What is Localization?
Localization is the process of translating a piece of software
or a web site from one natural language to another. For instance,
in France people do not use the same version of Windows that is
used in America. They use a localized version with help, menu
commands, and installation instructions in their native language.
Very often cultural aspects and information must be translated
as well as the language.
How Much Does Localization Cost?
Localization normally starts at the cost of high-end translation
jobs ($.30 per word) and goes up from there. The best way to
keep costs down is to get a project bid. It is vital to
understand that outsourcing your localization to an inferior
company can be the death of your project. Localization horror
stories are not hard to come by in this industry. In short, make
sure you are dealing with good companies.
What Does the Localization Process Entail?
Localization is normally done with a specialized software tool
such as Catalyst from Alchemy Software. These tools allow the
translator to translate the menus, help, html, and prompts into
another language without disturbing the code base. Then Catalyst
automatically places the translated natural language back into
the code base of the program. Now you have a localized version.
With advanced features like Translation Memory, Catalyst allows
the localizer to 'leverage' his work on previous translations
thereby localizing minor updates automatically.
I am skeptical. What kind of professional
tips can you give me that I can’t get by looking around the Web
at localized sites?
There are too many tips to name all of them, but here is an
example. Many web sites that are poorly localized have flags
that represent the different languages. People click on the
flags to display the language of their choice. This can actually
alienate more users than it impresses. For English language
navigation, should a British flag, a Canadian flag, a United
States flag, or an Australian flag be presented? Wouldn't
shipping policies, spelling, and even marketing talk be
different in different English speaking countries? This may not
seem so severe an example, but for many country / language
combinations it is easier to offend than to make a good
impression! Perhaps the best way to localize a big site that
covers many regions is to ask the user on the entry page what
his 'locale preference' is and then proceed.