Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Localization Vs. Glocalization

The term “Glocalization” originated in the 80s and was popularized in English by the British sociologist Roland Robertson. Basically, it refers to software and product localization, but it is slightly different.

Translation, localization, globalization, internationalization…There are plenty of terms to describe adapting products and software for foreign markets. Here’s one you may not be familiar with: “Glocalization.”

Put simply, this term was invented in order to emphasize the fact that the globalization of a product is more likely to succeed when the product or service is adapted specifically to each locality or culture in which it is marketed. According to this explanation, glocalization does not differ from localization. However, glocalization can have another meaning: using the Internet to provide what used to be local services on a global scale.

I am not a linguistic expert, but I believe “glocalization” is one of the most grotesque words experts have managed to create. At our company, when a client asks what the difference is between localization and glocalization, we simply answer with: “Localization” is simply adapting the text linguistically, and ‘glocalization’ is also adapting it to a certain country, bearing in mind its political, economic and religious restrictions and rules as well.” 
Clients now are very much used to the word “localization”. Glocalization still has a few years to grow as a word and coexist with localization or just be forgotten and die. Anyhow, I believe it’s better to know the meaning of the word rather than being caught with your pants down by a client when you are asked: “Can you give us your estimate for glocalizing this software?”

Localization Struggle: Quality Standards Vs. Cost Reductions

Some time ago, for the first time since our company was founded, a Japanese video game publisher requested us to use Trados 2007 for the localization of their brand new Playstation 3 video game. This request has come to us for the first time after more than 60 million characters translated -often into more than 6 or 7 languages-. 

Why is this possible? How come can the Japanese localized such voluminous video games without using a trendy TM such as Trados, Dejavu or Wordfast? My personal opinion is that Japan has traditionally been a software developer country with little or no idea of video game localization. All they had to do so far was wait for European companies to come to Japan, buy their licenses and localize the product, while the Japanese smiled and looked forward the royalties (usually a 15%). Changing the dollars for yen, was the only localization they used to do.

However, the fall of the sales in the Japanese market (together with the piracy), forced the Japanese developers and publishers to push to license out their products in Europe and America. Need less to say, the big ones still are lucky and have no trouble to sell abroad, but tiny developers have to be aggressive if they want to sell their product. And, also, they must be price competitive. The developer usually wants to save as much money as possible, and one of the usual phrases you can hear in that kind of negotiations is: "Oh, we will also localize the game to save some costs"...

And this is how the localization nightmare begins. Their cost saving strategy is basically the below:

Find the CHEAPEST translation agency.
Ask the translation agency not to use TM tools, as rates are higher when you use them.
Ask the translation agency to translate into Spanish, French, German or Italian from English rather than from Japanese, which is more expensive.

The consequences are usually as follows:
A. Not using TMs for a 500,000 character translation means inconsistencies will appear in the text (some video games have hundreds of items that are repeated through all the text).
B. Not translating directly from the source language -Japanese-, means that the 5% of the meaning is already lost in the first Jp-En translation. Moreover, if there was a single error in the first translation, that error will be repeated in the French, Spanish, English and Italian translation.
C. The game is usually rejected by the hardware maker (Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft), and consequently the developer has to spend more time and money testing the game in order to release it.
So, in this case also cheap is expensive. Even if the translation is only a little part of the localization process (being the familiarization, text debug and system debug the resting parts), we consider the translation as the HEART of the localization. Usually, I like to explain our clients that investing a 10% more in a proper translation, they will save more than the 50% of the total localization cost. Furthermore, they will also receive a translation memory of their game text, which will allow them to be more cost effective in future projects -as we all know, it is very common to have sequels in the video game translation world. However, most of them prefer us just to drop the prices and struggle to meet impossible deadlines. 

In Active Gaming Media, we believe it is crucial to focus on quality once more in this era of global crisis. Users not only look for the cheap, they also sharpen their targets and buy the best localized ones.  When this client asked us if we could use Trados 2007 for their localization, I felt happy to know we are not alone in this crusade for quality. I can guarantee, our clients's clients will also be happy with the game on their hands.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Literary translator: a sad profession

The world of translation has changed more in the last 15 years than in the previous five centuries.

When I had my first notions about what the profession of translation entailed, the first image that came to my mind was that of a writer working extremely carefully in a quiet room, striving to find the perfect phrase in the target language. I am obviously talking about literary translation and other kinds of translations just didn't exist for me.

Of course, linguistic mastery was a prerequisite for the profession, but nowadays, when a publisher wants to publish a foreign novel, they do not look most for quality text, but for the cheapest available price on the market.

Literary translation, which has always been perceived and practiced in various manners and literary traditions, is now a victim of the Internet, which allows translators to deal directly with clients without the need of an agent, but makes *really talented* translation more and more difficult. A good literary translator will need to read the whole novel before starting to translate a single word; he will need to read the author's biography and other previously edited translations, and after that he will need a very large chunk to translate. And this, obviously, costs money.

On the other hand, a translation agency based in New Delhi or Hong Kong will contact a publisher and offer the same service in half time and for half the price. The same service? Well, obviously the quality will suffer, but who cares about that in the market's current state?

I have some insight on this: Here at Active Gaming Media, we receive hundreds of resumes from literary translators who are willing to do any sort of text translation possible, simply because they have no work. One of our partner translators did two outstanding translations from Yukio Mishima's Japanese novels, and in the last two years he has not been offered more than 0.035USD per target word, and for translating NOVELS at that. So, if this happens with such a difficult combination as Japanese-Spanish, what will happen with English-related translations? 

Literary translation will continue to survive as long as novels are printed, but dark days are on the horizon for literary translators.

Friday, February 10, 2012

How To Reclaim Payments For Unpaid Assignments

"I translated 10,000 words for a really well-known translation agency, but they haven’t paid me!"

We often receive emails containing comments similar to this one. Also, translation-related forums are full of questions about unpaid translation assignments and similar queries.
Most freelance translators work from their homes - often on a full time basis - and their only income is made from what they translate, so we really don’t need to stress how terrifying it can be to not receive a payment on time. 

I want this to be a practical text, so here are some brief tips that can help translators to deal with unpaid translations.

1. Check to make sure that the problem is not on your side:

A. From my personal experience, I can tell you that more than half of the invoices translators send out are erroneous. A project manager can be managing 10 different assignments at a time, and he/she will generally not have time to check your invoice carefully immediately after you have submitted it. Have you calculated taxes correctly? Did you include your bank information? Is the branch name spelled correctly? Did you also add your Paypal address just in case they don’t send bank transfers to your country? 

B. Are you sure that the client has received your invoice? Call him two days before the expected payment date, and double check to confirm that you will be receiving your payment by the deadline. 

C. Did the client include the payment date in their purchase order (PO)? When working with a particular client for the first time, this must be checked. 

2. Take precautions:

Freelance translators NEED to work to make a living, that’s obvious. But sometimes that need leads them to accepting assignments they should have rejected. The below were my golden rules when I was working as a translator:

NEVER accept a translation from a client who only owns a website but does not specify where they are based.
NEVER accept a translation without checking that particular client’s payment record in any translation Blacklist, Proz, or somewhere similar.
NEVER accept 100,000 word assignments from clients you’ve never heard of. If so, ask them for a 25% advance. If the client really wants to work with you, they will pay you. If not, instead of taking risks you can always use your time to find other companies.
NEVER accept to be paid after the client receives the payment from the end client. Make it clear that as far as you’re concerned, there is NO CLIENT OTHER THAN THE ONE PAYING YOU THE MONEY. If you received a PO from Mr. X, then, Mr. X must pay you the full fee in time no matter what happens with his/her client.


Take a deep breath of fresh air, relax, call your client, and politely ask the reason you were not paid. It is very common for translators to start shouting at the client the day after the expected payment, but then it turns out that the bank account info was wrong, or the translation was delivered after the deadline or something like that. Blaming a client without first asking what’s going is the shortest path to not receiving further assignments. 

Also, when a client doesn’t pay you but apologizes, offer them the option of paying in two or three installments. Business is business: Try to get your money no matter what the conditions; receiving your payment little by little is still receiving your payment.


Well, the Internet is full of them, and working as a freelance translator the possibilities of being offered a scam assignment someday are of about 99.9%. 
If you are scammed, report it to any Blacklist and post it in forums, including a link to the scammer as well. Also, if you think that the client is not simply in financial trouble, but did not intend to pay from the very beginning, then report it and file a complaint to the Internet Crime Complaint Center if your client is based in the U.S.A or if you live there http://www.ic3.gov


If you want to avoid payment delays, just professionalize, updating your invoicing standards and creating some very strict job acceptance rules.
After 5 or 6 years in the business, you should be able to “feel” when a client is trustworthy or not.

Friday, February 3, 2012

How to Deal With Project Managers

I worked as a translator for 10 years, but from 2006 on I’ve been mostly working as a project manager at a translation company. My previous experience helped me a lot when trying to deal with translators, but I realized that most of the things I thought about project managing when I was a translator were absolutely erroneous. Here you will find some tips to help you obtain more work from project managers.

Try to avoid sarcastic comments if the rates are too low (“I could earn more working at McDonalds” and the like). They are offering you the possibility to earn money!
If a PM knows a translator will respond politely, new offers will come in the future.

Even if you are not interested, or are on vacation, or the email suddenly appeared in the SPAM folder and it’s already too late, ALWAYS reply.
From my own experience, if a translator just does not answer, he is automatically off of the list.
Also, if possible, answer quickly. If you do not have enough time, a really simple reply such as “Thank you, will peruse it and be back to you in XX minutes”, it is enough.

Don’t communicate just by email. Give them a buzz and try to exchange information: 
I heard the videogame localization market is growing. Do you have any related assignments?”
PMs will appreciate your help and they always prefer to work with translators who really know the market.

You can accept a job for lower fees depending on the circumstances, BUT the project manager should be aware that your usual fees are XX. That will be helpful for him in order to negotiate with potential clients. 

If you have to sacrifice quality or deadline, sacrifice the deadline, and try to offer as high quality as possible. Having to apologize to a client because the translator did a horrible translation is worse than not respecting the deadline.
This does not mean that you can just ignore the deadline! But you can negotiate the deadline, while the quality cannot be negotiated.

Don’t give too many excuses if someone scolds you for an error. Translators are also humans and can make mistakes. Thank the PM for the corrections and be sure not to make those same errors again.

And peruse the text before accepting them.
It’s really annoying when the translator accepts an assignment and sends you an email 24 hours later telling you that the quality might take a dive because the rates are too low. 

Don’t tell them you have experience in a certain field if you don’t. The only thing you can say in those cases is “Oh, I am interested in this field” or “I will do my best if you provide a consistent glossary”.

Conclusion: Many people tend to treat the PM as a mere intermediary between the translator and the client, but, in the end, the agent himself IS the client, and we only expect to be treated as clients. Bear this in mind and you will receive more and more assignments.