Friday, 1st September 2006
Information professionals deal with fewer borders than many other business people. Researchers often work for clients in different countries, and many companies use technology that must make sense to an international workforce. But when you're working with words, sometimes you need more than translation -- you need localisation. A document can be translated word-perfect, yet not be effective in another market due to differences in the way local businesses operate and the way people think.
Through the process of localisation, writers translate the words and adapt the content of a source document to the needs and norms of the target country or market. Yet they can only work with what they are given -- part of the responsibility for effective localisation lies with the generator of the source document. After all, poorly written English cannot be turned into good Japanese.
Going to the source
Anyone, be it a technical writer or you, generating the source document becomes an important part of the localisation process. Their job is already pretty tough. They must:
It's no wonder that the requirements of localisation are rarely at the top of writers' lists. Some essential tips can make a big difference in how well writers can produce documents that reduce the challenges of global communication.
Plan for success
There is no substitute for a good plan. This happens from the moment a company, a department or a writer knows that documentation will need to be translated and localised. The individuals involved can build a plan that will help the process run smoothly and have a positive outcome.
Create a standard workflow
Create a workflow or standard operating procedure that takes into account the needs of localisation. For example, if your organisation has international offices which will be reviewing and validating documents following translation and prior to release, incorporate that step and required time within the workflow. If the piece requires desktop publishing, determine whether it will be completed internally or if it will be outsourced.
Another element to consider in the area of workflow is consistency and document streamlining. If several individuals or departments will be creating source documents, be sure they are all working in tandem, with the same style guide and glossaries. One of my clients recently submitted a project made of up technical documents created by several writers; none of the documents conformed to a template or style guide. The company later revised its procedures, created a style guide and updated all documents using a modular system. As a result, they were able to reduce the word count of the source documents by 41 percent, resulting in significant savings in translation and localisation costs.
Budget time realistically
Translation and localisation projects require adequate time, usually calculated based on the length of the document. Other variables that may impact the timeframe are: the technical difficulty of the text, the review and validation processes in your workflow, and formatting or production of the final text in appropriate format(s).
Budget finances realistically
Localising can be expensive, especially for projects with multiple target markets. Keep in mind that localisation may be different, even when the target language is the same. A document will need to be localised separately for Chile and Argentina, even though Latin American Spanish is the target language for both countries.
Remember, too, that words are money, when it comes to translation and localisation. Many factors go into estimating the costs of a translation project, but the most important one is word count. One of our clients regularly produces documents in 26 languages; when you add up the cost of translation, localisation, validation and production, it comes to $9.72 per word.
Invest in your resources
Templated documents and style guides take time and resources to develop, but they ultimately serve to reduce your costs and improve your results. A specialised term glossary can also be a worthwhile investment, since a major challenge in localising documents is how to handle industry- or company-specific terminology, abbreviations and product nomenclature. Investing in the creation of such glossaries improves accuracy and consistency of your documentation, while reducing costs.
Writing for localisation
Companies can also invest in their resources by providing specific training and support to technical writers and others who create source documents. Build awareness and skill in your team for the requirements of localisation, and you will reduce your headaches -- and your costs
-- for every project.
These tips can get you started:
Writing style tips
Ready to go local?
While these tips can help you start with improved localisation processes, an experienced language services company can help you take it further. Translation and language consulting companies can proactively identify solutions and suggest approaches to save you money while improving results. It's always a good idea to involve your vendor early in the process -- experienced professionals can spot potential issues early on, which may mitigate or eliminate barriers later, when changes can be expensive.
Most importantly, work in partnership with your vendor to provide resources and reference materials, work through solutions and review your processes. The more you communicate with your vendor, the better job they can do for you.
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