Kathy Madison, Comtech Services
July 1, 2021

Are you creating localization-friendly content?  How has your content strategy evolved to support multiple languages and cultures? What challenges have you faced, and how have you addressed them? How did you go about choosing your localization partner? What tools are you using to make it easier for your writers to create international content? These were just a few of the topics discussed during a recent CIDM member roundtable discussion.

We often use the terms translation and localization interchangeably, but they are two different processes.  Translation is making word-for-word replacements from one language to another, while localization is the process of making those words relevant to a particular region. In addition, localization addresses cultural and non-textual concerns and improves the user experience. Dipo Ajose-Coke, of GE Healthcare, gave a great example of why localization is so important: the color red in China symbolizes good luck. However, when we use red for warning statements, we are not creating localization-friendly content. And, if we provide both imperial and metric terms, we think we are localization-friendly, but we aren’t providing the best user experience.

When designing and writing content for a global audience, there are several strategies we can invoke to make the translation and localization more efficient and effective, here are just a few:

  • Write good content, be clear, concise, and unambiguous; make the content as neutral as possible.
  • Use style-guides that incorporate Simplified Technical English to avoid ambiguous wording. For example, if a word has more than one meaning, i.e., follow: to come after or to obey, only use the word in context to one of the meanings.
  • Solicit the expertise of your language service partner (LSP) when creating your style-guide.
  • Avoid passive voice, idiomatic phrases or regional jargon.
  • Limit your sentence length to less than 25 or fewer words; shorter sentences make translation more accurate and less expensive.
  • Do a thorough editorial review of the English version before sending the content out for translation.
  • Implement Schematron rules to enforce your style-guides or use commercial tools like Acrolinx and Congree.

For those using DITA, the standard provides many techniques that can assist with the translation process, such as:

  • Use the <translate=no> attribute for words/terms to protect non-translatable content
  • Use keyrefs/variables as often as possible to localize phrases but be aware that some language translations might result in gender and case errors. From WhP’s blog:
    • use keyref for neutral, non-declinable terms, such as Product names and UI terms
    • treat them as proper nouns and remove the articles
  • Avoid bold and italic elements; some languages don’t support the styling; instead:
    • take advantage of semantically specific elements such as uicontrol, cite, codeph, keyword or glossterm
    • apply an outputclass attribute that can handle the emphasis in the publishing process

Finding a language/linguistic services partner (LSP) can be challenging, but there are many options out there, including these CIDM sponsors/exhibitors: WhP, Etteplan, SDL/RWS, and GlobalLink/Transperfect. If you are using DITA, your LSP must understand DITA and not just XML. If you have special regulatory requirements, make sure your LSP is familiar with them.

No matter how many languages you need to support, the best and most common advice given during the roundtable session, and during the 2020 and 2021 ConVEx translation/localization panel, is to start the translation process with high-quality sources.