Globalization, the Alter Ego of Localization
By: Miguel Sepulveda (Global Localization Manager) - King
02 August 2017
As a small kid, there was a toy that I remember with deep affection: a matryoshka. I was fascinated that I could hide more matryoshkas inside!
I saw a matryoshka for the very first time not in Russia, as we might expect, but in Valencia, the paella land.
My uncle lived in Valencia and we went to visit him. He gave me a present. It was a little box. When I opened that tiny box I found a hand-made, hand-painted matryoshka. I was amazed by that little Russian doll. It was beautiful!
Now, you might be wondering what’s the relationship between matryoshkas and explaining the different types of services in our industry. Keep reading and you will discover the connection!
Recently I was talking to a colleague and we were having a difficult time aligning the differences of some services in our industry. What a wordsearch! G11n, I18n, L10n, T9n, C13n...argh!
We talked about (“Culturalization,” “World-Readiness,” ”Localization,” “Transcreation,” “Dubbling,” “Translation,” and “Asianization”(does this word even exist?). While talking to my colleague, I realized that we should define what we do as Globalization not as Localization.
We keep referring to most of the professionals of our industry as Localization professionals. I think that’s a name with a heritage from the movement of the '80s, '90s or early 2000s.
In the ‘80s it was named Translation. It was the years where Sun Microsystems (Java) started one of what is considered the first efforts of the history of Globalization. They expanded from USA to Europe, and later Asia. During that decade, we saw how Microsoft increased their presence in Europe.
I was quite fortunate to join the Localization movement mid-'90s. I think in the '90s is when the industry made the shift to calling itself Localization, as we were doing the first effort to adapt to specific cultures/countries. And we have been using these terms as synonyms during all these years.
But now I have a different vision of this. In my opinion, we are bringing Localization to the next level, and that next level is Globalization. So instead of Localization teams, we should refer to ourselves as Globalization teams!
This post will demystify the differences between these services and I will explain why Globalization is the next big opportunity for the Localization industry.
First things first: What’s the difference between Localization, Transcreation, and Globalization? There are different definitions and many of them are conflicting!
For me, Globalization is more related to mindset and strategy. The strategy to launch a product globally, while Localization or Transcreation focus more on the product.
I like to consider Globalization like an equation with different variables, or like a matryoshka!
From a math angle, the formula would be something like this: Globalization = Internationalization + Localization + Transcreation
How are these variables related?
Internationalization is the process of planning and implementing products and services so that they can easily be adapted to specific local languages and cultures. I18N is the first step (and mandatory) for future Localization efforts. So even if at one specific point of our development efforts we are not sure if we will be localizing our software to more languages in the future, we should prepare anyway our files for future Localization activities. This step would include for example :
- Allowing space in user interfaces for translation into languages that require more characters
- Ensuring data space so that messages can be translated from languages with single-byte character codes (such as English) into languages requiring multiple-byte character codes (such as Japanese Kanji)
- Integrating locale files for different languages
- Integrating support for local time zone and date
If you want to dig deeper about how to Internationalize your application, our Apple friends are here to help us: https://developer.apple.com/internationalization/. In this link we find great resources to master the art of I18N.
To make simple the definition of Localization will be as follow: it is the adaptation of a product or service to meet the needs of a particular language, culture, or desired population's "look-and-feel."
There are hundreds of pages and resources across the Internet so I will not extend here much.
For many people, not very familiar with Localization, this is what they will name Translation. However, Translation and Localization are quite different. I like to see it as being Translation the first step to achieving a full Localization of a product. Translation is an effort done word by word, with a literal translation while Localization takes into consideration different cultural factors such as gender, religion, ethnicity, or beliefs among others.
There’s often confusion between the term Transcreation and Localization. Let’s break down the mystery and have a look at how different these services are.
Transcreation is the process of taking a message in one language and transporting it to a different language. This means that for Transcreation the professionals we need are writers. Usually, people who provide Transcreation services are copywriters in other languages instead of translators. The process of Transcreation means that we must look at the message as a whole, and then later adapt it to our target audience. This is done through a creative brief. This is quite different form Localization.
In Localization, we start with a source text. Transcreation starts with a creative brief. This brief includes ideas of the creative concept, images and the desired action we want to achieve with the copy. In Transcreation the copywriters have total freedom to produce a message totally different than the original words. A good example of Transcreation might be this Live Op campaign from a famous videogame.
Source: Freedman International
In video games, Transcreation is a service in high demand due to the increasing popularity in Live Ops events. Transcreation is all about translating ideas and concepts. And the transcreated copy will not match the original version, and that’s ok. It’s exactly how it should be.
Globalization is the last layer. It’s our biggest matryoshka! It includes other business-related activities outside the product itself. Activities such as considering the legal needs or the customer care needs that our product has.
Globalization is not only a process or an activity. It’s a new mindset, it means that we need to look our internationalization activities with new eyes and fresh mind. Globalization is more a strategy that a process.
And here we will need to deal with all aspects related with a global launch. We will pay attention to different businesses stakeholders and different activities they run in their teams. This will include, but it’s not limited to:
- Customer support
- Image branding (Ex: Colors / The accuracy of our name in different languages)
In summary, we can look at Globalization with different layers, as seen in the chart above.
The basic level will be I18N where we ensure that the software is ready to be translated later. The next level will be Localization where we adapt the game to meet requirements in different countries. Transcreation will focus on transmitting an idea. And Globalization will prepare a strategy to integrate all previous processes to launch a global campaign.
Globalization, Transcreation, Localization, Internationalization are all related but they are different activities. While the last 3 focuses more on the product, Globalization focuses more on the mindset, it focusses on being more part of the NDA of the company.
When we combine all these processes all together we are ready to have a memorable product that will never be forgotten, like that little matryoshka doll that traveled from a small city of Russia to Valencia, a doll that I still own bringing fond memories from my childhood.
Miguel started his career in localization in the mid 90s. He spent the early part of his career on the vendor side working for Lionbridge. He then worked for Microsoft as a Spanish QA Specialist. In 2007, he entered the gaming industry with Electronic Arts. In 2014, he joined the sweet world at King, where his role is to lead the localization efforts.