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website/software localization as a career?
Thread poster: vieleFragen
vieleFragen
Local time: 09:14
English
Jan 9, 2008

Hello,

I'm about to drop out of my business degree (I'm trying really hard this semester, because I dont want to give up, but I doubt Ill get it done).

Before majoring in business I used to think of working in translation/interpreting, because I always got A's in English and French class and was/am very passionate about languages (Ive continued to work on my English and French on the side to this day).

I also used to program small computer games during most of my free-time in elementary and started learning about web design and internet marketing/search engine optimization (all kinds of 'web-stuff') over the last year and truly enjoy it (unfortunately there is no degree for anything like that, yet).

I've been wondering if maybe website localization/software localization would be for me. The two problems I used to see (or well was told) with translation as a career were that it's often paid rather badly (because of so much competition), but also that it seemed rather monotonous to me.

Is that any different in website/software localization? Obviously, I'm hoping that it would be a bit more creative/exciting and perhaps paid a little bit better?

thank you for any feedback!


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Margreet Logmans  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:14
English to Dutch
+ ...
Some stuff to read Jan 9, 2008

I recommend you read 'A practical Guide to Localisation' by Bert Esselink and search the internet for any stuff Alex Eames has written on this subject.

Basically, the answer is: Yes, you can make a living out of this, but you need to be sure of what you're doing and deliver good quality.

Whether it is more creative and/or exciting than other occupations is a matter of personal opinion, I suppose. Payment very much depends on your skills and language pairs, and your talent for marketing yourself.

Check out the sites of agencies that advertise localisation, see what they have to say and offer.

Good luck!


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Paul Betts  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:14
French to English
website localisation aspect... Jan 9, 2008

Very big question you pose there VieleFragen. I cannot offer you any definitive answer (you have to wear your shoes and your decisons) - perhaps only some pointers in respect of the web domain. I haven't a translation profile first and foremost, but have mixed English/French heritage (a sense of the languages) and professional activities in website design and optimization across said pair. I will thus respectfully leave the question of a professional translation to my betters.

If you lean towards web sites or web applications, or even working across the web - with a view to becoming a web professional, I would counsel you to deepen your understanding of code elements that make up the elements of websites, especially the converging web standards behind browsers and driven by W3C. The greater capacity you have to pick your way though them, the great chance you have of gaining a useful overview and becoming a consultant to companies that want to market themselves in both sides of your core language pair. At the consultant level you would be able to exercise that creativity you have by influencing a project's direction and profile as a marketing tool (very different to the activities of 'Internet Marketing' in my opinion).

So apart from basic html, I would get familiar with cascading style sheets (CSS), and the sorts of content management system (CMS) packages that bigger clients would use to generate their copy (Joomla etc.). Get clear about the different styles of writing copy that persuades (not just Internet Marketing hype-type), so that you'll eventually be given a free reign to generate value for your clients. Develop of course, your understanding of search engine optimization and writing meta descriptions which can be the first point of contact for potential prospects in search engine results pages. Understand the concept of 'converting web visitors'. Try out Firefox as an alternative browser if you don't already. All in all, when the client notices the value you add, the value will filter down through to your pay slip.

Lastly, in respect of quitting the current course, try shifting your the acquired skills into another more motivating and web-aligned degree. The value of having a degree as a consultant (despite tough motivation challenges I had myself), means that no questions are posed about my ability to understand the concepts of the evolving web. So think, and think again about what you will gain and what you might lose.
Hope this is helpful.

[Edited at 2008-01-09 17:59]


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bohy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 09:14
English to French
+ ...
Software localization is a very special type of translation Jan 9, 2008

Translating message catalogs is a pain, in my opinion.
You get thousands of very short strings, outside of context (I've even got once message strings sorted in alphabetical order!). These strings for the most part are not sentences, just a few words in "telegraphic style" for the various menu options, labels, etc. There are also error messages, written by developers in a style that they only can understand.
And I forgot to mention that more and more developers are located in India, Russia or China, and that they have their own idea of what an English message is.
And many developers ignore the rules of foreign languages, and use placeholders or split sentences in a way that makes it impossible to translate, because of different syntax rules.
I would suggest that you try some software translation before you decide to make it your job
You will discover that there are many ambiguous messages, where you have to ask the customer what is meant exactly...
Time consuming, plus you don't always get the answers.
Customers and translation agencies have a tendancy to under-estimate the work to be done prior to translation, during the translation, and prior to QA.
And you don't get paid more per word for this type of job.
I should not be too negative, as I work in this area anyway. I would say that it is potentially a very interesting job... in the future, when it will be handled in a more mature way (if it ever happens).


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Johnny Speiermann
Denmark
Local time: 09:14
English to Danish
+ ...
Localization Jan 10, 2008

Hi,

Yes, you can make a career out of that. I have been in localization for 15 years, and have held positions as software localizer, software engineer, tools developer, engineering and test manager, DTP manager, and for the last 6 years as a freelance localizer. So there can be many opportunities in the localization world.

It can be very monotonous to translate software when you are on your fourth ERP system within a year and all the ERP vendors use different terminology.

But you might also be translating games or text teasers for games which can be very fun, but then it is more closely related to marketing translation, and you might also spend a lot of time investigating new terminology.

Localization has become less technical in the last 10 years, and you need to know less about programming code, HTML etc., but things will be easier if you know about this.

That said you will most likely be providing more correct translations when you know about software development as well. But you still need to deliver the required linguistic quality as well.

You might also be using a lot of different translation tools that are not necessarily developed with the translator in mind, so you need to be quick in learning new tools as you are never paid for any training.

Prices are low and have been lower and lower throughout the years as there are more and more mid-sized localization companies that are fighting for price instead of quality. Even if we have a lot of experience and deliver good quality it is difficult to negotiate for better prices as it is always possible to find someone with lower rates to do the job.

The best way to get really involved in the localization business is to get a job at a localization agency. This way you get to know a lot more about localization projects and processes than you will as a freelancer, and that will save you a lot of worries and work later on.

Expect to work with many deadlines every week and month. And these are usually very tight deadlines.

Do not work directly with end customers about localizing their software/web pages before you know everything about localization and testing of your final work. The customer might expect a ready to use solution, and they will probably deliver material that are not localization-ready. When working with localization agencies most of them have prepared the texts in one way or another.

When translating software you often have a style guide describing the end customers preferred writing style, so you will have to be able to change your writing style with each job. Translating web sites is a different thing. In most cases they are translated without consideration for search engine optimization, but if you translate web sites for end customers you might want to know a lot about that subject.

As bohy wrote it is not a mature business which might drive you crazy.

I have a lot of fun as a localizer as my passions are both software development and translation.

If you want to test if you like localization you might consider joining an open source community as they always need people to translate software. That way you will see how boring/exciting it can be, and it will probably be good training. Be aware that this will be unpaid though.

Good luck,
Johnny


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Milton Guo  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 15:14
English to Chinese
+ ...
Sigh! Feb 22, 2008

word gallery wrote:

Prices are low and have been lower and lower throughout the years as there are more and more mid-sized localization companies that are fighting for price instead of quality. Even if we have a lot of experience and deliver good quality it is difficult to negotiate for better prices as it is always possible to find someone with lower rates to do the job.

Johnny


I just started to take up some localization translation and found about its pros and cons. I am currently doing the localization of media documents. It's a little hard at the beginning as you have to follow the rules (style guide) very carefully and become a lot easier when you get used to it. Then you keep typing and making money, which is higher than the regular translation job.

It seems the price war is everywhere, only the end-clients benefit from price cutting and only the translators suffer from it.


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Johnny Speiermann
Denmark
Local time: 09:14
English to Danish
+ ...
Try Open Source Mar 5, 2008

It might be an idea to do som open source localization to find out if you are really interested in this type of work.

There is a lot more "rules" (style guides, glossaries etc.) in "real" localization work, but it could be a good starting point.


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xxxelsie suess
Local time: 02:14
English
+ ...
Open source details. Jun 4, 2010

What is open source and how can it help us develop and refine skills in the website localization field? I am also new to the field of website translation and am looking for training and experience, whether paid or not.
Thanks for any information on "open source", as I've never heard of it.


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:14
French to English
+ ...
Decisions decisions Jun 4, 2010

vieleFragen wrote:
I've been wondering if maybe website localization/software localization would be for me. The two problems I used to see (or well was told) with translation as a career were that it's often paid rather badly (because of so much competition), but also that it seemed rather monotonous to me.


I think the fundamental reason for doing translation should be that you really enjoy doing translation. If you think translation is monotonous, then that's probably God's way of telling you not to take a career in translation.

If you have a genuine aptitude for translation, then over the long term you can make a decent career and living out of it. Not money beyond your wildest dreams (if you're just interested in money then in all honesty, high-class prostitution and cocaine smuggling probably earn more money), but a decent, honest living.

However, if you have middle-of-the-road ability and your only interest is that it's "something to make a living", I don't think that's a recipe for doing very well.

A hard question that occurs to me: if you have such a passion and aptitude for languages, why aren't you doing a language degree in the first place...?


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:14
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
One answer Jun 4, 2010

vieleFragen wrote:
I'm about to drop out of my business degree...


It is always difficult to explain why one would stop a course -- people often assume that one dropped out because you weren't good enough. I dropped out of civil engineering after my second semester to study translation. I generally don't even mention this fact on my curriculum vitae anymore, though.

I always got A's in English and French class...


Did you take English and French on first language level, second language level or practical use level?

I also used to program small computer games during most of my free-time in elementary and started learning about web design and internet marketing/search engine optimization ... over the last year and truly enjoy it


Ten years ago this statement on your résumé would have helped secure you more jobs, but these days everyone is using the web (so it seems). Still, the ability to hand-code HTML may give you a slight edge over other translators who don't know their <p>'s from their <q>'s.

The two problems I used to see (or well was told) with translation as a career were that it's 1. often paid rather badly (2. because of so much competition), but also that 3. it seemed rather monotonous to me.


1. It can pay well. Don't undersell yourself.
2. There is some competition, sure, but that is not a reason for low rates.
3. I kinda like the monotony. And you're sure to find monotony in software/web site translation. But there are also interesting moments (especially now that there is the internet...).

Obviously, I'm hoping that it would be a bit more creative/exciting and perhaps paid a little bit better?


The actual translation work pays about the same as normal translation.

There are many freeware and opensource programs on the internet that allow volunteers to translate their GUIs and user manuals. Why not translate a few and see if you like doing it?


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:14
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Open source, for Elsie Jun 4, 2010

elsie suess wrote:
What is open source and how can it help us develop and refine skills in the website localization field?


Open source refers to a type of computer program development in which many volunteers work together to create the product. Visit http://sourceforge.net/ for a list of such programs (this is not a definitive list).

From a programmers' point of view, open source projects are more useful than freeware/shareware projects because freeware/shareware projects are often "closed source" and the actual programming is not done by volunteers. However, for translators, there is often little difference between the usefulness of open source and closed source products, because translators are typically not involved in the programming side of things, and so it doesn't matter to them (to translators) whether the product's source (source code) is open or closed.

Open source products are often free and you can legally redistribute it, which also makes it easier to distribute your translation yourself, if you want to. Some translators believe strongly in the idea of open source programming, and so they refuse to do volunteer translation for closed source projects, often arguing that those projects should have budgets to pay them.

However, many open source projects are not translator-friendly (despite the huge potential of it) because the volunteers in it are all programmers who assume that any volunteer worth his salt should at least have a technical background and/or be able to do programming related tasks, and very little assistance is given to translators.


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:14
French to English
+ ...
"open source" Jun 5, 2010

Samuel Murray wrote:
Open source refers to a type of computer program development in which many volunteers work together to create the product. Visit http://sourceforge.net/ for a list of such programs (this is not a definitive list).


Just a veery slight clarification in case it's useful (but maybe it's a bit off topic by now). Very strictly, "open source" just means that the source code is made available. So for example, the Java libraries are "open source" in that anyone can download and view the source code for them. But that source code was actually produced by paid employees of Sun, not "volunteers".

The usefulness of this is that as a programmer, you can find out exactly how a particular library is implemented. So for example, if you have an unexpected error, you have a better chance of understanding why the error occurred. In principle, there's also a greater chance that more people will review the code over time, so bugs and security issues will be spotted. (Though the security argument works both ways-- the bad guys can also look for security loopholes.)

But whether the people writing the code were volunteers or paid a million squillion dollars doesn't really affect these issues directly.

[Edited at 2010-06-05 02:34 GMT]


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Ramon Somoza  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:14
Member (2002)
Dutch to Spanish
+ ...
Software localization and website translation are *very* different Jun 6, 2010

Regarding software localization (meaning translating a piece of software into a new language), I think that both Johnny and Bohy have highlighted the key aspects. I would like to add that very often, since you translate out-of-context strings, you do not have the slightest idea about whether you are actually translating it correctly. The times that I have done this kind of job I actually had to ask for screen-shots quite often, because I did not know what I was talking about in the first place. I did not like it at all.

Open source software translation is an entry point to this career, but be aware that with open source you usually also have access to the code, or at least you can install the software on your computer and check what you are translating. This is not true when you are working on applications such as ERPs, and even for small commercial programs you will not receive a copy to install in on your PC so that you can check it out.

Website translation is completely different, because you can always go to the corresponding website to have a look. However, other skills come in here, and I disagree to an extent with Paul of what is required here. There are two skills required here. One is the traditional translation one, where "localization" means actually adapting the website to a different culture. No big surprise here.

A different aspect -as this is where I am not so much in line with Paul- is that knowing about designing web pages (W3C standards, html, CSS, Joomla, etc.) is not sufficient. The real artist should be able to make a translation in such a way that is scores well in the search engines, and for that he needs SEO (Search Engine Optimization) know-how. And that, my friend, is much more than knowing how to make a web page!

I've started recently a blog on this particular aspect of SEO translation, you can find it at http://www.seo-translator.com

If you want to seriously translate websites, then apart from mastering the web design aspects, I strongly recommend that you study SEO. You can do with basic web page design know-how (after all, you will not design the translated site from scratch), but it is your SEO know-how that provides the added value to your website translation!

[Editado a las 2010-06-06 14:28 GMT]


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