The recipe for superb localization? It’s in your source content (Part 2)

Welcome back to cracking the code to great localization. Last week, we shared with you our tips for your writers. But content isn’t just words. In localization, imagery, layouts, and navigation bear an equal role to penmanship.

Let’s look at some things your design team should consider when crafting the source content.

Use images. But do it with localization in mind

You probably think this one goes to our detriment. Fewer words means fewer things to translate. But we are the first ones to agree that a picture is worth a thousand words. And our job is to make your localization project a success, not a hefty expense.

One point of attention, though. 

An image doesn’t say the same thing across all cultures. Symbolism changes from culture to culture. 

Imagine a picture showing a bunch of friends in a pub, laughing over a pint. To some, it might evoke feelings of and familiarity or friendliness. Post it on next to your Arabic localization, and you’re up to trouble.

Either go for neutral images or ask your creatives to prepare localized versions for all your website versions.

Allow space in your designs

Remember Mary from our previous post? Let’s say she’s indeed a person and not a baby chicken. Let’s say Mary went to the mall to buy a pen.

In German, the above sentence would be:

Mary ging ins Einkaufszentrum, um einen Kugelschreiber zu kaufen.

Mary bought a pen in English with 34 characters and 10 syllables. In German, it took her 64 characters and 18 syllables to get it. That’s almost double the length.

It’s not just German. Many other languages expand up to 30% when translated from English.

Another thing your designers should keep in mind is script direction. The layout and navigation have to work for both left-to-right languages and vice versa. Like Hebrew or Arabic, for instance.

Make sure your designers allow enough space to accommodate these specifics.

A final note: does localization kill your creative flair?

Keeping things easy and simple doesn’t mean being redundant. It means sticking to what’s essential. In fact, most authors will tell you that it’s one of the hardest things to do.

There’s more to creativity than idioms and synonyms. Rhythm, syntax, punctuation — all these elements project personality and a distinctive voice. 

If you really feel that your English lacks that oomph by sticking to these few simple rules, try doing one thing. Write your content in simplified, localization-friendly English first. Then, “translate” it into a spicier, edgier version for your English-speaking market.

Tweaking a localization-ready English into a nuanced version will cost you much less than having to correct dozens of versions localized in other languages.

All the best with your next content assignment.



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.




Unlock the power of your content: subtitling services by LingPerfect

If you thought that at LingPerfect, we only dealt with translations, buckle up. The range of content-related services we excel at goes much further. That’s why we decided to write a set of articles that describe all the services we can do for you. 

Today’s special: subtitling.

What is subtitling?

Subtitling is the process of adding text to videos to describe what is being said on the screen. 

There are a myriad of different types of subtitling formats. Not to vex you with too much detail, here are the two major ones: 

  • A translation of the audio track (subtitling proper
  • A rendition in the same language meant for the deaf or hard of hearing community (captions). 

No big deal, you might say. It’s just an audio transcription or a translation of the same, at most. 

Not that elementary, Watson.

The hidden art of (good) subtitling

Spotting high-quality subtitling is hard. Much harder than noticing when something goes awry. 

When done well, subtitles feel natural, flow smoothly—they render the message with the right words at the right time. To achieve this, subtitle translators must factor in a variety of aspects.

Spoken and written language are like apples and oranges

We’ve briefly discussed this in our previous article. Spoken language syntax and grammar are quite different from the written form. If the subtitle translator just translated what is being said, the subtitles would often be illegible. 

When used in spoken language, false starts, repetitions, and sentence fragments sound natural (and make sense). But when put into writing, they fog out the meaning completely:

I d– I don’t… I mean… haven’t seen him around. 

To follow such a thread with your ear is one thing. Reading through 90 minutes of such prattle would probably get you a migraine.
A skilled subtitle translator will convey the meaning from one language to another and transpose the content to comply with the rules of written language.

Space and time restrictions in subtitles

Subtitles have to follow the action and be paced with scene changes. This process is called spotting. There are 24 frames in every second of video. An expert subtitle translator will be able to spot the best frames to start and finish a subtitle caption. 

Another thing a subtitle translator must consider is character length. A subtitle can be placed on two lines, at most. Each line can contain a maximum of 35 characters. But the words spoken in that scene can be many more.
Subtitles must therefore be much shorter, yet retain all the meaning from the audio source. It takes exceptional synthesizing skills to do that.

Knowing your audience: localization in subtitling

Imagine you’re watching a Japanese movie, and the character says: 

“This sake is delicious. It tempers the strong wasabi we had before.” 

Should the subtitle translator keep the sake and wasabi in the English subtitles? Or should they become rice wine and spicy dip? There is no unanimous answer. It depends on the audience, and how well-known the foreign term is in the target culture.

How about subtitling cartoons? A fifth grader’s grammar and vocabulary differ a lot from an adult’s. Unless the cartoon is about spelling bee contests, the language will have to adapt to the level of an eleven-year-old.
Knowing who the subtitle text is meant for makes a world of difference. An expert subtitle translator will be able to navigate through register differences and cultural notions so that the audience will get the most out of its viewing experience.

Why should you care about subtitles even if your surname doesn’t spell Spielberg?

You’re not working in the movie industry, so why bother? Well, here are just a few ways how you can benefit from subtitling your audiovisual content.

  1. It’s the cheapest way to make your content accessible to other cultures

When compared to dubbing, subtitles come at a fraction of the former’s cost. Talking about other cultures doesn’t mean you’re targeting foreign overseas lands. In the US, over forty percent of the population is native in a language other than English. Subtitling your content will make it more available for the ESL community. 

  1. You’ll make your content more inclusive for native English speakers with disabilities or special needs

Captioning your audio track can help reach a broad spectrum of native English population with ADHD, dyslexia, and autism. The same goes for the deaf or hard of hearing people. 

  1. Search engines will like you more. As will your boss.

If you’re betting on SEO, think seriously about subtitling your videos. Here are some spicy stats:

  • An astonishing 85% of Facebook videos are watched without the sound on. According to the social media giant’s data, captioning your video increases the viewing time by 12%.
  • A study by PLY media found out that 66% of uncaptioned videos are watched until completion. When captioned, the figure bumps up to over 90%.
  • Research by Instapage uncovered that captioned videos earn 15% more shares and 17% better reactions. But most importantly—they get more than 26% of call-to-action clickthroughs.

Whether you’re in airspace or agriculture, captioning your videos will help you reach better results across the board. With our set of expert subtitle translators and years of experience in the field, we’re here to help. 

What are you waiting for? Pick up the phone or drop us an email.