E.g., 03/19/2019
E.g., 03/19/2019

BiDi Language Localization from Cost and Productivity Perspectives

By: Basma Emara, Head of Localization Services - Saudisoft Co. Ltd.

23 August 2016

One of the common questions we usually have to provide a reasonable answer to is why pricing and productivity rates for our translation/localization services vary from Bidirectional (BiDi) to Latin languages. BiDi not only impacts translation, but also affects other localization activities such as DTP, QA/testing and engineering. We usually go into the same discussion over and over again with our new clients to explain the differences.

We have compiled a list of facts explaining why there are cost differences for BiDi languages. The following items should be considered by providers prior to offering a BiDi language, and for those looking to translate materials to/from BiDi languages:

  • The bidirectional nature of the script, which affects the translation, layout and testing productivity:
    • Translators usually have to use relevant markers or control characters during translation, to keep the correct display of text, symbols and special characters.
    • DTP engineers also still need to do some manual work, even with automated workflows, where translators work on DTP-friendly formats.
    • Testers usually suffer a lot due to the completely flipped environment, especially when compilation is not done by a native language speaker, where there are usually a lot of re-test and regression cycles.
  • Lack of reference material and specialized dictionaries for most of the BiDi languages, and lack of trusted published resources in the target language, where linguists usually have to start coining terminology from scratch. Many websites use the colloquial language, which might help in getting an idea of what a term is about, but do not provide a standard or official equivalent in the target language.
  • Lack of industry specific professional linguists. While there are many translators offering services from/into their respective languages, but only some of them are able to use the standard official language/dialect, which is used in official publications and is understood by a larger audience/population.
  • Character length restrictions; a challenge which is imposed by the expanded nature of the BiDi language script, where translators have to spend some extra time trying to keep the length to the minimum, especially that using abbreviations and acronyms is not common or acceptable for these languages.
  • BiDi languages do not use capitalization, that's why we always have to find another way to highlight words, when capitalization is used in source text to put emphasis on something.
  • Different numbering styles/patterns, where linguists and DTP engineers may need to adapt numbering manually.
  • Software limitations; some CAT, layout and publishing tools either do not support or do not fully support BiDi languages. These tools require some workarounds to produce a final target translation/product.

There are many other factors that affect BiDi localization productivity, depending on the nature of the content. The ones listed above are just the most common ones that should be considered by localization stakeholders before supporting a new BiDi language.

Basma Emara

Basma has been in the localization industry for more than 17 years. She started in 1999 as a translator and progressed through the localization, LQA and translation management roles. Ten years ago, she moved to the client relations and localization project management areas, where she managed key accounts.

Basma currently works as Head of Localization Services at Saudisoft, managing the localization production and project management teams.