Localization QA Testers: Guardians of Quality

Last Updated May 10, 2013

Since I manage a team of localization QA testers, localization engineers, linguists and translators and I continuously hire new members, I’m often asked to explain how the different roles interact and what they’re responsible for.

Today I want to focus on localization QA testers.

They’re an integral part of the localization process, but their role is sometimes not fully understood, or not as easy to see.

We rely on them to make the final product really shine, so they deserve some recognition!

Why do localization QA testers play such a vital role in the localization process?

From the Past to the Present of QA Testing

In the past, when much of translation was focused on documentation, localization QA testing was not nearly as common.

Final reviews were typically completed by translators just before the files were sent to publishing.

The work and expertise of localization QA testers became a necessity in the translation process with the rise of digital content and localization activities for mobile applications, software and websites.

Putting it simply, localization QA testers ensure the quality of the localized product.

What are Localization QA Testers and What Do They Do?

It’s a good idea to begin with an explanation of precisely what localization QA testers do.

This will help with understanding the qualities that they need to possess to be successful in what they do.

Unlike translators, who mostly work with text which is isolated from the rest of the user interface, localization QA testers are the very first people to see the localized product in its entirety – translated text, images and the rest of the user interface all together.

They get to experience the project in the way it will be consumed by the end users.

The localization QA testers then have to analyze the product in three ways:

1. Linguistic testing

  • Accuracy of translation within context – Some words/sentences may need to be translated differently depending on their usage.
  • Consistency of terminology – “Submit” or “Send”? While these two words are quite similar, they can confuse a user if they are used inconsistently.
  • Missing content – Engineers who build a localized product most likely won’t speak the target language. If they miss part of the text, they’ll never know it until someone who can understand the language notices. Testers make sure that this “someone” isn’t the end user!
  • Proper date/calendar format – Does the day or the month go first? What is the first day on the calendar? These may differ between countries.

2. Cosmetic testing

  • Consistency with the source – Is everything laid out properly? Is there any truncated text? Misplaced line breaks? 
  • Images – Are the images localized properly? Culturally appropriate? Remember the famous Microsoft photoshop slip?  Testing is your chance to avoid similar disasters.
  • Proper character display – It’s not uncommon to see corrupted characters in localized products. Typically, they’re displayed in the shape of empty boxes or question marks, but in some languages, such as Arabic and Vietnamese, it’s almost impossible to detect corrupted letters if you don’t speak the language.

3. Functional testing

  • Links – Do the links within the localized content point to correct pages?
  • Behavior – Is the application behaving as it is supposed to?
  • Input/output validation – Do the forms allow target language characters to be input? Are the error messages localized properly? What about the postal code?

The Qualities of Localization QA Testers

So, keeping all of this in mind, what characteristics make for successful localization QA testers?

The job may seem easy at first, but in reality it’s complicated and demanding.

In a nutshell, it requires a combination of language skills, strong computer literacy and great attention to detail.

It may be challenging to locate testers who have all of these skills. Ideally, localization QA testers should have:

  • Close to native English skills – Testing localized products requires a solid understanding of the source language, which is often English. Testing is easiest for those who have lived or currently live in an English-speaking country.
  • Excellent linguistic skills in the target language – One of the main tasks for the localization QA tester is to ensure the final quality of translation. This requires a solid knowledge of grammatical rules, but that isn’t all. Localization QA testers not only need to be native speakers, but also have to be up-to-date with their language.
  • Computer literacy – Localization QA testers try out various types of products ranging from websites to software. They report defects, take screenshots and test the functionality of the product. Being comfortable with a computer allows a QA tester to focus on essentials rather than troubleshooting simple tasks.
  • Internet research skills – Things like verifying proper product names and looking for the most common terms and expressions require strong research skills and a little bit of common sense. Being able to find things effectively online saves time and eliminates errors.
  • Attention to detail – Having attention to detail is, in my personal opinion, the most important factor distinguishing great localization QA testers from good ones.
  • Experience with using different software, applications and websites – Being exposed to different programs gives localization QA testers a broader understanding of how the product should behave. Experienced QA testers know where to look for common localization issues even if the particular step was not spelled out in the test script.
  • Flexible schedule – You may be surprised to see this item on the list. In the localization industry, where testing is one of the final steps and schedules constantly change, being flexible is an absolute must.

Ask a Pro: Get to Know 3 Localization QA Testers

When you’re curious about something new, there’s nothing better than consulting an expert. To get even more insight, we’ve asked some friends to answer a few questions about the challenges and rewards of being a localization QA tester.

Elodie Beguere

Bio: Native French, I started in the localization industry in Portland, OR in 2007, and worked with multiple local and global agencies mostly on site. I moved back to France in 2010 and am currently working remotely with North America.

Elodie on LinkedIn

If you meet someone at a party and they ask you what you do, how do you describe your job?

When I say that I am a “testeur”, I get the look “Huh??” Then I say “I review the quality of the adaptation of a product into French”, and people understand. For most people, I have a weird job, out of the ordinary. I have to say that I moved back to my French hometown and it doesn’t take much to get off the beaten path.

What’s the most common localization mistake that you see?

Format issues: French uses a lot more words than English, so often, French text doesn’t fit in buttons, windows, boxes; there is a lot of overlapping… Then comes punctuation standards and special characters.

What skills do you think are important in LQA?

I think a tester needs to be focused, flexible, have good communication skills and of course be comfortable with working remotely, not to mention have an understanding family.

What’s the most difficult part of your job?

Because I work from France mostly with American vendors, the time difference is sometimes difficult: I make myself available basically from when I wake up to bed time (i.e. sometimes very late). Worst case scenario is when I start a job in the morning (night time in the US or Canada), I have a crucial question (links that don’t work, sites under maintenance, instructions related questions…) and I don’t get an answer before mid afternoon. The stress level can get high as the deadline approaches.

Also, the workload fluctuates: some weeks I have no work, others, I have too much.

What do you love the most about your job?

I love my flexible schedule.

I like the fact that I rarely work on the same type of project and if I do, I can only get better at it.

I like all the aspects of the localization/adaptation industry whether it’s testing, translating, reviewing, transcribing, subtitling etc.

Gabor Becht

Bio With 30+ years of hitech marketing experience all over the globe, I apply my linguistic and IT/inter-cultural skills and knowledge to the demanding new challenges of the localization industry. Primarily for Portuguese Brazil/Portugal and Hungarian.

Gabor’s Website

If you meet someone at a party and they ask you what you do, how do you describe your job?

I am a multi-lingual cultural specialist, responsible for the final review of high-profile corporate content.

What’s the most common localization mistake that you see?

The transcription of and heavy use of American slang in all communications and messaging.

What skills do you think are important in LQA?

In addition to core language and trans-cultural skills: Humility, thoroughness, sense of humor, awareness of current affairs, and a keen eye for detail.

What’s the most difficult part of your job?

Repetition, repetition, repetition.

What do you love the most about your job?

Pride in being the last in the chain of international messaging for the finished content worldwide.

Alice Lee

Bio: I have done QA testing since 2002. I started as a Software/Hardware QA tester, then worked as a Chinese QA tester at Intel. In 2006, I became a Localization QA Lead, managing several projects and coordinating resources during QA testing phases.

Alice on LinkedIn

If you meet someone at a party and they ask you what you do, how do you describe your job?

This is how I would describe it: I work with a localization company. The job we are doing is to make sure products like websites or software that are going to be marketed in other countries are translated correctly,  function as expected and are user friendly in the local environment.

What’s the most common localization mistake that you see?

The most common localization mistake that I have seen is the date format and name order in Asian languages.

What skills do you think are important in LQA?

Fluent in English, intermediate computer skills and detail-oriented

What’s the most difficult part of your job?

The scope and budget. How to stay within the budget and maintain a high quality.

What do you love the most about your job?

Finding good bugs is what I love the most about my job.

Conclusion

A team of excellent localization QA testers is essential. The QA team catches last minute inconsistencies, language problems, functionality issues and other items that may have fallen through the cracks. They are the guardians and have the final say about the quality of your product before it reaches the eyes of your customer.

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