The recipe for superb localization? It’s in your source content (Part 1)

Mary is a sound chick. 

Is she a sound engineer? A damsel with healthy values and good judgment, perhaps? Or did it just hatch out of an egg?

It’s a blown-up example, for sure. But it serves to show you one thing. With localization issues, nine times out of ten, you have to look upstream to find the problem’s root. Your source content. 

Writing with localization in mind means you shouldn’t look at content creation and localization as two separate streams. The way you write will have a direct impact on the localized version. The clearer the source content, the fewer issues and back-and-forths you’ll have.

Ask your content team to stick to these few easy postulates, and you’ll see your localization quality skyrocket and your costs decrease.

In this first part, let’s look at localization tips for your writers.

Minimize localization pitfalls: avoid slang, jargon, or anything too culture-specific

The example above, where Mary ranged from being a sound engineer to a bird might. Here’s another one:

“Look at Jack. He’s full of beans this morning!”

A British person wouldn’t think for a second that Jack had a sizable portion of legumes the night before. In the UK, full of beans means being lively, energetic. But would it be so evident for linguists working on localizing your content?

We know what you’re thinking: “Well, a good linguist can surely get the meaning from the context.”

And you’re right. But consider this. Localization projects are often handed to linguists in the form of excel spreadsheets or other formats that don’t provide any context. 

Shortening the leash on the use of idioms and double-entendres will save you from having to correct the localized content, not from one source document, but from seven, ten, or twenty localized versions.

At the very least, it will save you the hassle of countless back-and-forths with diligent translators asking for details and explanations.

Save on your localization budget: reuse your content

In other words: (slightly) suppress your creative juices and park that thesaurus for a while. Especially in repetitive content like product specs or interface widgets.

Localization is charged by the number of new strings to translate. Writing “a great fit,” “an amazing fit,” and “a perfect fit” might seem the right thing to do to give verve and color. But it will turn in a lot of fuzzy matches in your word count. Fuzzy matches have to be translated, while a 100% match has to be revised. Guess which one is cheaper.

Reduce back-and-forths with your localization partner: give context

We can’t stress this one enough. In localization, context isn’t king. It’s the Emperor.

Add info whether that Start sitting alone is a verb on a button or a noun in a label.

Share reference material. Give linguists access to UI wireframes so they can see where that CTA will be sitting.

If you’re using Excel for your localization projects, add a column with context info. For content done in text-based code files, use the handy ‘code comment’ function.

Content is more than words. Stay tuned for more tips

In localization projects, issues can arise from more than just wordsmithing. Pop by to read the second part of this article, where we’ll give you some tips on how to design in a localization-friendly way.