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Localization FAQ

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.

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