Trendspotting at Events in Dublin: What is the Future of Localization?

By Louise Law

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One of the best things about my role as Communications Manager and Welocalize Content Wrangler is that I get the opportunity to go to the European Localization World each year and take part in the Welocalize LocLeaders Forum. This month, I found myself in Dublin for my fifth LocWorld and LocLeaders. It’s a hot ticket and I can see why. For anyone in the industry, the June “localization events season” must rank high on their calendar, especially if they want to learn more and make important connections.

The theme for LocWorld in Dublin this year was disruptive innovation. One of the most pleasantly disruptive highlights from the 2014 Dublin LocWorld was the keynote speaker Magnus Lindkvist, who delivered an incredibly energetic presentation, “When The Future Begins: Trendspotting and Future-Thinking in a Turbulent, Exciting World.” He was fantastic and if you were there, I’m sure you’re nodding your heads in agreement.

His performance raced through examples of how business leaders and human beings should think and more importantly, plan ahead. Interestingly, he used a fair few Finnish and Swedish rock music analogies on how the future can pan out very differently than how you think it will be. I certainly did not want his hour to end and I know everyone who witnessed one of the most exciting hours that LocWorld has ever seen said WOW!

In Magnus’s presentation, he used the phrase “futurologist and trendspotter” to describe himself.  In carrying on with his theme, I want to share some “trends” that jumped out at me during my time in Dublin.   My trendspotting highlights:

  1. My first engagement in Dublin was the “Reaching Impact” Welocalize LocLeaders 2014 Forum. LocLeaders prides itself on bringing together some of the sharpest localization minds and industry personalities to banter, challenge, share and collaborate. We held the event at the Marker Hotel, about a 10 minute walk from the Dublin Convention Centre, the location of LocWorld. The Marker oozed great style and design – you could say the same for the attendees. We’d all broken the ice the night before at our LocLeaders Dinner at the legendary Jameson’s Whiskey Distillery. By the time Smith Yewell, CEO at Welocalize, opened the LocLeaders Forum at 9:00am the next day, the conversations had already started..  My spotted trend #1: Getting the right people in the room is the key to a great event.
  2. The opening discussion was about quality and quality review. Assessing translation quality is one of the biggest challenges and trending topics for the localization industry. Of course, everyone was pretty much in agreement that quality assessments depend on content type and what you want to do with that content. As an industry, localization has evolved into something deeper. Zero linguistic error is no longer the main objective. Linguistic checks don’t say much about the tone and style of a piece, which is crucial when speaking to local markets. Translations and review cycle have to be in the right context and everyone needs to know where the translated content is destined for consumption. As Smith covered in his opening remarks, we need to provide metadata and analytics to translators and reviewers to improve results. If all teams are aware of the potential impact of the content they are translating, reviewing or post-editing, then the process will improve. My spotted trend #2: Consensus is we need to drive out waste in the quality model and that always using in-country reviewers is not always the best approach. In fact, you might find savings by streamlining this process.
  3. Speaking of savings, we talked about some real-life examples where the QA process has been stripped out completely for certain types of digital content and the cost savings have been invested into other areas of the localization strategy, like MT programs. Not having a third party review model can be the right approach to certain types of content like UGC; however, for heavy technical content, more communication is required between the translators and reviewers, so they better understand the domain of the content.  My spotted trend #3: Content type should drive your discussions on QA process.
  4. Machine Translation (MT) will always be discussed at any translation or localization forum. Our Vice President of Language Tools, Olga Beregovaya summed this up well by saying, “I am convinced that any company or localization strategy is suitable for an MT program. It increases the volume of translated content, saves times and cost and does not cost a fortune to deploy”. Wise words and as one of the leading experts in the field of MT, she should know.  My spotted trend #4:  MT is happening NOW.
  5. Another noteworthy trend at all the events was the role of global content strategy. Scott Abel ran an excellent content strategies track at LocWorld, which covered the impact of localization on content strategy decision making. Each session in this track was well-attended, mainly by buyers of language services. As a content marketeer, I’m more than happy to see content play an increasing role in localization strategy. My spotted trend #5: Localization has to move further upstream into content marketing strategies so translation is a planned and natural part of the content management cycle.
  6. For many global brands, more content is a good thing: more UGC to put on your site, more global product launches, wider marketing campaigns. Everyone is a publisher these days so to be a global publisher, localization has to be closely married to the global content strategy, or at least living together. Increasing volume is so good for growing companies; however, translation needs to be turned around quick. Localization professionals must help enterprise clients to decide what to translate and also what NOT to translate. This was a topic at LocLeaders Forum.  My spotted trend #6:  Use statistics and analytics to help with the decision-making on what to and what not to translate. 
  7. One other key topic that came up many times in my conversations was talent management. How do we find (and keep) good talent in our industry? To me, a lot of discussions highlighted the need in the industry to keep close links to academia and education. LSP’s, like Welocalize, must continue to work with the universities and colleges and thought leaders including TAUS and CNGL, to ensure the skills that the students are learning at school are the ones that are required in the business role. Not just for translators and linguists, also for engineers, software developers and DTP experts. My spotted trend #7:   Keep education and business closely aligned to get the right talent for the future.

In the closing stages of his speech Magnus, showed us the “too cool to do drugs” pencil picture. As the pencil is sharpened, the message changes and not in a good way. Someone didn’t think about what would happen in the future when things changes. If we apply this to the localization industry, what might have been a good way to do things ten years ago no longer stands and can actually be damaging.

No one can tell what will happen in the future. We can do things to spot trends, plan and be prepared whilst embracing so-called disruptive occurrences. It was great to share the Welocalize presence at these events and I look forward to June 2015.  #visitberlin?