Software is global today. It is made for global consumption even in the remotest of the markets and is customized to suit locale needs effectively. However, most still think the process of globalization is all about identifying the markets, engineering for them at internationalization and pseudo-localization levels and effectively translating the application’s content, getting it all tested and signing off. These are all important steps in the globalization process but there’s much more.
As we increasingly depend on tools, and tools being largely open source, it is good that most have started using tools – but the challenge could very well be the half-baked knowledge on the topic, combined with a sketchy use of the tool’s superficial features that impact an application’s quality. Specific to translation, there are enough translator tools available that developers and testers can leverage to take up an application’s translation. For example, browser built in translator tools and plugins, ones like InstantTranslate, are all great to start with, but the engineering team needs to understand that the buck does not stop there.
Linguistic engineering is a ball game of a completely different level. It deals with cultural nuances and sensitivities of an area including soft power of a region which cannot be fully engineered (or at least as yet) into a translation tool. For example, we did a webinar on this topic a couple years back on understanding the cultural dimensions of localization talking in detail about overt (issues that are superficial and visible to even the untrained eye) and covert (issues that need subject matter expertise) issues and how a person who just understands a language may not be sufficient for complete localization testing. He/she may be able to verify the translation piece (which is one aspect of localization and the larger globalization scope), but linguistic testing services and an appreciation for the culture, people, demographics, sensitivities, are all critical in ensuring an app is truly ready for a given locale (market – language) combination.
Acknowledging the difference between the two and accounting for both, is the key to an effective globalization process as part of the larger product engineering umbrella.