LocWorld is a localization conference that I’d wanted to attend for several years. Localization, for those of you who might not have come across the term, is the process of amending a product so it works in a local context. Traditionally, this was primarily about translation. However the changing requirements of industry encourage a more holistic approach to optimizing content for local needs. Translation is still a big part of it, but localization goes considerably further.
The importance of providing a unified language
At AXELOS, we concentrate on internationalization and globalization more than localization. Our goal is to use core content to provide a unified language for people working in project, programme and service management, and cyber resilience. Once the source content is internationalized, we may localize it into specific languages. The key, though, is to ensure that the core concepts and terminology are consistent, no matter where you are in the world.
This was my first LocWorld conference. It happened to be taking place in Barcelona. I can’t pretend the reception around the hotel pool wasn’t a great place to break the ice with my fellow delegates, especially with guaranteed sunshine.
But well-run conferences are jammed-packed with talks, exhibitions, and networking dinners, and we barely had the opportunity to leave the hotel. Barcelona was so near yet so far!
I did get one opportunity to leave the hotel. The main conference was preceded by a smaller event, LocLeaders, to which I was proud to be invited as a panellist. The event took place at the iconic Camp Nou (for the non-initiated, this is Barcelona FC’s grounds). It was split into two panels in the morning and an interactive IdeaLab session in the afternoon.
Topical conference content
The first panel was about machine translation. The panel comprised representatives from Dell, Harley-Davidson, Somo Global and Ciena. Machine translation is highly topical due to advances in AI (artificial intelligence), which have brought changes to the worldwide localization landscape.
I was on the second panel about ‘Innovation and the Customer Journey’. My co-panellists were from Vistaprint, PONS IP and Avenade. Like AXELOS, these companies have internal localization functions that I was looking forward to hearing about. We each gave a short presentation about who we are and how we approach innovation in our respective localization functions. This was followed by a Q&A, which is when things became interesting. It turned out we have similar challenges which we approach in different ways. I learned a great deal from the work patterns my counterparts described. This is important to AXELOS, as we strive to make our content as accessible as possible for our end-users; we know the value of challenging our existing processes in order to keep complacency at bay and to improve the service we offer to our end-users.
Meeting these other experts on the panel was an enriching experience. Firstly, it was reassuring to know that the processes we have in place are, in essence, fit for purpose. Secondly, it was pleasing to know that the people representing these organizations wanted to hear how we at AXELOS approach innovation in localization. We have made huge progress, but as with all things, as soon as you start, you realize there is still a lot we can improve on. It was nice to know we’re on the right track.
Value of internationalizing English
We emphasize the value of internationalizing the English text of our publications so the concepts and techniques described in our best practice guidance can be understood by English speakers around the world, whether English is their first language or not. English has an advantage over many languages in that it is spoken by so many people around the globe, whether that is as a second, third or even fourth language. However, it is a notoriously tricky language to get right when the goal is to pin down exact meaning, which is what is required when conveying specific technical information, such as the AXELOS Best Practice guidance. We spend a great amount of time honing the text in order to ensure our guidance is as accurate and unambiguous as possible. We want to ensure non-native speakers are tested on their understanding of our best practice, rather than their expertise in deciphering the English language.
Pinning down the meaning also serves the purpose of preparing it for the localization process. If our translation partners are confident that the text says what they think it says, the translation process is smoother and the time to market is optimized.
The internationalization process is worth the effort because ultimately, it helps people with their work. I created and shared a set of guidelines with my colleagues in AXELOS to ensure all content writers and providers know how to adapt their language so that it is global and localization-ready. As Head of Translations, I review the majority of content before it goes to print or online to ensure it is consistent and free of colloquialisms. I find it fun because I love words. I love toying with terminology until I find the right way to express what we do. So when it comes to discussing terms and definitions from our global best practice with experts from around the world, I have to say that I relish the challenge!
So, on to the actual conference. It was attended by over 500 delegates and gave a platform to a plethora of suppliers so they could exhibit and present the latest advances in localization technology and practices. There were six specialist tracks: Advanced Localization Management; Content Management; Core Competencies; Inside Track; TAUS; and Technical, plus an additional unconference track to allow for a little freestyling.
Everything on the schedule was of interest. It was impossible to choose what to attend. While the Localization track was very appealing, so were the tracks for Content, Global marketing and Technology. Equally, the TAUS track (TAUS is an international centre for translation, based in the Netherlands) had interesting talks I would have loved to have seen.
My first session was DevOps in Localization Continuous Delivery and Continuous Translation — Moving Data with XLIFF. Back in the office, the IT Service Management (ITSM) team talk a lot about DevOps; I felt like I’d stumbled into an AXELOS product development meeting.
This talk was not strictly DevOps, but the presenter, a software engineer from IBM China, provided a technical briefing on adopting DevOps for localization continuous delivery and discussed how end-to-end agile methods can benefit the entire localization lifecycle. She showed how to ensure that localization endeavours result in the simultaneous release of products in multiple languages, including the source language. This is definitely something I want to implement in our localization processes.
Theme of Continuous Delivery
The theme of this year’s conference was continuous delivery, so Agile, agile techniques, iterative deliveries, Kanban and DevOps were recurring terms throughout the sessions. It was very interactive and thoroughly engaging, as might be expected when a roomful of end-user organizations present their successes and challenges to an audience of localization experts. CISCO, Dell, King (Candicrush, anyone?), Skyscanner, Apple, Google and Microsoft were in attendance, with representatives from their localization, IT, content, marketing, sales, and customer experience teams, (among others) working together from the start of a project to ensure the smooth and continuous delivery of content, tools and products to their global markets.
I was in heaven! All I want to do now is share this with my colleagues and suppliers so AXELOS can assert its place as the leader in global best practice in project, programme and IT service management.
Since then, I have also learned that, based on the 2006 Common Sense Advisory Localization Maturity Model, we are somewhere between level 4 and level 5, which means that the AXELOS Localization team has optimized a great number of processes and has an almost transparent level of maturity. This is very good news for all our end-users, partners (ATOs, ACOs and EIs) and I hope it will encourage them to continue working with us to optimize the translated content they want for their clients.