The mission of Going Global is to educate and inform Midwest technology companies on what local technology companies are doing internationally so other firms can learn from the successes of like-minded peers.
CHICAGO Ė Brian Briggs has been in the localization industry since 1995 when he founded Language Partners International (LPI). LPI is a provider of computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools and services in the global market.
After being acquired in 2001 by SDL International, which is the third-largest provider of localization services, Briggs became vice president of SDLís localization products division where he was responsible for its translation and localization products.
He is now the head of business development in Deerfield, Ill. for Acclaro, which is a mid-sized provider of localization services based on a new open localization model.
Briggs has an extensive background in applying advanced information technology to solve international business problems. He has held various management positions with firms including IBM, McKinsey & Company, Comdisco and several other software companies.
He holds a masterís degree in computer engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a bachelorís of science from the University of Illinois. Briggs sat down with ePrairie international expert Michael Muth to discuss globalization, internationalization and localization.
Michael Muth: Please define globalization.
Brian Briggs: Globalization is the process of developing, manufacturing and marketing software products or digital content intended for worldwide distribution. There are two components to the process: internationalization (enabling the product to be used without language or culture barriers) and localization (translating and enabling the product for a specific locale).
MM: Please define internationalization.
BB: Internationalization is primarily an engineering process where you prepare your software or digital content so it can be localized into other languages and locales.
For example, a properly internationalized software application has all its translatable text externalized from the code to files that can be easily found and translated. Itís also able to handle things like multi-byte character sets (such as Japanese and Chinese), text expansion (some translated strings may expand by 30 percent to 50 percent over English), multilingual sorting patterns and currency denominations.
MM: Please define localization.
BB: In a general sense, localization is the act of converting something into the language and culture of a local market. In the context of software, itís the process of converting a program to run in a particular locale or country so all text is properly displayed in the native language and native conventions are used for sorting and formatting.
MM commentary: I think these three terms are often confused and used interchangeably. They shouldnít be. Briggs does a good job of clarifying the differences.
MM: How is localization more than just translation?
BB: In the context of software or digital content, it includes all the technical tasks associated with making it work in the local language and culture.
A simple example is the need for resizing dialogues and controls of a user interface to accommodate longer character strings or different hot key letters. Testing the translated application is also a significant part of the task. With document content, youíll find that some countries have different customs for organizing their documents than we have in the U.S.
MM commentary: Though some people see localization as just another word for translation, thatís not really the case.
MM: Who needs localization?
BB: Conventional wisdom is that if you are trying to sell me something, you better speak to me in my language. Though English may sometimes be the language of business, the closer you get to retail consumers, the more important it is to be speaking their language.
MM commentary: In other words, if youíre considering doing business in any country outside your home market, you need to look into localizing for different languages and cultures. That even includes Canada, the U.K. and Australia because even though they are very similar to America, natives will notice the differences if you donít pay attention to them.
MM: Whatís typically localized and whatís typically not localized?
BB: In addition to the product itself, you ideally want to localize all the pre- and post-sale information and customer touch points. Things that are typically localized for a product or service include marketing collateral and communications, the product itself, manuals and product documentation, marketing Web sites and support FAQs.
MM commentary: In addition to marketing content, technical support documentation should also be localized.
MM: What is machine translation?
BB: Machine translation (MT) is what most people think of when it comes to computers and translation. With origins that date back to military intelligence during the cold war era, it is software that mechanically converts one language into another.
What you get is a draft translation where the quality can vary greatly based on the language and how the source material was written. Itís kind of like traveling through Europe with your college roommate who barely made it through two semesters of French. While you wonít impress anyone, itís a lot easier to find the bathroom.
Recent advances have improved its quality, however, and we are finding better ways to include it into translation solutions.
MM: How do you evaluate machine-generated translations?
BB: What you donít want do is run some raw text through the machine translation and then ask a native speaker what they think about it. Thereís a certain level of built-in skepticism with anything they get out of this by a native speaker. Thereís always something funny or wrong about it.
If you set the right level of expectation and use it as part of the solution for the right business problem, you can get some great value from it. For example, we have a large telecom that uses it as part of a solution for localizing large product manuals. Theyíre using a process that includes glossary development and a controlled authoring environment to produce very acceptable quality.
There are also solutions that use MT to get the ďgistĒ of a document. These can then be fine tuned with human post-editors who revise any bad translations.
MM: What is computer-assisted translation?
BB: It is the act of applying computer automation to the act of human translation. It is database-driven technology that reuses previously translated material to allow the translator to focus only on the parts that are new or have changed.
Itís especially helpful with repetitive or revision-oriented documentation or digital content. It usually includes translation memory for sentences and strings and terminology management for creating and reusing translated terms.
MM: How should local firms use translation memory?
BB: For the most part, we recommend for local firms or their service providers to use translation memory on nearly everything. Even on small documents, it can help with the consistency of translation.
MM commentary: While MT and CAT are a good starting point, they are rarely sufficient for customer-ready materials. A human being almost always has to take a look before another human being (a real live customer) is ready to see it.
MM: Whatís Unicode and why is it important?
BB: Over the history of the computer and its adoption around the world, various methods have evolved for electronically representing character sets. While ASCII and ANSI are two examples weíre familiar with, there are actually very many of them.
Unicode is a consortium-driven effort thatís backed by all the major industry players to define a single, standard encoding method to represent text in all the worldís languages. Unicode helps eliminate inconsistencies between encoding methods, the inability to display characters and the need for converting between encoding schemes.
MM commentary: While Unicode is something you might not ever see, itís good to be aware of it.
MM: Where do OCR and voice recognition software fit with localization?
BB: OCR usually isnít a factor within localization. We usually work with electronic source material whereas OCR injects a lot of extra clean-up effort since itís usually no better than 95 percent accurate. While some translators claim to get good efficiencies with voice recognition by dictating their translations, they are a small few representing less than 1 percent of the translators out there.
MM commentary: While OCR might not hold much promise, I believe this will be an important trend in localization given the advances in speech recognition.
MM: How is localization different for different media?
BB: There are different levels of complexity that range from plain text documents to full-blown multimedia software applications. The trick comes in knowing what you can do in parallel and what is best to be sequenced. For example, you can often reuse the translations from the user interface into online help and documentation and you often need to get those tasks going in parallel. By using the right tools, you can accomplish both.
MM commentary: Not surprisingly, with increasing levels of complexity also come commensurate increases in cost.
Michael Muth is managing director of GATA, an international business development consultancy that helps technology companies build international partnerships. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here for Muthís full biography.
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