization service provider will need to know in advance:
- How big is the project (word count)?
- Which language variant is it from / to (this means they can let you know if they don’t offer that language pair)?
- What format is the work in (Word, Excel, a file to open in a standard translation software programme / in a web-bases proprietary or general programme)?
- What is the topic (I once worked on a football (soccer) game’s text and spent a lot of time looking things up and asking people questions …)?
- Is this just localisation or do you need editing services or another service like keyword insertion?
- Are there special conditions, for example, needing to fit the text to a particular length?
- The usual information on when the text will be ready and the deadline
If you work for an agency, you also need to provide this information, to be fair on the localiser
- Is the job a quotation or a guaranteed job?
- When you will know whether you have succeeded in getting the job
… and then let the localiser know whether or not you have succeeded in getting the job, so they can stop saving space in their schedule for it.
Why does my localizer need all this information?
Your localiser needs this information because without it they can’t give you an accurate and fair price and turnaround quotation.
For example, if you contact me to say you have 10,000 words of localisation to be done and you think it’s in a Word document …
- If it turns out to be in proprietary software that I need to learn, I will need to put aside a few hours (at least) to learn how to use the software
- If the text needs to be edited as well as localised, that’s two processes, will take me longer, and will cost more
The more information that you can give your localiser / localizer before they quote for you, the more accurate their quotation will be, and the more likely they are to be able to do the job once they’ve committed to it initially.
In this article, I’ve discussed what information your localiser or localization service needs before they can prepare a quotation and let you know if they can do a job. I’ve also probably annoyed you with my inconsistent spellings – but short of writing two entirely differently worded articles for US and UK searchers, this is what I have to do to be found by people who might find this article useful!
I hope you’ve found this useful – do hit the share buttons or comment if you have!
Other useful articles on this blog