As the global marketplace connects in ways that were impossible for previous business generations, new opportunities are coming directly from localization.
In order to break into new markets across the world and train a global workforce, selecting the right type of localization partner is key. This partner will take your content and prepare it for cultures that may not understand it in its current form. Even if buyers from another country speak the same basic language, the cultural aspects that you include in your material may create just as much of a barrier to understanding as the language itself.
So how do you choose the right localization company? Here are some basic best practices for finding the perfect partner.
Technical complexity and turnkey solutions
Working with a turnkey supplier can save time, money, headaches and enable you to cut down on the amount of communication required.
Here are the basic elements and questions you should be asking:
- Translation network — Does the vendor have a network of globally placed and fully qualified translators, editors and SMEs in all of the languages you are targeting? Working with a vendor that can handle all of your languages means that you will be able to unify processes, including glossary development and translation review.
- Voiceover expertise — Does the vendor work with in-house talent or do they outsource to other studios? Do they cover the entire audio process from engineering to cleaning, cutting and QA? Can they perform all types of recording – narration, UN-style dubbing and lip-syncing? Working with a vendor that manages their own talents leads to greater project control and less chance of voice talent drop out. You will also get a more consistent sound across all languages.
- Integration capabilities — Can the vendor perform turnkey integration in the most popular eLearning publishing tools, such as Articulate Storyline? Do they have internal multimedia labs with text and audio integration capabilities, as well as digital publishers for graphics localization, or do they outsource? Working with a vendor who can manage the integration in-house means that agile update processes can be put in place to deal with translation updates, voice file updates and more.
- Testing — Does the agency have access to a network of native linguists who can test published and beta-stage courses? Do they use high-end bug tracking and reporting software? No matter how great your integration team is, a fresh set of eyes, particularly those of a native speaker, will be able to spot certain areas that need improvement.
- Infrastructure — Make sure that your localization service provider has the appropriate infrastructure (studios, multimedia labs, in-house talent and resources, technology, and paid licenses) to complete all of the required tasks and to handle your unique needs.
Brand and tone
It can be very easy to turn off an international audience if you do not understand the nuances of communication in a certain country. For this reason, it is key to set up a team of internal in-country reviewers, one per language, who understand your brand and can interact with your localization partners in the pre-project phase to select voice talents, clarify pronunciations and approve translated scripts.
Research from Wyzowl on voiceovers finds that three out of four people have been turned off by a voiceover - so much so that they changed their entire buying decision about an eLearning product based on that alone. Informal voices tend to work best (though not in all countries of course), but you must make sure to avoid idioms and slang. These are often the most difficult aspects of a language to localize - the meaning is contingent upon not only an esoteric knowledge of the language, but also cultural references and the core values of that country.
A competent localization service provider will help you understand the difference between informal and ill-advised localization. They should be able to provide you with topic experts in the target country or with market research to help you drill down into the nuance of a country's language. Finally, your localization partner should be able to proactively identify the most important places that you need to adapt your content.
The content that a company puts out into the world usually coincides directly with other metrics of success for that company. For example, the care that a company puts into its product is often indicative of the care that goes into other aspects of the business, namely, the marketing and operations. So if employees in new parts of the world do not feel connected to an overall corporate identity, it can be difficult for them to bring that feeling of connectedness to the product.
Make sure that the company you choose has experience localizing for every location that you wish to target. They will be much more sensitive to the subtleties of the local market which will help your content immensely. And not only will this help with your content, but also with your brand identity in new jurisdictions.
Technology and savings
Past business generations paid a pretty penny for localization services. The heavy overhead for staffing costs and other administrative functions ate into the budgets of many companies. Rapid-eLearning technologies such as Articulate Storyline and other development tools have greatly reduced the costs of eLearning development, and when combined with cutting-edge localization technology, including CAT tools, Translation Memory, TermBase and Machine Translation, these enable cost control and scalability. However, you need to be sure that your chosen localization company is passing those savings along to you.
Not only that, but a good content localization provider should be able to help you keep track of your liabilities as well. They should be able to provide counsel as to whether a localization campaign should be scaled up or down, give recommendations on a timeline, and help you calculate the ROI on the services that you are actually employing. Keep in mind that working within a budget means ensuring the long term stability of your product, which will usually require periodic updates from time to time.
Trust goes a long way
Finding the right localization company means much more than sending a manual of changes into the ether. You will be working side by side with this partner for a long time, and the investment that you will make in this process must be considered up front. Take the time to vet companies that you think will fit your needs. Ask questions. Go with the company that is honest, upfront and free with information. Keeping the best practices above in mind will help to ensure your success across the globe.