Alex Zekakis teaches three courses as part of the TCLoc program, which are “Introduction to CAT Tools”, “Advanced Configuration for CAT Tools” and “Mobile App Localization”. He also works as European Solutions Architecture Manager at XTM International, where he runs a remote team that mainly focuses on supporting pre-sales activities.

Hello Alex, could you introduce yourself, describe your professional course and what you do today?

“Sure! My name is Alex Zekakis. I’ve been in the localization industry for around 13 years now. Throughout this time, I’ve worked in various different functions: I worked on the service provider side and currently I’m actually on the software side. I work for XTM International – a translation management system provider, and my role is Director of Support Services which, for us, means managing the entirety of all the customer facing and customer support functions within XTM. Let’s say that it’s a large group of people who all come together with different technical and customer-facing skills in order to provide the best possible experience for our customer base.”

How did you join TCLoc master’s and start teaching localization?

“If we go back a couple of years, I was at an event in London and I was talking to one of our speakers Chris Raulf, a very good friend of mine. He was at that time also an instructor for TCLoc, teaching SEO. I started discussing my personal interest in teaching and lecturing, and he offered to put me in touch with the people in Strasbourg. One thing lead to the other, and I ended up teaching three courses for the TCLoc master’s program: “Introduction to CAT Tools”, “Advanced Configuration for CAT Tools” and “Mobile App Localization”. I also run another couple of courses for the CAWEB master’s program.”

Can you give us a glimpse of what your “Introduction to CAT Tools” course is about?

– In the “Introduction to CAT Tools” course, we talk about the basic principles of computer-aided translation tools, or CAT tools, their core concepts and their evolution, which gives a holistic 360 view of how a translation tool actually functions.

“So, these courses that I’ve just mentioned start with the very basics – the introduction to CAT tools. We actually do not define one particular CAT tool, but we talk about the basic principles, the core concepts surrounding these tools – what they are actually meant to do, how they evolve over time, how they are being used by different people within the industry applying different functions, different principles. Effectively, one of the major objectives of this course is to have a holistic 360 view of how a translation tool actually functions, how to use it, and not focus on one tool per se.”

And what about your “Advanced Configuration” course?

“Advanced Configuration goes in a bit of a different direction, you could call it light engineering. So, there we start talking about all the cool things that people can do by using primarily regular expressions and XML Expat in order to be able to create their own parsers as well as segmentation rules for files. All translation tools require both of those, so you need to always have one way of parsing the given content, let’s say a word file, in order to be able to extract translatable text. The second part involves segmenting it, breaking it down to logical fragments of text, let’s say sentences or paragraphs. Both of those or either of those are essentially dictated by parsing and segmentation rules accordingly and we look at how we can start applying these very advanced and interesting logical operators. So, definitely a very interesting class and something that takes a lot of people outside their comfort zone and what they are used to doing. This course does not intend to create new engineers, but to help people acquire a broader perspective as to why these things are happening and how they are happening, so that people get a broader awareness.”

Last one, can you talk about your “Mobile App Localization” course ?

– In the “Mobile App Localization” course, we talk about understanding how a mobile app is structured, what its actual code is, how it’s being structured, what sort of principles are applied, what that means for localization and how this interacts with translation tools. So even those with no experience in mobile apps could understand the principles and apply them to software localization.

“This third course – in an orthodox, but very hands-on way –  goes into the world of localizing mobile apps. We don’t just take mobile apps like files and put them into a translation tool – that’s the easy part. Here, we’re talking about understanding how a mobile app is structured and look at its actual code. Of course, we’re not trying to create developers here, but we are looking into the broader code and understanding what text is, why it’s there, how it’s being structured, what sort of principles are applied, what that means for localization and how this interacts with translation tools. We then take that back to the mobile app, creating a huge and wider spectrum of understanding of the complexities involved and what things we should be looking up when working with mobile app localization. I think it’s the most interesting class among these three, because it takes people outside of their comfort zone, but in a very managed, structured way, so that people who haven’t any experience whatsoever with mobile apps can feel like they understand what’s going on and can understand global perspectives of mobile app and software localization.” 

What are the advantages of this program?

– Almost all of the instructors are actually industry-professionals in their individual domain, so the teachings have an immediate impact on one’s professional career.

“In terms of advantages of the program I would strongly suggest one thing – in the last two years events moved us into this online way of working, at least the great majority of employees out there. So people and companies have to adapt, as well as institutes, universities. This means that a new way of teaching emerged, which is not only ad-hoc but also self-driven. Sessions that were previously live moved online, etc. Yet, post-covid, and actually pre-covid or during covid, the TCLoc program actually remained intact in terms of how it was executed, because it was designed exactly in that way. So, I would say that one major advantage of the program is the fact that the courses, or rather the whole program itself, have been built to face what is happening today. It’s not just adjusted roughly and suddenly, from one day to another. On a second level, one of the true benefits of the program is the fact that many, if not all of the instructors are actually industry-professionals in their individual domain. I mentioned Chris Raulf before in the SEO domain, and me in the localization domain, but many others out there are professionals. There will always be a difference between academia and industry. You don’t always need an academic background, but you always need working experience. What I think is incredible here is that by introducing these professionals, what is achieved in the end is that people receive teachings that will actually help them in their professional career. They will truly be supported, they will go out to the world and they will be able to implement these things in real life scenarios. So, to me, this is probably the biggest benefit: teachings actually have an immediate impact on one’s professional career. I wouldn’t ask for anything more from a master’s program myself.”

One last question, Alex: would you have some advice to give to future students?

“If you are interested in the program, at least if I speak for my courses, there’s nothing to prepare for. It’s obviously always nice when people come with some knowledge of localization, but the whole idea here is that the foundation being set during these courses will help you to understand all the things that need to be understood, so you can get in right away. We will go through it step by step.”

Alright, perfect! I am sure that this insight will benefit many future students. Thank you for your time and we wish you all the best.

Interview & edit by Olga Malosh and Celine Sellier

Veronika is from Bulgaria and previously worked as an English teacher in China and Italy. Even though she’d never had the chance to study or work in the field of localization before, she took a leap and enrolled in the TCLoc master’s program to broaden her knowledge.

Read previous interview

Let’s find out a bit more about Veronika’s background before TCLoc

Hello Veronika, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Could you introduce yourself and tell us why you joined the TCLoc Master’s program?

-– I realized that there is more to translation, so I started focusing on localization and found TCLoc

“Hello, my name is Veronika and I come from Bulgaria. I’ve always enjoyed working or studying in an international environment, so I took every opportunity to travel and experience life abroad. I’ve spent the past few years working as an English teacher in China and Italy. Working in China was a fun and exciting adventure, as I had to adapt to a completely different lifestyle, education system and mentality. Viewing the world from my students’ perspective raised questions and inspired curiosity. I began looking for a master’s in translation, but I eventually realized that I am interested in more than pure translation. I then started focusing on localization and found TCLoc. The course description sounded very interesting, so despite my initial hesitation due to my lack of experience, I decided to go for it and give it a try.” 

It’s nice that you decided to enroll in this program despite not having studied this field before. It’s always good to discover new things. Was it easy for you to go back to university to study a new subject?

“Well, as I had no experience in technical communication or localization, I expected that the program would be demanding and time-consuming. Even during my application interview, the program director warned me that it would be intense and that I should plan accordingly.”

Time to ask her how she felt during TCLoc

Yes, it can be challenging to balance university life with work/family life. But you chose to do the program over two years, didn’t you? Would you recommend that?

–  My advice is not to rush it: you can take the two-year option and choose your own pace

“Exactly! One great thing about this program is that you can choose your own pace and do it in one or two years. If you are inexperienced like me, my advice is not to rush it. Unlike many other master’s programs, TCLoc includes a range of practical courses, like Web Tools and Languages, Visual Communication, and Mobile App Localization, to name just a few. This means that you need to dive in, complete the extra exercises and get lots of practice in order to get a good understanding of the subject. If you have a full-time job and children, you might find it challenging to complete the program within a year. In this kind of situation, yes, I would suggest taking the two-year option.”

Thank you for the advice, I’m sure a lot of students will be happy to know that. Talking about students, how was it to meet people from all over the world? How did the interactions with other students, the teachers and people involved in the master’s go?

“It has been a very pleasant experience because both the instructors and students are multicultural. Communicating with the instructors is easy. They are professional, yet very friendly. The same goes for the students. After the introduction week, we created a WhatsApp group where we could help each other, share knowledge and experience or just vent.”

It’s good you can use social networks in that way, since this master’s is a distance learning program. Did you ever find it hard to connect with people?

-– At first, I was afraid to never see my classmates’ faces but soon, I realized that you don’t feel alone in this program

“As it was my first time taking an online program, I was initially a bit concerned about communication. I was worried that it might not be as efficient and that I might never see my coursemates’ faces. In reality, this hasn’t stopped me from getting to know new people and building relationships. Apart from the live sessions, you can reach instructors or students directly regarding any concerns or advice. You never really feel alone in the program, you get a lot of support from everyone.”

Time for Veronika to give an overview of her TCLoc experience

It’s important to stay connected, especially in these times. Now, could you tell us what benefits TCLoc has brought you? Is a career change on the cards?

— The courses are strongly related to each other and give you all the basics, but you will also need self-motivation, self-discipline and to keep on learning

“ I have only just graduated, so it’s still too early to tell. A career change is not an easy challenge to overcome but I hope an opportunity will arise soon. I’ve learned a lot, though. The program offers courses that are strongly related to each other, so it gives you a clear perspective of the big picture: from learning how to build a simple website, to building a successful content strategy; from optimizing UX and SEO to creating graphics. All the information in the courses is current and allows you to pursue a career in some of the fields mentioned. It gives you the basics, but you will have to build on this and continue working even after the master’s is finished. Your success and opportunities will heavily rely on your self-motivation, self-discipline and continuous learning.”

Of course. Do you believe this program can benefit someone that has already worked in these fields (translation/localization)?

“For students who are already working in technical communication or localization, it can be an eye-opener and a refreshing experience, as you get to update your current skills and knowledge, work with different tools and learn about the latest content strategies and technical documentation requirements and policies.”

You will soon reach the end of this master’s degree. What plans do you have for the future?

— I learned so much from my teammates: I’d like to use what I’ve learned in projects that are just as rewarding

“As the end of my studies approaches, I feel like the real challenge is about to begin. Once I am finished with my thesis and the rest of my exams, I am going to continue building my portfolio and to self-study. Personally, I enjoyed the courses in Mobile App Localization and Web Tools and Languages so I am going to focus on these subjects and continue my job hunting. I am using every opportunity to learn from my fellow students. During our Project Management class, for example, I had the chance to manage a project and work together with other TCLoc students on localizing a little web app game. It was a fun and rewarding experience for me as I learned so much from my teammates. I hope I can continue working on similar projects and put all the knowledge I’ve gained from the program into practice.”

Let us all wish you the best then! Sadly, our interview comes to an end but before that: do you have any advice for future students? For example, tips or maybe software and tools that helped you?

— Build your own schedule and don’t forget to treat yourself!

“Well, I used the usual tools, like Google Calendar to remind me of upcoming exams, assignments or live sessions. The thing is that the university does this for you already. You get all the files containing the course program, including timetables, holidays, etc. As for time management, just try to build your own schedule and estimate the maximum hours you can dedicate per day for studying. Don’t forget to treat yourself, once your goal is achieved!”

You are totally right: after doing your best, time to rest! And what about going back to school and the habit of learning? Any other tips? It can be challenging when you study from home.

— I would lose focus every 30 minutes and stay close to the fridge for frequent snacks but it all worked out after just one week

“Going back to studying can be a little rough at the beginning. It’s different for everyone. My personal experience was a bit funny as I would lose focus every 30 minutes and stay within close proximity to the fridge for frequent snacks and shots of energy, but it all passed after a week. It’s a matter of training. My advice is to just take it slowly, expand the study hours bit by bit till they turn into a habit.”

Thank you very much Veronika, it was nice to meet you! We hope that everything turns out well with your thesis and future projects!

Interview – Céline Sellier | Editing – Lisa Krill

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


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


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


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.