Globalization and Localization (was RE: Translate words or mea ning?)

Subject: Globalization and Localization (was RE: Translate words or mea ning?)
From: Kent Newton <kentn -at- METRIX-INC -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 21 May 1996 08:14:00 PDT

On Tuesday, May 21, 1996 7:51 AM, Geoff Hart wrote regarding literal
translations vs. concept translations:

> ... let's consider a more complex (realistic?) example.
> What unpleasant connotations would (in
> the context of disk drives etc.) the concept of a "master/slave"
> relationship have for black Africans and Eastern European
communists?
> A simple and clear metaphor to most of us, but I suspect that it
has
> undesirable meanings for a non-North American audience.

I would contend that the "master/slave" metaphor is offensive to many
members of a North American audience as well. While I am far from
politically correct, I do try to use expressions that are not blatently
offensive, which the concept of master/slave most definitely is.

> This gets more complex still when the user interface itself isn't
> easily translatable among cultures. For example, if we're
documenting
> a user interface that uses file folders, file cabinets and a
desktop
> (e.g., the Mac OS) for users from a non-urban environment, would
this
> communicate effectively? I can see this as a problem if you're
> training native field staff to maintain products in the field in,
say,
> a rainforest environment in which file folders are as common as
BMWs.
> Might we have to come up with a different metaphor that was easier
to
> learn?

> Even between more compatible cultures, metaphors can go astray.
I've
> read that the "typewriter keyboard" metaphor and interface that we
use
> for most computer interactions are problematic for many Orientals
> since the notion of a 100-key keyboard is entirely foreign to
members
> of cultures that use thousands of symbols for words. What problems
has
> this created for members of oriental cultures who must learn North
> American software?

With these last two points you're straying from the topic of translation
per se and moving into the realm of globalization and localization. For
any company planning to market its product (be it software, hardware, or
even services), the globalization of the product and accompanying
documentation is important and, of course, affects translation.

I would like to hear any success (or horror) stories in the area of
globalization and localization. As the world market shrinks, we are all
going to be selling our products (and accompanying documentation) in more
foreign markets. Globalization and localization is going to play a
larger part in the marketability of any product, and I think the
technical communicator can play a vital role in directing this.


Kent Newton
Senior Technical Writer
Metrix, Inc.
kentn -at- metrix-inc -dot- com

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