Clark et al.
Links of interest
Training translators to localize
School of Applied Linguistics and Cultural Studies, University
This position paper
will mainly focus on questions 5 to 9 of the questionnaire,
i.e. the questions of whether, and if so, how localization training should
be integrated into translator training programs. Most of the paper will
be based on my own approach to web site and software localization and
tool training as implemented within the constraints of a traditional four-year
program at the School of Applied Linguistics and Cultural Studies at Germersheim
(University of Mainz).
Before discussing approaches to localization training within and beyond
traditional programs of translation and interpretation, I should say that
I consider translation to be an integral and central part of localization,
but I also consider localization to be more than translation. The localization
comprises several tasks that are traditional translation tasks like, yes,
translating text itself, terminology mining and management, or revision.
However, there are also tasks, like software development and engineering,
desk-top publishing or the editing of graphics files, that, at most, lie
on the peripheries of technical translation. The boundaries, of course,
between translator tasks and localizer tasks are rather fuzzy, but they
nevertheless exist, as the rather clear division of labor between freelance
translators and translation or localization project managers shows. The
differentiation between translator tasks and localizer tasks also gives
rise to upward mobility schemes for freelance translators.
Furthermore, given the different textual and technical natures of software
products and web sites and taking into account their different development
and publication cycles, software and web site localization should not
be lumped together as "just the same kind of localization" but
should be considered as different phenomena. The development of comparative
text typologies, both for hypertexts as well as for software texts will
help to stress the differences between these two localization types and
will also help to shine light on such hybrid products as computer games
2. Integrating localization into traditional training programs
With regard to ways
of integrating localization into translator training programs I will focus
on three areas. The first, which could be called translation for localization,
takes place within traditional translation practice classes and focuses
on software and web site localization. The second type of courses deals
with electronic tools for translators. These courses are usually optional.
Figure 1: Integrating
Localization - General Approach
The third part of the general approach on introducing localization regards
seminars dealing with theoretical issues of localization, e.g. workflow
analyses, text typologies or translational constraints derived from, for
example, the use of content management systems, translation memories,
or localization tools. One of the goals of these more theory-oriented
courses is to find ways of applying existing translation studies paradigms
(for example Skopos theory or Holz-Mänttäri's Theory of Translational
Action) to localization. Courses in the theory part of the model also
deal with issues of internationalization. Given the fact that good part
of the intercultural component of software and website translation is
actually located on the level of internationalization, students-as future
experts for intercultural communication-learn to apply their bi- or multicultural
skills to software programs or multilingual websites.
My thoughts on the
question of what elements of L10N should be included in a curriculum for
translator training and how they should be taught will be guided by the
question of feasibility, i.e. what kind of solutions are possible given
existing curricular, administrative, and institutional constraints. Accordingly,
I will be talking mainly about solutions within traditional translation
programs (i.e. the German Diplom or the Spanish Licenciatura), while solutions
outside the traditional scheme of translator training (like specialized
postgraduate or MA programs) will only be briefly mentioned. However,
since the following proposals are based on a modular approach to L10N
training they could easily be used in both of these settings.
As stated above, I
propose a conceptual differentiation between "translation tasks,"
i.e. software translation and website translation and "localization
tasks" (knowing, of course, that a clear distinction is not possible).
The first set of these tasks will most likely be carried out by freelance
translators, while the localizer tasks will be carried out by in-house
staff, e.g. project managers (a lot of them former freelance translators),
software engineers, or Q&A specialists. If we look at localization
from the point of view of freelance translators-most of our graduates
will use the sector as a first stepping stone into the market -localization
could be easily integrated into existing translator training programs.
This could be even more straightforward if we did not start from the notion
of localization, which in my mind often places too much emphasis on the
production process of a multilingual website or software product, but
if we instead would simply talk about translating software texts and translating
hypertexts, something that can be dealt with in rather traditional translation
practice classes on technical or scientific texts (only computer-based
and -supported, as well as team- and project-oriented).
regard to my own classes on technical translation, I've over the course
of the past eight years developed a four-level model for software and
website translation (see figure 2).
2: Translating for Localization - Four-Level Model
Each level now comprises
about 30 hours. On the first level, students (usually early in their third
year) are introduced to localization in general and to the basic text
types involved in software L10N (GUI texts, installation guides, help
files). In addition, this course also serves as an introduction to basic
hardware and software terminology. This introduction is based on a number
of interrelated concept systems (see figure 3 for an example), and fortified
through the contents and foci of the texts used throughout the translation
practice class (e.g. excerpts from a printer manual or an installation
guide for a network adapter).
3: Concept System "Hardware - Output Devices"
The courses on the
second and third level (third and fourth year) of the two-year model aim
at introducing the participants to "real-life" translation projects,
in which they are not only using typical translator tools, e.g. terminology
management systems, translation memories, and localization tools, but
also learn how to manage and coordinate small L10N projects. On each of
the two levels, students carry out a specific localization project, one
focusing on software L10N, the other on website L10N. If possible, these
courses are based on real translation tasks, i.e. involving real clients
and the subsequent publication of the project results. Where this it not
possible, a real-life project will be simulated. The courses include all
stages of a localization project from analyzing the source text, calculating
the (unfortunately) fictitious budget, organizing and managing the distributed
translation of the files, creating and maintaining a project terminology
base, building customized corpora, and using CAT tools such as Catalyst
or Passolo for software L10N or CATs Cradle or Trados Tag Editor for HTML/XML
files. Students take on individual roles and become project managers,
terminologists, translators or revisers. Software L10N projects also comprise
the translation of help files and printed documentation, which can also
include the handling of translation memory systems (TMS). For time reasons,
however, the use of TMS usually has to be reduced to a short presentation
or has to be left out altogether. Nevertheless, translation memory systems
are taught in a different class, and this class is especially geared towards
third- and fourth-year students.
The fourth level of
this "translating-for-localization model is directed at exam candidates,
usually in their fourth year of study. The final exam in technical translation
is a three-hour written translation of a five-hundred-word texts. The
translation is written by hand and no electronic resources are allowed,
but students are allowed to use a print copy of a glossary that they themselves
have put together during the semester leading to the exam. An exam course
is necessarily influenced by, well, the exam and student's hopes of and
expectations for it, e.g. solid knowledge of the subject area dealt with
and the terminology involved as well as confidence in analyzing and producing
culturally-adequate texts. From a student's point of view, this course
is very much about "panic control." In addition to this primary
goal, the course aims at developing some crucial professional skills.
One of these skills is the ability to thoroughly research a topic (I usually
pick a rather new and/or unknown topic) and to build a strong knowledge
base that includes the main terminology and phraseology in the field.
Starting from this knowledge base, which is supported by a terminology
database and a customized bilingual corpus, students are encouraged to
self-confidently create independent texts. The source texts usually represent
technical marketing material or detailed product descriptions and force
the students to dig deep into their encyclopedic and terminological repertoire
while at the same time leaving them more room for creativity than, for
example, a set of software strings or a Getting Started Guide does. In
addition, these types of texts also encourage the students to work on
their revision skills. Class discussion is usually based on one sample
translation. This presentation is prepared by a group of three students,
of which one serves as terminologist, one as translator, and one as reviser.
All four courses mentioned above are obligatory, and are supported by
a course web site and either a mailing list or a newsgroup.
2.2 On Translator Tools and Localizer Tools
The four levels making up the "translating-for-localization model"
is supported by a number of additional, non-obligatory courses on electronic
tools for translators. The teaching of these courses is divided into several
categories - as shown in figure 4.
Figure 4: Integrating Localization - Tools
The basic approach to electronic tools for translators that serves as
the basis for the teaching of these optional courses will be described
in the following. The remarks are taken from a recent article on new developments
in translation technology.
It is our goal in this article to introduce the reader to the state of
the art of the manifold forms of ICT usage in the world of professional
translation and localization. In doing so, we are following a thoroughly
process-based approach to the analysis, evaluation, and design of electronic
tools for translators (see Austermühl 2001b) and other related applications
of localization technology (see Esselink 2000, Sprung 2000). This approach
implies that the design and use of translation- and localization-oriented
ICT solutions are subordinated to the demand for information and automation
that are arising during the individual phases of the translation and localization
processes. This approach also implies a clear hierarchy that places the
professional in charge of the tools, making the latter means for increasing
not only the productivity of the translation process but also the quality
of the translation product.
In general, we will distinguish between two separate, yet closely interconnected
sub-processes, each requiring its own set of task-specific tools. The
first of these domains comprises the ''classical'' three-step translation
model of source text reception, information transfer, and target text
formulation. The network- and computer-based resources used during this
core translation process aim at providing the translator with the linguistic,
encyclopedic, and cultural information necessary to successfully perform
his or her task. Since we consider translation to be an utterly knowledge-based
activity (see Stolze 1992), these "translator tools" will ideally
serve to enhance the translators' hermeneutic abilities, thus allowing
them to unfold their full, creative potential.
This ideal situation of a translator's freedom, however, is in many cases
torpedoed and restricted by a second group of electronic tools. These
applications, which we will call ''localizer tools,'' aim primarily at
streamlining the business process of translation, especially with regard
to larger, repetitive translation tasks and projects. Although from the
point of view of a human translator it is tempting to characterize these
tools (primarily translation memories or localization tools) as merely
productivity-enhancing, their impact on the improvement of translation
quality, especially with regard to terminological and phraseological consistency,
should not be ignored. Figure 1 reflects the approach taken in this article
with regard to the categories of translator and localizer tools.
In the following we will be focusing on the various translator tools,
on translation memory and localization solutions, which are used by translators
and localizers alike, and on machine translation systems. The other tools
listed are primarily used by larger translation agencies to help optimize
the localization workflow and, as in the case of multilingual content
management systems, to speed up the actualization of multilingual documentation
or websites. As the typology in figure 5 shows, the automation of the
process increases from right to left. The model also shows the overlap
in terminology database, translation memory (TM) and, to a lesser extent,
localization (L10N) tool use by translators and localizers. The TM and
L10N solutions available for translators and localizers do vary however
with regard to the number of available features. Software used by freelance
translators oftentimes offers only part of the functionality available
to localizers. These customized applications have become known as 'light'
or 'front-end' solutions.
Figure 5: A Typology of Translation and Localization Technology
be noted that while our distinction between 'translator tools' and 'localizer
tools' serves a theoretical and didactic purpose, the processes involving
these tools and their individual advantages and disadvantages cannot and
should not be seen as separate, and the close interconnection of translation
as the transfer of knowledge across cultural and linguistic borders and
translation as part of a larger business process must not be neglected.
2.3 A Bit of Localization Theory
Both the translation courses and the tool courses are flanked by additional
courses that offer a more seminar-style discussion of localization issues.
This third element of my overall approach aims at applying existing translation
studies approaches to the field of localization and developing new ones.
Theoretical considerations of the localization paradigm should also address
the changes that the industrialization of the translation process bring
about for the professional lives of translators and localizers. This should
include a description and critical analysis of typical L10N workflow patterns
and a warning against the translational constraints resulting from the
use of translation tools.
6: Integrating Localization - Possible Theoretical Issues
In the following, I am using a discussion of the pros and cons of translation
memory systems, to illustrate some of the foci of such seminar on localization
The main characteristics and advantages of TM systems are widely known,
and could be summed up as follows: Given the fact that technical documentation
in general tends to be redundant, the use of TMs eliminates the need for
repetitive translations of regularly recurrent textual segments. This
refers to repetitions of the same or similar source text units within
the same text (internal repetitions) or repetitions within a corpus of
previously translated texts (external repetitions). The automatic recognition
of previously translated segments increases the stylistic, phraseological,
and terminological consistency of the target texts, which constitutes
a major quality improvement. The elimination of repetitive tasks leads
to faster turn-around times, productivity increases, and lower costs,
and at the same time frees the translator from time-consuming, boring,
and error-prone tasks. Project management functions available within TM
tools provide, for example, statistical information about translated segments
and thus allow for the better planning and monitoring of localization
processes. Translation memories can be used over local or global networks,
which speeds up team-based translation projects, and helps to secure consistency
among translations produced at remote, yet interconnected sites.
Despite these undisputed advantages, TM usage also includes a number of
inconveniences, especially-but not exclusively-from the point of view
of individual translators. Among the complaints from the translator community
about the negative consequences of TMs are the rigidity of source text
structures, the dominance of the sentence or sub-sentence phrases as primary
translation units, incompatibilities within one TM or between TM and term
bases contents, faulty, yet untouchable TM segments, the lack of creativity
for the translator as autonomous text producer, the lack of cotext and
context for the segments to be translated, and last, but not least, the
lack of motivation or freedom to go beyond the simplistic source text
structures and the preexisting translations imposed upon the translator
by the TM system. Another problem with regard to the use of translation
memories is the question of copyright and intellectual ownership of the
translations that form part of the TM.
Given the dangers of a snowball effect of translation errors embedded
in TMs, the assurance of the quality of segments stored in TMs (for source
texts as well as for target texts) and the consistency of the content
of TMs and term bases become essential for the overall quality of any
translation project. Therefore, TM systems must provide for the easy manipulation
and updating of existing TMs, including the automatic update and replacement
of new or modified terminology. This quality maintenance is directly related
with the reliability of a TM and thus with the quality of the work produced
using a TM system. That sounds pretty simple, and all TM suites offer
the necessary features for this kind of quality control.
The problem is, though, that the realities of modern, conveyor-belt-like
localization projects, tight delivery deadlines and even tighter budgets,
quality control of TM content is often times not carried out thoroughly
enough. As a result if this neglect, units stored in translation memories
are often times neither reliable nor consistent, which basically renders
the main arguments for their usage obsolete.
So, in many case the use of TMS and other localizer tools leads to frustrated
users, time consuming revisioning and inconsistent and conflicting contents.
Many of these problems are caused by not seeing translation as an integral
part of localization projects, and by not considering technology as and
integral component of translating. Interesting, and I would add, rather
telling about some approaches to translation of the language industry,
is a statement on the role of translators taken from a rather expensive-looking
TRADOS brochure: "The translator or linguist is a language expert
responsible for the creation of the translation as such. He (or she) focuses
mainly on the content (of the translation) and not so much on the technologies
involved or on the translation process (as a whole)." (Trados, "Trados
I assume that a company that is dependent on its Translation Memory sales
needs to promote such an isolated, outdated, and utterly technocratic
view of the translator and his or her doing.
This quote, however, seems to be symptomatic for an industrial system
that creates a seemingly permanent frustration among freelance translators
who feel either exploited and/or deprived of their linguistic and translational
freedom or who "just don't give a damn."
issue 2.4 (2003) of LISA's Globalization Insider, Bob Clark
warned of the dangers connected with a the strict hierarchy of the GILT
industry and called for the rehumanizing of translation, and with that
he described rather well what is happening to individual translators within
the GILT industry.
Home offices regularly convert into sweat shops with translators desperately
trying to meet yet another unexpectedly advanced delivery date. Due to
the size of the files to be dealt with and inhumane dead lines, many modern
translators feel exploited and over-pressured. Yet, at the same time they
are often times bored because of the monotony of their work, e.g. the
translation of seemingly endless software strings. In addition, many typical
L10N text types such as resource files significantly cut into a translators
freedom, forcing him or her to-quite literally-count characters. In text
types that due to their functions and structures would give translators
a little more creative leeway beyond bilingual bean counting, the dictatorship
of terminology presets (many of them established by linguistically-challenged
software developers) and the sacrosanctity of translation memories restrict
the hermeneutical activities of translators right form the start. Just
like that, the advent of translation memories and the "one-size-fits-all
approach" they represent, have effectively reintroduced "the
phrase" to the throne of translation units.
Furthermore, and with that I will stop for now, translators often times
feel left out of the product cycle or workflow, thus making them feel
socially disconnected and decreasing their chance of providing better
It is plainly visible that these central components of modern translation
project management contribute to a translation reality that is in many
ways diametrically opposed to key paradigms of modern translation theory.
What room is, for example, for Hönig and Kußmaul's "degree
of differentiation" that allows, or better, implores the translator
to add information, to leave out information, to alter the text where
necessary. How many times are users of translation memories faced with
a couple of ST sentences that would sound just lovely if made into one
in the target language? Of course, technically that could be done by changing
the segment alignment. But how many translators would do this, and how
many PMs or clients would accept it? Under these circumstances, can translation
still: "the creative give-and-take of intuition and cognition"
that Paul Kußmaul writes about. To be fair, however, with regard
to many typical software types, e.g. GUI texts and strings, this kind
of approach would represent a theoretical overkill. But does the same
hold true for manuals, for e-learning material, for marketing texts? And
what about instruments of coherence? Anaphora, cataphora, isotopy, paraphrasing,
substituting? Forget them: In a text that is a "just-in-time document,"
that is less a text than a momentary assemblage of content fragments,
within which every fragment, every phrase can become the readers entry
point, "repeating" becomes the one and only resumption strategy.
Think that's bad? Wait for CMS.
My reason for stressing the negative impact that the automation of the
industry has on individual translator is also to sound a warning. Translating
within larger localization projects or for the pitiful word fees of many
agencies can no longer be advertised as an attractive and challenging
profession (not to talk about it being a lucrative one). Many excellent
graduates of translation schools are already emigrating into new, more
rewarding professional fields. And those working in the above mentioned
setting are constantly looking for ways up or out, making technical and
software translation more and more and entry level job or a way to survive
financially until something better comes up. The results of this are a
lack of qualified and motivated beginners, and a translation brain drain,
i.e. the professional escaping of qualified and experience translators.
Localization and, above all, internationalization can benefit from the
translation studies, and in his contribution "What
Localization Models Can Learn From Translation Theory," Anthony
Pym mentioned some of the possible links between localization and translation
studies. Finding ways of applying translation studies to localization
(and developing new approaches) will be an important challenge for academics
in the field. A comparison of subtitling approaches and software and website
localization, for example, will show interesting similarities between
these two types of screen translation.
We should also get ever more involved in thinking about the ways in which
translation is related to computer-mediated intercultural communication,
and how it fits into the workflow of localization processes. In that regard,
it would be interesting to see if, for example, consistent and resolute
post-alignment of thoroughly researched and revised translations could
not lead to higher productivity, better quality, and more consistency
in TM usage.
Furthermore, scholars might want to look at and compare text types involved
in website and software localization. Using a typology of software text
types (see figure 7 for a simple representation), analyses could focus
on the textual characteristics, inter- and intracultural differences or
technical constraints of these specific texts, which would be one way
of preparing future translators (and technical writers) for the advent
of XML-based globalization management systems.
Figure 7: A Typology of Software Texts
The model described above calls for a scalable approach to integrating
localization into translator training program. The approach taken reflects
the institutional constraints of a traditional four-year program. The
model has proven to be flexible enough to allow students interested in
technical translation, translation technology and localization to combine
numerous obligatory and optional courses for a specialization in this
field within the traditional Diplom program. The obligatory four-level
module on software translations (English to German) guarantees the student's
exposure to the dominant text types and tools involved in software and
website localization. The optional second part of the overall approach,
the courses on electronic tools for translators, allows for an individualization
of the learning pace by letting students select the courses on the basis
of their prior experience. The courses on tools are also very well suited
for conversion into e-learning units. The third component of the approach
allows for a more thorough and critical analysis of the localization paradigm.
Students can write term papers and their final theses on the issues mentioned
above and might even go on writing their dissertation about Translation
Studies and Localization (see course 5.2 of the international doctoral
program "Translation and Intercultural Studies for possible research
The courses offered within the above model can be easily combined with
other translation courses, e.g. in order to cover other relevant language
combinations like Spanish and German, or English and Spanish. And they
could serve as the basis for more technology oriented program on translation
tools and localization project management (see for example the new two-year
Master's program Tradumàtica of the Universitat Autònoma
de Barcelona). Within this MA program the module on localization, which
I coordinate, offers a good example of cooperation between university
and industry representatives. The module was designed in close cooperation
with representatives from the local translation and localization industry,
and same representatives will contribute to the teaching of the courses.
Among others they will offer insights into the organization of translation
agencies, bring in real-life localization projects, and assists in the
management of student projects. The module on localization will also include
and integrate sessions on project management and quality assurance.
Frank Austermühl 2003