05 May 2012

Big project, 'big 4' consultancy, but no localisation workflow

Some thoughts following ten days' work contributing translations and rereading to a big website project for a big group with a 'big 4' consultancy guiding and supervising.

Despite extraordinary credentials (just ask them...) and creditable contributions to countless corporate projects, this latest experience demonstrated yet again that teams assembled by at least one 'big 4' consultancy still has a great deal to learn about localisation.

The website was for a very big group with a large number of multilingual sites, most localised by different in-house teams using different translators and different workflows, if indeed they had a 'workflow' as such at all.

Some of the 'givens' for this project include:
- team leaders committed to snappy flowing copy in source and target languages
- team leaders already happy with the creative skills of their graphics team and the copywriting skills of their source and target-language suppliers
- graphics team committed to cutting-edge website design and appearance
- zero awareness among the supervising consultancy, in-house team leaders and graphics team of the importance of localisation technology and workflows.

So what advice can this humble contributor give to an in-house team assigned the task of designing, building and localising a new website with these or similar 'givens'?

Plan ahead for localisation from the moment the project begins to take shape.
  • ask skilled language specialists to survey the group's existing sites and score the translation quality of each on a scale from, say, 1 to 10
  • obtain parallel copy in source and target languages for the highest scoring sites so localisation teams can leaverage the content (using alignment tools and indexing engines)
  • pool all available terminological resources and make them available to the translators as early as possible.
Develop a workflow before beginning exploratory copywriting and translation.
  • It is a huge mistake to believe that time will be saved by starting work on copy and translation too early.
    Workflow is where savings are to be found.
  • (One quick example of why this is so. The project that inspired this posting comprised tens of thousands of words of copy that was delivered to the translators one 300-word page at a time in MS Word format. Many of these pages contained times of day, values, measurements, etc. that translators typically process using a search & replace (S&R) tool. We had a dozen or more S&R operations to perform, in this case on each page, one at a time as it arrived. Had the project workflow used much larger junks, the translators could have used any one of a dozen tools to save a great deal of time and frustration. One example: Funduc's S&R tool.)
Seriously consider appointing a localisation workflow specialist to work with your chosen translators.
The widely acknowledged guru in this field is Jost Zetzsche.
Fortunately, much of Jost's expertise is readily available through his Translator's Tool Box and Tool Box Newsletter.

Given that Jost has subscribers all over the world, there really is no excuse for consultancy firms and website agencies that fail to give their clients the benefit of this money-saving expertise.

In France, this kind of expertise is available from colleagues like Carmelo Cancio of Cancio Communication.
In the United Kingdom, I recommend Salford Translations Ltd.

One of the very first rules of website localisation is to ensure that the website design concept and tools do not impose tight character counts or similar space restraints on the translators. Why? Because different languages need different amounts of space to say the same thing. Unfortunately this project was designed using a graphics concept stipulating strictly limited numbers of characters for each heading, subheading, leading paragraph, follow-on paragraph, bullet point and so. This is definitely not the way to go!

More in a day or two.

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