Welcome to the localization jungle
Perhaps you’re just starting a career in localization. Maybe you’re here because you’re a buyer looking for information to better help you understand what’s in store for you. If you’re an industry veteran, you may greet industry newcomers with a polite (imaginary) tip of the hat, smirking knowingly because you remember what it was like to be in their shoes. I, too, remember, and to those newcomers, I saw welcome.
Welcome to the jungle, good fellows. We got fun and languages aplenty for you!
I confess that’s my own twist on the opening lyrics of a certain well-known song. I find it fitting for the occasion. The language business can look like a scary jungle from the outside – a domain reserved for the Steve Erwins and Indiana Joneses of the world. There seem to be unknown dangers around every corner and the newcomer is never sure which way to go.
However, for industry old-timers, the dangers don’t lie in a lack of experience, but rather a tendency to get complacent. Long-buried mysteries have lost their luster. The crocodiles become just another part of the background. We begin to let down our guard. This isn’t to say, though, that there aren’t new challenges unearthed daily. Some of us survivors have been careful to not get complacent, but perhaps some of us have just gotten lucky. The reality is that this jungle can be equally unforgiving to the newcomer and the complacent veteran alike.
For this reason, I was excited to learn about the new book written by industry veterans Renato Beninatto and Tucker Johnson. Finally, a map of sorts to help guide newcomers on their journey, and perhaps even teach us old-timers a thing or two. Since not everybody will have time to read the book, I wanted to provide some insights through this blog to start you on the journey. For those of you who’ve been there and back, well, there’s perhaps not much novelty in what follows, but it is always a good practice to occasionally get back to basics.
Welcome to the jungle, we got fun
And really, why shouldn’t it be fun? I don’t know about you, but I know that I, personally, certainly wouldn’t have lasted almost ten years in this industry if I wasn’t at least having a little fun. You and I, we may be fundamentally different people. That’s okay and normal, I daresay. There is, however, one common denominator at play, which unites us language professionals – we have fun! If we didn’t, we would find something else to do.
We’re in this because we love (or at least have an affinity for) languages. Most of us do, anyway. There are, of course, those who are in it for the big bucks, admittedly (it is a business, after all), but who’s to say we can’t make some money while doing something we love? Every time you hear “Welcome to the Jungle” on the radio, Guns N’ Roses cashes another check, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have a blast writing and recording that song! The same goes for those in the language services industry who keep cashing paychecks while working in a field where they can really let their passion shine through.
Meet the locals
I recall the day I entered this language services jungle. I knew next to nothing about it, only that there’s translators translating stuff. I soon discovered an entire ecosystem of groups and interconnected systems. The do’s and don’ts. The ideas you should throw out of the window as soon as you start talking localization. It took a while to learn my way around. After all, nobody gave me a map back then. Thankfully, there were tribes of friendly locals to help guide me.
Language services professionals are, by and large, a sociable bunch. Some of them do prefer working alone, others have seen the value in teaming up to tackle bigger tasks and/or cover more languages. I’ve identified several such tribes of people along my journey:
- Language services buyers (LSBs), or those that purchase language services to meet the needs of their global customer base
- Individual contractors – most likely translators (we dub them Contracted Language Professionals, CLPs)
- People who banded together to boost their survivability in their corner of the jungle (the Local In-Country Single-Language Service Providers, or SLPs)
- A group of people whose parcel of the jungle seemed too small and so they expanded to cover multiple languages/regions (the Regional Multiple Language Services Providers, RMLSPs)
- The behemoths of our industry, trampling everything in their wake (the Massive Multiple Language Services Provider, or MMLSPs if you prefer)
- People who craft the tools you can’t do without once the sun sets on the horizon (aka Language Technology Providers, LTPs)
These different tribes all love what they do and most of them are happy to talk about their work, offering valuable advice to those in need. It may be scary being a newcomer to this industry, but don’t worry, there’s help out there! All you have to do is ask.
Yes, it’s a jungle, but we do care
There’s indeed quite a few misconceptions about the language business. Localization is a money dump. Just Google Translate it and we’re sorted. Quality is the only differentiator between LSPs. Now, this isn’t necessarily the time and place to debate these.
However, one fact I do need to emphasize is that people in this industry are here because they really care. You can easily feel the passion they have for the products they localize. Everybody has the same goal of making the world a smaller place, one global product launch at a time. There are no half-assed efforts. Localization is a full-assed line of work. It’s not like anyone gets literally eaten by crocodiles, but it is still advisable to not get too complacent.
Welcome to the jungle – It is never boring, sometimes treacherous, and always a lot of fun, if you stick with the right tribes. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. We’re here to help.