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
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:
- Gathering all resource files that contain translatable text (e.g. resx, .po, .strings)
- Identifying internal and external assets that require translation (e.g. images, help files)
- If necessary, performing internationalization and pseudolocalization testing to make sure the software is ready for localization (Not sure about the difference? Read about internationalization vs localization)
For a PDF document, this may involve:
- Gathering the source files (InDesign, Photoshop, etc.)
- Reviewing the source content to ensure it has been styled and formatted properly
- Identifying images and other items that contain text for translation and extracting the text
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.
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:
Should be able to read code and be familiar with different programming languages. In most cases you won’t code anything from scratch, but you should feel comfortable handling them
Should have knowledge of localization and computer assisted translation tools
Should know about a variety of publishing and editing software (InDesign, FinalCut, Photoshop, Office Suite etc.)
Should understand content management systems and web technologies
Must pay extreme attention to detail
Should have an ability to figure things out (this is perhaps the most important skill)
Should be fluent in more than one language (recommended but not absolutely required)
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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