Localization Engineers: Taking Technology Around the World

Last Updated March 11, 2014

Are you interested in localization engineering? Wondering exactly what a localization engineer does?

To understand the localization process, it helps to get a sense of the people who make it happen.

We’ve previously posted about localization QA testers; now we’re going to talk about the techies, also known as localization engineers.

What is a localization engineer?

The role varies depending on the company, but generally speaking, a localization engineer starts with the development environment of a product, takes it apart to isolate the things that need to be translated, and puts it together again after translation.

You could say that localization engineering creates a bridge between translation and technology, letting translators focus on what they specialize in, the art of language, instead of trying to figure out how to deal with new software each time a new project starts.

Common localization engineering tasks

Project Preparation

A localization engineer will gather all the files that need to be translated and prepare them for translation.

For a software localization project, this may involve:

For a PDF document, this may involve:

Depending on the nature of the product that is being localized, the preparation could be very simple or very complicated.

For example if software has not been internationalized, it will require the input of a more experienced localization engineer who can help the development team identify and fix any problems.

Finally the engineer will upload the files to the translation management system or pass them to the project manager for distribution to translators.

During Translation

Engineers would help translators if they have questions or need help troubleshooting their computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools.

For example if a translator has problems identifying tags or encounter translation memory leverage problems, it would typically be the localization engineer’s job to support the queries.

Build, Compile, and Test

When the files come back from translation, the engineer will verify them, and then start the process of putting them back into the build environment.

This may involve creating images in the target languages, performing desktop publishing tasks, checking for missing markup, resizing dialogs, testing layout issues and potentially other technical details depending on the nature of the project.

Of course, these tasks vary a lot between software, web, media and document localization.

What are the essential skills for localization engineering?

As localization has become more mainstream and digital publishing has started taking many different forms, localization engineers have started specializing to adjust.

The skills necessary for a video subtitling project are quite different than for a software localization project.

But in general, a good localization engineer:

As far as personality, great localization engineers love to experiment, troubleshoot and just generally solve problems, love to explore new technology, and have great communication skills – because localization is a team effort!

As the world gets more connected and technology gets more complex, localization engineers will need to keep up by constantly learning new things, and generally being very flexible.

Just like every text to be translated is different, every product has its technical quirks as well, and it’s important that an engineer is prepared to deal with them.


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