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The "Mecca" of Localization

By: Reinhard Schäler (University of Limerick)

21 May 2014

Reinhard Schäler details the University of Limerick's pioneering master's degree in Multilingual Computing and Localisation. Partnering with the Localisation Research Centre (LRC) and the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, the program has evolved since becoming the first industry master's program delivered online, allowing for a truly global cohort. 

This is how Professor Kenneth Keniston, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), described Ireland and Limerick some years ago in his keynote at the annual LRC Conference. John Sterne, in his seminal book Adventures in Code, The Story of the Irish Software Industry, wrote "Software localization, indeed, is arguably the only industry in which the rest of the world looks to Ireland for leadership and new concepts." Cyndy Cartwright, Senior Analyst at premier US head-hunting Agency Korn/Ferry International, said "The University of Limerick has been highly recommended as the premier academic institution that teaches the best minds in the localization/internationalization business."

Focus on Technology and Digital Content

When Ireland, a small country of just over 4 million people on the western edge of Europe became, in the late 1990s, the world’s largest exporter of software in the world, ahead of even the USA, the University of Limerick (UL) decided to launch what is believed to have been the world’s first dedicated postgraduate program in localization, with the enthusiastic support of some of the world’s largest digital publishers and localization service providers. Since 1997, this program has been offered by the Localisation Research Centre (LRC) at the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems (CSIS) and has evolved into the world’s first taught Master of Science (MSc) program delivered online, allowing students from Asia, the USA, Europe, and Africa to learn, study and research together under the guidance of some of the world’s most experienced academics and practitioners in the field.

From the very beginning, the University had decided to base this highly innovative program in the Department of Computer Science, rather than in the Humanities Department. The main focus of the program was to be on core localization issues, rather than being restricted to ”just” translation. This philosophy demanded the inclusion of subjects such as Best Practice Internationalization and Localization Process Automation, in addition to Advanced Language Engineering and Translation Technology modules. Two standard topics, Principal Issues in Localization and Localization Project Management, together with two directed studies modules, Localization Standards and Best Practice and Applied Research Methods, were added to the program now comprising a total of eight modules. Students can take these modules either full-time (four modules per semester over one year) or part-time (two modules per semester over two years). The study program is supplemented by a supervised research project over the summer resulting in a substantial dissertation usually combining theoretical approaches with practical requirements around core questions on emerging localization matters.

Experience Linguistic and Cultural Differences First-Hand

The program is aimed specifically at students who already have a background in either localization, computing, language technology, translation, or in related disciplines. It guides students in their research of the underlying issues in localization, with an emphasis on technical and business aspects. Students are encouraged to spend some time studying at one of UL's partner universities and work closely with industrial mentors on relevant research projects.

As the program is project-based and delivered online, it encourages the collaboration of students from a large variety of linguistic, cultural, professional, and academic backgrounds. Learning about localization and understanding all of its underlying issues and opportunities cannot just concern itself with learning about processes, management, technology, and linguistic issues. It also has to open up horizons for students to understand, feel, and experience what living in a global society really means. Short of moving abroad and traveling the world, working together with people from the different corners of the world online is probably the best way to experience first hand those differences, and to learn to value and build on them.

Close Collaboration with Industry and The Rosetta Foundation

From its origins, the program offered authentic problems and digital content to students for their studies, their learning, and their research. Access to the latest industry knowledge is paramount for the students and is guaranteed through access to the world’s leading industry publications, such as Multilingual Computing and Localisation Focus – The International Journal for Localisation. The Localisation Research Centre is also the host of the world’s longest-running localization and internationalization conference, which students attend free-of-charge. The annual Localisation and Internationalisation Summer School in Limerick is another regular event students attend for free. Companies such as Oracle, Microsoft, SDL, Kilgray, and Alchemy Software are regular advisors to the program and have contributed authentic material to back up and guide students’ research. They have collaborated with the teaching staff to prepare tailored and customized training material and have made their latest tools and technology available.

The program, uniquely, also addresses the role of localization in human development, poverty relief, healthcare, justice, and the environment. Working closely with The Rosetta Foundation, the organization maintaining the Translation Commons for over 5,000 language volunteers and over 130 nonprofit organizations, students gain highly valuable hands-on experience with real-life state-of-the-art localization and translation tools and processes.

Community translation and localization is one of the most important emerging trends in localization, closely watched by the world’s largest content developers and localization service providers who are expected to make significant investments in this approach over the coming years.

Prepare to Work in a US$30+ Billion Industry – To Affect Change in Society

On completion of the MSc in Multilingual Computing and Localisation (Distance Learning), students are well equipped to prescribe the requirements for software and content localization that can be applied anywhere throughout the world in the fast growing, US$30 billion localization and translation service industry.

Graduates are employed to handle and assess state-of-the-art localization strategies, including approaches to internationalization, the latest standards, localization tools, and technologies. Moreover, they have a thorough understanding of how internationalization moves localization up the value chain.

The knowledge and skills they have acquired during their studies enables them to work with translators, programmers, project managers, and QA experts around the world to deliver information that can change lives, work on the newest video games, or enable access to the latest social networks in the world.

A core component of the program is the research dissertation, which introduces participants to research theory, methodology and techniques that assist them in gaining a deeper understanding of the methods employed in digital content internationalization and localization. The skills they have developed will allow them to make a critical assessments of the current approaches to localization considering economic, social, political, and cultural factors, as well as existing and future translation tools and technologies ranging from enterprise through to consumer and non-profit localization.

Project-based and Problem-oriented Learning and Research

A central tenet of the program has always been its project-based and problem-oriented approach to learning and studying, backed up by and paired with the latest findings of world-leading, solid academic research. The Localisation Research Centre is the only center of its kind in the world, offering not just a Master of Science Program, but also a number of localization-related PhD scholarships on a regular basis.

The LRC’s PhD students, supported by generous grants from Science Foundation Ireland via its Centre for Next Generation Localisation (CNGL), have developed highly innovative automated localization solutions and filed several invention disclosures.

This development led to the establishment of The Rosetta Foundation which set up an open source project for the Service-oriented Localisation Architecture Solution, or SOLAS (Irish for ‘light’). SOLAS has been deployed by The Rosetta Foundation on the Translation Commons where it enables the community-based collaborative translation and localization work of thousands of volunteers across over 80 languages with nonprofit organizations.

This work was recognized in 2013 by Europe’s leading researchers who awarded it the highly prestigious European Meta Prize in a ceremony at Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology on 19 September, 2013.

Enrollment for the 2014/2015 academic year is open now, early registration is advised. The new program will start in early September.

Reinhard Schäler has been involved in the localization industry in a variety of roles since 1987, with a particular focus on research and publications. He has attracted more than €5.5 million in research funding and has published more than 50 articles, book chapters, and conference papers on language technologies and localization. In 2009, he established The Rosetta Foundation.