Languages, Locales and Challenges

When it’s time to localize your product, choosing your target markets is a crucial step. Once you have narrowed down which languages to localize into, the trickiest part might be yet to come: opting for the locale that makes the most sense for your company. Neutral language localization can help your company cover more target markets more efficiently.

Many locales (variants) can exist within the same language depending on the countries and regions where that language is spoken. For example, American English is different from British English. One can rightfully argue that localizing in one or another does not matter much since users will generally be able to understand other variants of their language. However, the main idea behind localization is to adapt the content of your product so that the user has the impression that it could have been created in his/her country or region. This in turn can increase positive perception of your product. An appropriate localization strategy allows you to adapt your product to each new target market in a way that benefits your company. A product that speaks to your consumers in their language and culture is more likely to be successful.

Multinational companies that have the time and budget may therefore decide to localize for several locales (e.g. both American and British English), but that might be more difficult for other companies that do not have the same financial resources, as localization costs money. However, localizing for only one locale often means less opportunity and revenue for your company. Therefore it can also be very difficult to decide which locale will be the best bet for your product. That’s when neutral language localization comes into play.

What is Neutral Language?

Neutral or universal language is a language which doesn’t pertain to just one specific country or region. It can instead be understood anywhere that language is spoken while also not being offensive to any speakers of that language. This approach is budget-friendly as you only have to localize your product once instead of multiple times for multiple locales. Let’s take a look at a case study featuring neutral Spanish:

With over 463 million native-speakers, Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. It’s an official language in 20 countries and is usually one of the first languages to be localized when expanding to the European market. Localizing products in Spanish is therefore crucial for many companies. 

However, there are many variations within Spanish (terminology, syntax and even ways of addressing people) depending on the country or region. It’s also often thought that there are only two types of Spanish: Castillian (from Spain) and a Latin American variation. However, there is no such thing as a common Spanish in the Americas. Words or expressions that are completely normal in some Latin American countries can be seen as confusing, ridiculous, or even offensive in others, depending on the context in which they are being used.

In this case study, tech giant Microsoft opted for a global and inexpensive approach by localizing some of its products in neutral Spanish. Here are some examples:

  • Choosing terms that are not used anywhere but that are understandable in every country. An example would be “computer,” which can be translated as “ordenador,” “computador” or “computadora” depending on the region. Instead of picking one of these, they decided to use “PC” and “equipo.”
  • Using gender-neutral possessives for borrowed English nouns and acronyms to avoid conflicts about gender. Depending on the country, these nouns may be considered either masculine or feminine (for example, “tu PC” (your PC) instead of “el/la PC”).
  • Excluding terms that have offensive or vulgar connotations in some Spanish-speaking countries.
    The complete Style Guide can be downloaded here.

Conclusion

Hence, opting for neutral language localization can be an efficient way to target multiple markets at a lower cost. Although it would be interesting to know how satisfied Microsoft’s users are with neutral Spanish, this approach remains a good option for companies that want to localize in a language but don’t know which locale to pick or don’t have the budget to localize for several locales. 

If you want to know more about localization, visit the TCLoc Master’s program website. Feel free to share this article on social media!

Due to the process of globalization, businesses have recently realized they need to translate, or to use the correct terminology, localize websites to make their products and services available all over the world for different target groups and markets. In comparison to translation, which essentially means transforming text from a source language into a target language, website localization requires an additional set of skills to tailor content to appeal to specific markets.

There are 5 levels of website localization that companies can adopt (Singh & Pereira: 2005). Let’s have a look at each of them and what their advantages and disadvantages are.

1-Standardized websites

When a company uses a single website for all countries, this is known as a standardized website. The same content is provided to domestic and international website visitors. They also do not have the option to switch between languages. Tyco’s website is one of the many examples of standardized websites that we can find online.

Advantages: The business can focus on one target locale only and thus develop products and services tailored to these customers. This requires a smaller staff and budget than for global product launches or campaigns.

Disadvantages: Your capacity for reaching different audiences and markets is minimal, if not zero. A business with a standardized website will only reach local customers and maybe a few customers from other countries that already know about their business and are fluent in the website’s language.

2-Semi-localized websites

As the name implies, a semi-localized website only provides a few translated sections, for instance just the contact page. This kind of semi-localization is often used for online shopping since it is not always necessary to translate the whole website, as we can see in Gap’s website for example.

Advantages: The main advantage of only having a few sections translated is that you can still reach a broader range of target markets (e.g. thanks to localized product tiles, a localized contact page, etc.) as the most relevant sections of the site are localized. This makes sense for businesses who offer online shopping and whose customers already know their product lines.  Customers only have to navigate through the menu, the product tiles and possibly the purchase process.

Disadvantages: As for standardized websites, target market impact is limited. Additionally it might also give visitors the impression that the site is not finished or not professional because only certain sections are translated. 

3-Localized websites

This is the most common level of localization. There is a whole translated site for each country and most content and pages are localized. Specific regional adaptation is often not carried out, however.. Dell’s website is a good example of what a localized website looks like.

Advantages: The size of the target audience is widely expanded in comparison to the semi-localized website. Customers can easily navigate through the website, understand every product display and explanation and walk through the payment process.

Disadvantages: These websites are solidly adapted to their target markets. Their only disadvantage is that their layout, products and services might not be as well tailored to the target audience as in the next two levels of localization we will see. 

4-Highly localized websites

In addition to localizing content, there are culture-specific adaptations that companies should consider. This global localization includes translated content and site structure so that they are fully adapted to the target locale. Even country-specific URLs are provided. 

Advantages: The big advantage of this type of localization is that an originally foreign business can achieve the look and feel of a local company. This is because its website is fully adapted to suit the target language(s) and culture.

Disadvantages: There is hardly any disadvantage to this type of localization. Every product and service page is entirely localized to the target market and provides a fully user-friendly experience.

A very good example is Amazon’s website. Just switch between different markets and see what changes you can see on the website.

5-Culturally-adapted websites

A culturally-adapted website is basically a new site completely adapted to the target culture and is thus the most advanced level of localization. It is even referred to as a total immersion in the target locale. On this type of website, perception, symbolism and behavior of users are taken into account. 

Localizing a website as a translator
Localizing a website as a translator

Advantages: The great advantage of a culturally-adapted website is that a business can manage to penetrate markets that are normally resistant to foreign companies. The website looks like a local business and even heavily cultural aspects such as colors, festivities, holidays and more are taken into account.

Disadvantages: The only downside might be on the financial side. Depending on the size of the company, it has to invest in  hiring employees who are experts in the culture of the target locale and who create individual campaigns, products and services tailored to the target audience(s). That might require hiring many more employees in order to have teams in charge of each region or country the company operates in.

A very good example is IKEA’s website. Switch through the UK, German, Arab and Japanese websites to see how not only the language changes, but also the product display and campaigns.

How to determine which level of localized website to adopt?

To decide what degree of website localization to adopt, a business first needs to determine who their target audiences are and what budget they have. The localization of a website requires more skill sets than what a translator usually has to offer. As a localization specialist, you need to be familiar with e-commerce and user experience. You must also be familiar with cultural aspects of the target culture such as national holidays, customs, seasonal trends, etc. In addition, it is always beneficial to have background knowledge about HTML and CSS to understand the basics of how a website is built.

For those on the other side who make content first hand, here are two other practical blog articles that might help you with creating localization-friendly and adaptable content for an international audience:

What are your thoughts about website localization? Don’t hesitate to comment or share this article on your social media channels!

Whether you’re new to Project Management or already have some experience, this article provides a quick guide on how milestones can help you manage your localization project.

One of the teaching units in the Technical Communication and Localization (TCLoc) program is about Project Management. Some students may be new to this subject and want to explore more. Others may have some experience already, whether as a project manager/coordinator or as a freelance linguist.

Although translation and localization projects often seem quite transactional with quick turnaround times, it is still important to have a project plan in place. After all, the most common question stakeholders and clients ask is: is the project on track?

That question is easy to respond to when you have a concrete schedule and set milestones.

Why Include Milestones in Your Project Plan?

A milestone, as defined in the PMBOK® Guide and Standards, is a significant point or event in a project. Milestones have no duration because they represent a single significant point or event, unlike stages in a project that you must go through in order to complete your project.

This sounds easy. However, in reality sometimes we do not know what type of milestones we should set up for our own project plans.

So, who needs milestones? Why can milestones help in localization project management? What are typical milestones in translation and localization projects?

For a freelance linguist dealing with a project manager from a translation agency or language service provider, typical milestones are closely related to scheduling, completion status of the translation, editing, and/or proofreading. For a project manager, setting up milestones helps them track a project’s progress and aim for a deliverable. Milestones are extremely important if you have to deal with large projects or staggered deliverables.

Some examples of Milestones

This CLDR – Unicode Common Locale Data Repository page shows some of my favorite examples of milestones. On the left of the page you can see a Milestone Schedule.

CLDR localization steps for project managers and linguists have 5 milestones: preparation, shakedown submission, general submission, vetting, and resolution. This means that once you complete the first milestone, i.e. preparation, you have just completed 20% of the project. When you reach the end of the second milestone, i.e. shakedown submission, you have completed 40% of the project, and so on.

Other simple examples of milestones are those that have already been embedded in certain Translation Management Systems (TMS) commonly used by translation agencies as automatic job assignments. You can read more details about TMSs on the GALA website: Translation Management System. A project typically consists of translation, editing, and proofreading. Each of these stages can be considered a milestone. So when a translator completes a translation and returns or uploads the file to the TMS, the program marks this first milestone as complete and automatically moves to the next milestone, editing. The process repeats until the last milestone is reached. The project manager/coordinator only needs to establish the starting date of each milestone.

The examples shown below are taken from a book translation project led by a freelance project manager in charge of a team of a few translators and an editor. She created a simple Google sheet document and shared it with her linguist team. The milestones were chapters of the book.

Example of milestones from a book translation project

Tools to Use for Tracking Milestones

There are several online tools available for you to set your milestones (for example, see Capterra.com). However, for more straightforward projects, the easiest way to monitor your milestones is to simply create an Excel sheet or a Google sheet like the example above.

Conclusions and Next Steps

A milestone is an important component in project management. It can be a useful tool to communicate with clients and stakeholders about the progress of a project.

As you can see from the above examples, if milestones focus on monitoring the progress of a project, they are useful in scheduling. In short, when your milestones are not on track, it means you’re behind schedule with your project and vice versa.

If you find this article useful, please leave a comment below or share it on social media.

Interested in learning more about technical communication and localization? Visit the TCLoc master program webpage to find out more about this exciting distance-learning master’s program.

As a localization project manager for medical documentation, I receive a lot of back translation requests from clients. If you work for a Language Service Provider and have never heard of the back translation process before, don’t worry and keep reading to find out!

What is back translation?

Back translation is the process of translating a previously translated text back into the original source language.

It is essentially aimed at providing additional quality assurance of the translated text. Your goal is to improve the quality of the translation and the back translation process is a means for achieving this.

Translation is a very subjective activity. Even the most experienced translators can accidentally leave some text untranslated or mistranslate some terms. Adding this step to your translation process will increase its quality and reduce risks. 

In this article published by Chronicle, the American Translators Association magazine, you will find some real examples, insights, and common pitfalls of back translation.

When is it needed?

Generally speaking, your client will ask for a back translation when the content of the documents to translate is highly valuable and where an erroneous translation could have major consequences.

Back translations are very common in the Life Science industry which requires multiple levels of quality control. Most frequently, a back translation service is requested to satisfy legal or regulatory requirements.

A quick overview of the process

  • The target language text is translated back into the original source language.
  • The back translated text is then compared to the original source text, segment by segment, to find any inaccuracies and differences in meaning. This step is called “reconciliation”.
  • A “reconciliation report” is generated. It contains all the issues found during the comparison step and these issues could relate to either the forward or back translation.
  • The reconciliation report is sent to the original translator (forward translator), who goes through the issues, verifies if they are actual translation mistakes or just false positives, and corrects the translation.
  • The report is also sent to the back translator, if the issues flagged also affect back translation.
  • The final output of the whole process is an updated translation where all issues have been corrected. The back-translated text and the reconciliation report are your verification documents for audit purposes. The back translation is generally delivered together with the forward translation.

Pros and Cons

Translation is not a perfect science and back translation is never a guarantee for perfect quality. A back translation process can only mitigate risks.

Pros

Back translation increases the likelihood of finding and correcting that basic errors like omissions or inaccuracies before the text is sent to the client. This allows you to save time and money compared to when an error is caught at a later stage, when changes are no longer possible or more expensive to implement.

With back translation, linguists will read the text from different perspectives and this becomes an opportunity to identify errors and inconsistencies in the source text. This is not the primary benefit of the process, but it helps the client improve the original documentation’s quality for future use.

Cons

The main drawback of this extra layer of quality check is cost. Back translation requires double the effort of forward translation. 

Turnaround times and time in general are additional factors to consider in a back translation. Due to the number of linguists involved and the fact that all translation and back translation activities happen in sequence, the time needed to complete the final documents could be twice that of a standard translation process.

Another element to take into consideration is that the back translation will never guarantee that the final document is 100% perfect. It is not aimed at identifying grammatical, spelling or punctuation errors. These issues should be identified and corrected during the forward translation stage, using additional proofreading steps or QA testing tools.

Tips

Communication is key. Your client will most likely be unaware of the different steps in translation, how long it takes, or why it is so expensive. Take the time to explain the process and avoid using confusing jargon.

You will encounter some resistance among linguists as well. The process is more time consuming and stressful than a simple translation. Again, as above, try to clearly define the scope of the task, explaining what is needed for each step. A strong relationship with linguists or language vendors will ensure that the process is easier to manage. Have a look at this blog post for some tips on how to collaborate effectively with language vendors.

It may seem obvious, but different linguists should carry out the forward and back translations. The forward translator should be a native speaker of the target language, while the back translator and the reviewer should be native speakers of the source language. Their common trait should be that both are experts in the subject matter of the text.

One suggestion for a successful back translation is to never inform the forward translator that there will be a back translation. The forward translator might be tempted to produce a very literal translation so that they can avoid queries, which will impact the stylistic aspect of the text.

The back translator, on the contrary, should be made aware that the task is a back translation. In this case, a more literal translation is what is required and they should not be preoccupied with stylistic constraints.

Conclusion

Your role as localization project manager is critical as you coordinate all activities and ensure that both the forward translator and the back translator implement the changes as required. In case of disagreements between linguists, you will mediate the review, with the end goal of ensuring that a common view is achieved to produce the best possible translation within the allocated time.

Back translation is just one of many tools that you can use to have more control on the final quality of a translation. With more experience, you will be able to advise your clients when the back translation process is the right choice for language validation of translated documents.

If you have any questions or you want to share your experience, submit a comment in the section below!

To read more posts about the translation and localization industry, visit the TCLoc blog section

Did you ever wonder if Jaskier from The Witcher series had the same name in different languages? Or how accents are represented in different languages? Only a few people know that cultural and language differences impact TV series and movies, and that localization affects our daily life in unexpected ways. Let’s look at some examples.

Cultural differences – different names

In the Polish original, Jaskier’s name translates to Buttercup, the German Rittersporn to Delphinium and the English books talk about Dandelion, but the English TV Series uses Jaskier again. It’s obvious that the different languages and media opted for a well-known little flower with outstanding yellow petals. But why not keep the translation of the original name?

The German translation of the plant Jaskier (Hahnenfuß) evokes a rooster – which might lead to false assumptions about the bard’s singing skills. So, it’s quite convenient that there is a flower (Rittersporn) with the same colors that is common and whose name includes the word ‘knight’ (Ritter). But in contrast to the German localization experts, Lauren Hissrich, the television producer responsible for the American series, didn’t keep the books’ choice. In an interview with Comicbook.com she even stated: “Dandelion […], how would I get that?”

This statement leaves the impression that the English book name wouldn’t be understood or accepted by English speaking viewers compared to German and Polish audiences. Localization experts handled the translated name in different ways, adapting to the cultural differences while respecting language specifications as well.

Accents in different languages

Remember, localization experts and translators do not always have to be bilingual, but they (must) have a high level of expertise for both cultures in order to know how to bridge any potential discrepancy of meaning created by language differences. The last example bears witness to this expertise of localization professionals in different languages: how do you translate and localize an accent while making it sound natural to the target audience? Like other children’s animated movies, Beauty and the Beast’s Lumière was the object of localization. But why?

In the case of Lumière, the French chandelier in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the English and the German versions of the movie simply gave him a French accent. In the French version, naturally all of the characters speak French, so how was Lumière’s accent supposed to stand out?

The localization department opted for a kind of old French accent that is reminiscent of an Italian accent in French. Lumière’s way of pronouncing the consonant [r] as the [r] latine marks him as somebody of a different era, as the [r] latine was used until the 17th or 18th century. This trick did not only match the story timeline of the movie (a castle that was enchanted in the Renaissance). It also shows the expertise of the localization and translation team in the target language.

As these two examples show, localization is a target audience-based process: culture and language contribute heavily to determine the content of TV series and movies. In return we can learn differences about other cultures from that content, making localization not only a business tool but also a bridge between cultures that we need now, maybe more than ever.

If this article incites further interest in you about the field of localization, check out the TCLoc Master’s Program at the University of Strasbourg!

No matter if you are a small business or a multinational corporation, it is hard for you to ignore the Chinese-speaking market nowadays. Almost 20% of the world’s population speak Chinese. And China has become the world’s second largest economy since 2017. With no doubt, you need your website to be localized into Chinese. It will definitely expand your presence in the market and eventually boost your revenue.

How to get a successful Chinese localization of your website? You may have some idea, or you may have no clue. Anyway, here are 5 golden tips we gathered to help you out!

Where Is Your Audience?

As you may know, people in Spain do not speak the same Spanish as people in Latin America. With Chinese, it is similar. Not all the 1.5 billion Chinese-speaking people speak the same Chinese. You have to specify what your target market is. Where is the audience of your website? Are they in China, if yes, which China? People’s Republic of China, or Republic of China, which you may know better as “Taiwan”. Or maybe you are targeting the market in Hong Kong specifically. Or you run your business in the United States only, and you would like to increase your market share in the Chinese-speaking population in the United States.

一張含有 建築物, 標誌, 街道, 室外 的圖片

自動產生的描述

Traditional vs. Simplified Chinese

This may seem confusing, but if you answered the previous question, the answer would be simple. The government of the People’s Republic of China created and promoted Simplified Chinese in the 1950s to increase the literacy rate of the people. So, if you are going to the market of China, you need to localize your website into Simplified Chinese. However, if you are going to Taiwan, you need to use Traditional Chinese. Though the government of Taiwan has never promoted Simplified Chinese, it is interesting that the literacy rate of Taiwan is higher than China. For Hong Kong and Macau, which have become the Special Administrative Regions (SAR) of China since 1997 and 1999, Traditional Chinese is still officially used. For overseas Chinese in other countries, they may use Traditional or Simplified Chinese based on where they originally came from. Our suggestion is always to start with Traditional Chinese, and if you have more budget, then go for Simplified Chinese.

一張含有 室內, 桌, 坐, 束 的圖片

自動產生的描述

Chinese Localization Is Not Just Translation Into Chinese

Translation is the process of converting an original source language into another different target language. Localization is way more than that. It is a process of adapting a translation not only in language, but also to a specific country or region. Meeting both cultural and functional expectations is even more crucial in Chinese localization. You have to be aware that some political issues are very sensitive in Chinese society and some cultural boundaries should not be crossed. Other than that, make sure to convert the currencies, measurements, date and time formats, and telephone numbers to what is used in that country or region. Furthermore, update your social media icons. Use Wechat and Weibo if you are entering China, since Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube are all blocked there. Also update your payment methods – Alipay and WeChat Pay are dominating in China. Almost no one uses Paypal and people do not feel comfortable making online payments by credit card.

一張含有 室外, 建築物, 男人, 街道 的圖片

自動產生的描述

Who Should Do Your Chinese Localization?

After you have learned all of the above, you may feel it is more complicated than you originally thought. It is not just simply translating all the content on your website from English into Chinese. Now you should not believe that the nice Chinese guy in your office would be the best person to do this for you. So, find a professional translator, use a language service company, or maybe there is even a better option? If you are a small business with a tight budget, either finding a professional translator or using a language service company would be the most cost and time efficient way. However, if you are really looking to increase the website’s sales revenue and would like to invest into it, a bicultural marketing company would be the best option. They not only know the language better, but also the culture and the market. Again, Chinese is very unique, and you need to take good care of it.

Don’t Forget Search Engine Optimization (SEO)!

Save the best for the last. After you have all your website localized into Chinese, do not forget Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is not the cherry on the cake. It is an essential ingredient in your every business recipe. Of course, you don’t want to miss it in your Chinese localization. With SEO, you want to work with experts who have experience and track successful records. With SEO in Chinese, this is even more important, especially if you are targeting China. Google is blocked in China. Baidu commands more than 80% of the market share in China. If you want to reach people in China, you’re going to need to implement an SEO strategy that involves ranking for that search engine. Try to search online to find someone who is experienced in SEO in China. If you found them through a search engine, they should not be too bad at SEO.

In the world of languages and translation studies, one profession is often looked down on. Indeed, few students truly understand the roles of a localization project manager, and quite often the profession isn’t made attractive by the courses offered in most language degrees.

Let’s see how this can actually be an exciting career for you, and share a few project management tips for those who are considering entering the industry as a localization project manager.

What to do after a language degree?

New language graduates often doubt about what to do next and how to use the knowledge acquired during their studies.

Even though most project managers do not have a language background in the first place, it is a career particularly suitable for any graduate in this field.

What’s more, profiles with a translation background tend to be more appreciated by LSPs; a good understanding of the industry, as well as knowledge of the related tools and processes that your translators are using, is essential. It helps build successful relationships with your vendors, as well as provide thorough quality assurance – and these two tasks are crucial aspects of the profession.

Why is localization project management an exciting career?

Contrary to popular belief, working as a PM is not just about sending emails.

In an LSP, every day is different. You deal with various clients, vendors and types of requests, and even though it can be stressful at times, it is also a job where you will never be bored.

The multiple roles of a localization project manager

Working as a LPM also allows you to experience various roles, e.g. getting involved in:

  • Research: new technologies such as Neural Machine Translation (NMT), CAT tools and automation processes are key in the industry so keeping up to date is an important aspect of the job.
  • Business development: when it comes to meeting and counselling new and existing clients and helping to better sell your services.
  • Negotiation: such as discussing rates with clients and vendors.
  • Orchestration: when setting up a workflow, you’ll be dealing with all the project’s stakeholders, ranging from clients to translators, voice talents, typesetters and more.
  • Data analysis: you’ll receive feedback from clients and try to identify what made a project successful or unsuccessful, the latter being a good occasion to learn from your mistakes and get better at your job.

Project management tips and resources

As well as experience, becoming a good PM requires learning project management good practices, but bear in mind that no one is perfect.

Negative feedback from clients does happen, as in every profession, and it is important not to be afraid of it.

In fact, it is a great way to refine your processes and to learn new project management tips. Also, learning how to sort out your priorities when dealing with many tasks at the same time is crucial.

Being a PM can be a stressful job at times, and failing to identify what is both important and urgent can put you under a lot of pressure.

No one is born a localization project manager

The good news is that localization is a friendly industry where a lot of help is provided and project management tips are globally shared.

You can find plenty of specialized resources, especially from leading localization associations such as GALA (which the University of Strasbourg recently joined) and ELIA, which holds the annual “Focus PM” event and published a series of handbooks for smart PMs. These handbooks contain many useful project management tips, and are among the best resources in the industry.

If you wish to learn more about project management in the TCLoc Master’s Degree, you can download our brochure

Good project management requires a manager to scrutinize teamwork. However, when they interfere too much, managers can jeopardize a team’s autonomy and productivity.

Spotting a Micromanager

When a project manager engages in excessive scrutiny regarding how the team carries out tasks, they are micromanaging. A micromanager closely controls the work of their employees. Rather than focusing on larger concerns, they will spend most of their time giving specific instructions on smaller tasks at every step of the project. This is also noticeable in the manager’s way of handling communications and work progress. Because they feel the need to be on top of everything, all communications must go through them. Sometimes, micromanagers will even jump in to complete tasks themselves, thinking they can do it faster.

Addressing micromanagement can be challenging whether you are an employee experiencing it or a project manager who finds they have adopted this style. Nevertheless, it is possible. An essential step to doing so is understanding the causes behind micromanagement. There are numerous reasons why a manager might resort to intensive oversight and control. While some relate to the manager’s past, others revolve around increased performance pressure:

  • they feel unsure and self-doubting due to a recently attained position
  • they fear underperforming and being fired
  • a supervisor above exerts pressure on them
  • due to experiences in their childhood, they developed a tendency to control everything.

No matter their micromanaging reasons, team leaders need to acknowledge the detrimental effects this style can have on a team’s productivity.

Sabotaging Trust and Teamwork

When a manager is breathing over employees’ shoulders and constantly checking on them, this results in considerable stress, frustration, and demotivation. This also leads to a perceived lack of trust: employees feel that they are not given enough autonomy or space to show they’re worth their salt. As such, they are more likely to perform with the lowest dedication and work in fear. Fear, frustration, depression, accidents, lack of productivity: micromanagement can cost a company its best and brightest minds, eventually causing them to leave.

Furthermore, micromanaging is not a scalable tactic. As long as the manager leads a relatively small team, they can repeatedly check their employees’ work. When the team expands, the micromanager cannot do so without risking burnout. With more employees, a micromanager will soon find themselves checking on too many people while allocating too little time to do their actual job: managing the project and the team. Not to mention that such behavior reduces the employee’s ability to work in autonomy as they are constantly guided by their manager.

How to Stop Micromanaging

Micromanagers rarely view themselves as such and tend to describe their style as “structured”, “organized”, or “perfectionistic”. A first step to escaping from micromanagement is acknowledging it and being willing to adjust one’s leadership style. Additionally, as explored earlier, this style of project management damages the employees’ trust towards their manager. Managers can follow various approaches to re-build this trust and reinforce team building:

  • encourage initiatives and autonomy among team members
  • clearly communicate what the expected goals are
  • delegate and trust your team while being attentive to their needs through regular (not constant) check-ins
  • openly share feedback regarding what employees could do to improve.

On the organizational level, a manager can replace micromanagement with a more efficient way of tracking objectives and their outcomes: Objectives and Key Results (OKR). Instead of micromanaging, the team leader can set, every quarter, some key objectives that are actionable, quantifiable, and have a deadline. Doing so will articulate teamwork around the key objectives and how to reach them. As far as the project manager is concerned, they can keep abreast of the work progress by holding regular meetings where every team member can present their progress. Those meetings can offer room for giving feedback on the OKRs and provide useful guidance.

What if Your Project Manager Is a Micromanager?

Being in such a position is all but easy. It is not always possible to bring the transformation you expect, but it is worth trying. Your first move should be to understand why your manager is interested in the task or project. Let’s face it, a micromanager, to some extent, is a person who is excessively interested in how tasks are done. This can be turned into an advantage if the motives of the manager are understood. Is it that they want the project to succeed so badly because they’re passionate about their job? Is it that they are afraid of losing it?

Figuring this out can help the employee develop a different work style that creates more autonomy and, at the same time, secures the manager’s goals. After figuring this out, share your concern with the manager cautiously. As mentioned earlier, micromanagers are generally unaware of the toxicity of their management. Consequently, denial may be their first reaction if this issue is not approached with tact. Therefore, when attempting to call your manager’s attention regarding the situation, make sure to choose an environment that’s not stressful; ideally, an informal occasion. Stress that you understand how much the project or work means to them. Starting with this, your manager is likely to be more attentive. Then, describe clearly what you can do to increase your leader’s confidence in you while improving your own performance. It is essential to demonstrate how providing you with more autonomy will translate into more productivity for your manager.

Conclusion

A toxic work environment leads to poor performance and lack of teamwork.  Certainly, micromanagement can radically damage the work environment and develop an atmosphere of stress, fear, and frustration. Moreover, it erodes employee’s confidence and prevents the manager from leveraging their team’s full potential. In the long term, this project management style can cause your team’s burnout and chase away your valuable team members.  Given the issues it may cause, micromanagement should be tackled and project management best practices should be implemented. It needs to be addressed with tact if you are an employee experiencing it. With honesty, if you happen to be a project manager who has been practicing it.

Have you ever experienced micromanagement? Write your experience below in the comments and share this article so it can help others!

You want to bring your software to other markets and you know you will be localizing it. You have researched localization online and found many useful tips that you intend to implement in your localization process. In addition, you are aware of internationalization concepts such as Unicode, text expansion, and separating strings from source code. So you should now possess the knowledge to tackle localizing your software with the resources you have at your disposal, right? Besides the many localization best practices that you may already know, you should also keep in mind the following mistakes or DON’Ts when starting to localize your software in order to avoid problems and dead-end situations later.

Don’t improvise as you go along.

The more things you standardize or agree upon before starting, the smoother the localization process will be. A big issue here is terminology. Try your best to standardize the way you call things in your program. This is not only for the benefit of users in the original language of your software, but it will also make translation easier. It is also advantageous to agree on the terminology in other languages, i.e. create glossaries. This may seem like a big up-front investment, but it will save you a lot of time down the road, as there will be fewer interventions during the localization process about undefined terminology, which will also improve the overall consistency of the translation.

Also, try to standardize the formats in which you have translatable documents and try to keep their number down. You may have some strings in XML, some in a database, and some in your own internal format. Standard formats have the benefit that they can be read and edited with a variety of tools. Even transitioning from one standard format to another sometime in the future might not be as difficult, because converters will likely exist. Try to replace at least the internal format with a standard one. Whoever will be processing those strings will thank you.

Don’t make your own tools.

You might be tempted to develop your own tools that can handle the formats you use, including the internal format. As Henk Boxma writes in his article about software translation costs, making your own localization tools might end up costing you more than a dedicated localization tool. It may also prevent you from reaping the full benefit of computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools and make any outsourcing of translation more difficult.

CAT tools are dedicated tools that have been developed over the years. They are designed to handle a large variety of formats and contain features which facilitate a more streamlined translation process that can also deliver higher quality with built-in quality assurance tools.

lines of XML code that will be localized with a CAT tool software

Unless you are willing and able to dedicate development resources to your in-house tools in the long-term, those tools probably won’t have features comparable to CAT tools. Instead of creating a tool that allows you to translate any internal formats, spend those resources on developing a conversion utility that converts internal formats to standard formats, such as XML.

Don’t do everything on your own.

You might have a person available in the company who is a native speaker of the language into which you are going to translate your product. It may seem like a good idea to use that person’s knowledge of the product, despite them having no background in translation. Doing the localization in-house could also keep the costs down.

But will that person have enough time to do their own work and localization? Even if localizing your product seems like a one-off project, also keep in mind that somebody will have to maintain other languages once you update your product and correct any mistakes that might slip through the first time.

A localization professional will be able to help you avoid many potential pitfalls that you might run into months or even years down the line if you do it all with existing, non-specialist resources. In the end, fixing such issues could cost you more time and money than getting expert help.

Do you agree with this choice of DON’Ts? Can you think of any other bad practices we have missed? Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

As you might know, Netflix has become one of the largest online streaming services. Their product is available in over 190 countries and currently supports 26 languages. Netflix is still fine-tuning its multilingual localization processes to ensure that all its content is universally accessible.

How does a streaming organization as large as Netflix handle localization across the world?

What Is Localization and Why Is It Important For Netflix?

The Art of Adapting to Cultural Zones and Values

Localization (L10N) is a key phase within the process that you cannot ignore when expanding services into the global market. It is about adapting a product from a specific region or country. Basically, it refers to translating multimedia content such as software, video games, websites, as well as audio and video.

When localizing, you should take into consideration cultural differences and diverging values. It can indeed become a significant challenge when you have to repeat this process for five or more languages. Netflix changes the catalog choices depending on the region. You do not find the same content if your IP address is in France, India, or South Korea.

However, localizing is much more complex than just adapting a movie and show selection. When localizing a user interface, you have to think about readjusting several technical aspects which differ from country to country.

Localizing Netflix’s User Interface

Pseudo-localization is an important phase within the localization process because it specifies technical definitions regarding aspects of text adaptation to a target language. It actually becomes a prerequisite when you have to translate from a Western language to an Asian one for example, e.g. from English to Chinese or Japanese.

But what is exactly pseudo-localization?

In their Netflix Tech Blog, Netflix published an article about the technical issues they regularly face when updating or adapting new content on their multilingual user interface.

Here is a list of multiple parameters Netflix’s pseudo-localization team have to take into account:

  • Left to right/right to left script.
  • Vertically or horizontally presented texts.
  • Length constraints/limited number of characters. Sometimes, a translation from one language to another ends up being too long for User Interface elements such as buttons, titles, or descriptions. Therefore, the text would not fit into the space provided in the interface.
  • Appearance: Character sizes, formats, fonts… Without pseudo-localization, it could lead to cultural or technical inconsistencies.

To summarize, pseudo-localization can be defined as the phase in which one adapts and edits every piece of text of a user interface to a target language.

Who Handles the Localization on Netflix?

One Project to Manage, Several Tasks to Divide

Each person who takes part in this process has a specific role. There are several ways to split the tasks of a multilingual localization project. With so much content, you may ask yourself how Netflix handles the work of translating all of this efficiently.

Netflix outsources translations. All of these tasks are usually executed by several Directors of Localization, Localization Project Managers, and Language Managers. They are the link between Netflix and external localization vendors or freelance translators working for the streaming services company.

Project Hermes: An Internal Localization Team at Netflix

In 2017, Netflix launched a global campaign to hire the best translators to increase the quality of their subtitles, the Hermes Portal. This campaign encompassed a global language, translation and technical test accessible worldwide for anyone who had access to Netflix. However, given that Netflix is more specialized in technology development and project management than in localization, the project turned out to be too costly and ambitious. The company had to cancel it and leave this process to their external localization vendors.

All in all, Netflix handles the management as well as the technical aspects of a localization project (pseudo-localization, content workflows) while external partners deliver localized contents such as translated subtitles and dubbing. When content does not belong to the company, Netflix has to buy the publishing rights from other companies and does not necessarily have permission to edit subtitles.

Even for Netflix, Multilingual Localization Is Challenging

In the online streaming industry, managing a multilingual localization project is a challenge because they have to tackle every aspect of the translation process. Languages and technologies have been evolving at a fast pace in recent times and with innovation, organizations have found ways to manage it.

Although Netflix had considered having its own in-house localization team, it decided against it and continued with outsourcing to external translation teams around the world. This illustrates that even a company with the reputation of Netflix is still learning and developing strategies to manage localization projects.

We could have also taken the examples of other streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video, YouTube Premium, or the more recent Disney+, as each of those companies are facing similar challenges and are actively researching for creative solutions to improve the quality of the contents they are sharing with their subscribers.

Sharing your thoughts about Netflix’s localization management may bring some new and interesting insights on this topic. Either way, feel free to comment here!