Reviewers for localized materials - are they required?

Subject: Reviewers for localized materials - are they required?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Localization Question <localization_question -at- hotmail -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 31 May 2006 10:21:23 -0400

Localization Question wondered: <<My company localizes its software using a third-party firm. For the most part, the service and quality seems excellent. However, there have been a few glitches and imperfections. I am wondering if we should be using reviewers or editors, who are, of course, fluent in the relevant language, to improve the localized documentation. The localization firm does include a reviewer.>>

Yes, it's ***always*** necessary to have a reviewer. You say that the localization firm includes one, so in many cases, the solution to your problem is to just sit down with that person (face to face, over the phone, whatever) and discuss the problem. Nobody is perfect, and there will always be minor errors, but systematic, recurring errors need to be identified and fixed quickly so they don't continue to bedevil you.

Whether something more aggressive is necessary depends on the seriousness of the problems you're finding. More reviewers will always find more problems, but there's a point at which throwing more reviewers at a problem becomes uneconomical: the payback does not justify the monetary and time costs. Worse comes to worst, there are plenty of good localization firms, so if the current one won't perform to your satisfaction, change firms.

<<Does your company get linguistic experts, or any other sort of expert, to review localized materials?>>

When I do translations, I always try to have an expert review them. As a translator, I'm effectively working as a writer, and all writers need an editor. I have some bias in this matter (I work primarily as an editor), but as the author of more than 300 published articles (and several infamous "boy did I blow that answer" messages immortalized in the techwr-l archives <g>), I know viscerally how true it is that no author can ever do a great job of editing their own work.

With my current client, there are at least two such reviews: one by the author of the original version (all these folks are fluently bilingual), one by the program manager or research director (ditto), and while they had an in-house editor, one last time by their editor. (Now I often get to edit my own translations after a delay of several weeks as the translation goes through internal review. Better than nothing, but not as good as having a new set of eyes examine the text. Fortunately, they're getting a new editor soon. Less income for me, but a better result for the client.)

<<Is it reasonable to simply trust the localization firm to be doing a good job? My colleagues and I have edited materials and caught the odd error, despite a complete lack of fluency.>>

If they're competent, then yes, it's safe to trust them. But never completely. Everyone makes mistakes, no matter how good they are and how diligent. In any event, if you are not fluent and are finding errors--real errors, not just things that appear wrong because you're not fluent--you're within your rights to insist on an explanation and a solution.

<<If you do have additional reviewers, how did you get them and what is the relationship to your company?>>

There are many ways to find the reviewers: hire a freelance editor in that country, hire a translator to review the translation, and so on. These are expensive. In my former job, we had very close working relationships with our clients, and thus had the opportunity to work with them to review our work. This was very effective because not only did it provide a reality check (i.e., that the writing was meaningful to key members of the intended audience), but it also strengthened our working relationship with these clients. So if that's an option for you, find a key client and see if they'll help. It might be the best solution.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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Reviewers for localized materials - are they required?: From: Localization Question

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