> Managing Style for a Global Audience
Managing Style for a Global Audience
When taking your product or service to a new market, the operative assumption that most people strive for is that the localized service should, as much as possible, look and feel as if it were developed natively in the target market. To the extent that the product or service deviates from this standard, the end results in the international market will also be sub-optimal, in terms of product uptake and appeal to the target audience. However, this effort must also be managed against the fact that companies don't have unlimited resources to localize their product, and must generally roll out over time, in a phased approach
One key aspect of the local "look and feel" is word choice throughout the service. Word choice is particuarly tricky and important for software products, because software products tend to be replete with short, company-specific and often highly technical phrases that make perfect sense in English but must be translated into equally short and pithy phrases that work in the local language and fit neatly into small spaces.
For these reasons, glossary and style development are the essential first projects when localizing a product or service into another language. The following is a list of steps to take to develop a glossary of key terms in English and then launch it in the target language:
- Identify a Glossary Manager: Before you begin, you need to identify a single person who is going to own and manage the glossary creation. The Glossary Manager will likely be a member of the project management, product management, or documentation teams, depending on what makes most sense for your organization. The Glossary Manager should be someone who knows the product well and is familiar with its nuances.
- Estimate Glossary Size: Thorough glossaries tend to be quite large documents. The numer of terms in the glossary can ranges between 0.5% and 5% of the total number of terms to be translated. If you have a 50,000 word product (don't forget to count all your support documentation in here as well!), your glossary will probably contain between 250 and 2500 terms. Start with any existing glossary you may have (on your website, or in your training materials), and build from there.
- Engage the Entire Company: One way to get the ball rolling on the project of creating a list of hundreds or thousands of terms is to run a contest across the company to find terms for the glossary. Of course, the Glosasry Manager should be a big contributor to this project. This contest can be as simple or as elaborate as you like, but the goal here is threefold:
Here is an example email that you can send to your company to announce the contest.
- By having other people in the company suggest terms, you get a fairly even coverage of the product or service, and you are less likely to "forget" an area of the product or service.
- Leveraging other people's efforts also makes less work for the Glossary Manager.
- It raises the awareness of localization and globalization across the company. Evangelism is always important when a company "goes global."
- Pare Down the Entries: A good glossary term meets the following criteria:
Once all the entries are in, the Glossary Manager should edit these terms, combining and separating them as necessary. (You may very well find inconsistencies in your original source text as a result of this process, where terms were not used consistently.)
- The term is a distinct word or phrase that should be translated consistently throughout the product or service.
- The term has a unique and special meaning for the product or service.
- As much as possible, the term should appear in only one form in the glossary. For example, if the phrase "Check Email" appears in the Glossary, then "Checking Email" and "Check Your Email" do not need to be included; they may be considered variants of the basic term. The glossary can get unwieldy if all these variants are included as separate terms.
- All the glossary terms, when taken together, should cover all aspects of the product or service to be localized.
- Translate the Entries: Here you will need to find someone who is both a native speaker of the target language (ideally a linguist, or someone who is sensitive to the nuances of language) and who is familiar with your product or service and well acquainted with your terminology. The terms must be translated with sensitivity to the target language and culture, and of course the business objectives for the product in the target market.
Once your Glossary is underway, you may also wish to create a Style Guide. Whereas a glossary contains the basic building blocks of the translation, a Style Guide is the mortar that glues the blocks together. A Style Guide goes beyond the translation of terms and helps Documentation Managers and Translators approach the translation from a stylistic perspective. The Style Guide should be managed by your in-country Content Manager or Linguist.
Components of the Style Guide can include:
- Target audience -- characteristics and biases, how do they want information presented to them?
- Desired voice and tone
- Special punctuation requirements in the target language
- Use of emphasis elements: bolding, underlining, colors, capitalization, etc.
- Formatting of content:
- Dates and times
- Phone/fax numbers
- Postal addresses
- URLs and email addresses
- Anything that should not be translated, or exceptions that must be handled specially in translation
- Handling abbreviations in the source language, and other special considerations