Software Localization Lecture 1 Dr. Gregory M. Shreve Institute for Applied Linguistics The Context is E-Commerce
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Dr. Gregory M. Shreve
Institute for Applied Linguistics
This is a time of significant shift in the development of e-commerce and the Internet. Over the next several years there will be a dramatic change in the demographics of online buyers – the paying customers of today’s e-commerce. In 1999, American online users represented only 43% of all online users. That percentage will fall to 33% in 2003. The online consumer society is becoming increasingly global.
Of even greater significance is the fact that e-commerce sales to customers outside the U.S. will exceed domestic sales by 2003. The U.S. portion of e-commerce revenue will fall from 61% of 130 billion dollars to 44% of 1.6 trillion dollars. By 2004, the European Internet economy is expected to break the 4 trillion dollar mark, growing at a compound annual rate of 87%. Western Europe is expected to lead all regions with 692 billion dollars in global online exports in 2004, led by Germany’s 144 billion dollars in cross-border sales. North America will move 23% of its exports online, with the U.S. pumping 210 billion dollars into cross border e-commerce. The Asia-Pacific region will reach 219 billion dollars in 2004, sparked by 57 billion dollars in Japanese online exports.
These dramatic numbers mean that companies that intend to sell online will have to globalize their web presence and their products in order to reach the majority of the online marketplace. They will have to make their web sites, software interfaces, and product documentation available in the languages and cultural styles of an increasingly diverse and international market by applying a process called localization – the translation of content and adaptation of form to reflect the expectations of one or many given locales. Sites that fail to localize their content and concentrate only on the 704 billion dollar domestic market will be giving up their share of almost 896 billion dollars of available revenue.
Business strategies and activities focussed on marketing and sales. The search is for total enterprise solutions and is supported by top management. Globalization accounts for the economic and legal factors – but must rely on experts for the cultural and linguistic issues involved.
Of American companies that market products globally, over 40% of their total revenues come from international sales. Many of these companies market high-technology products such as software, medical instrumentation, computer-assisted manufacturing devices, and so on.
Most of these products have a high training and/or documentation overhead, with instructions on the assembly, use, maintenance, and repair of the products delivered via off- and on-line electronic documentation. Further, many of them have embedded software components, use on-line databases, and electronic user interfaces that must be delivered internationally to target markets with different cultural and linguistics contexts..
Customer, Technical, Web
Manuals, Help Files
A classic example of the growing trend toward global marketing is the software industry. By the early 1990’s, major U.S. software companies were averaging seven languages per each product shipped internationally. A series of unfortunate experiences with getting international versions of software products to market in a timely fashion, and the resulting losses of revenue, taught U.S. software companies the value of shortening the time required to enter foreign markets with products “internationalized” for the designated international target market. Today, with an emphasis on simultaneous shipment, larger companies often publish products simultaneously in over 30 languages for just as many target local cultural markets.
Many companies are looking to duplicate the success of the E-commerce efforts in the United States in other countries, but they're finding that it isn't as easy as it might seem. Companies can't create a single Web site or a single version of a product and expect to reach customers and distributors around the world, according to industry analysts. "Global E-commerce doesn't exist," says Martha Bennett, VP of research for Giga Information Group. "The moment you have to deliver physical goods, you're up against every piece of legislation that exists in the real world." Not to mention every cultural and language barrier.
A specialized industry arose to deal with these difficulties.
Even More Difficulties
Companies that attempt to reach other markets via the Web run into a host of issues. These include managing different marketing strategies in different markets, securing adequate resources, and managing channel conflicts. Other difficulties include managing multilingual content, technical obstacles such as different writing systems, and cultural and legal barriers of all kinds.
Over the past decade, a new business sector has evolved to help global companies deal with the problems cited above. This business sector provides translation, localization and internationalization consulting and services to companies seeking to globalize their products.
While global marketing existed before the 1990’s, the translation / localization / internationalization industry (or “language industry” for short) today has evolved primarily as a result of the rapid global expansion of the computer software market and the increasing use of the internet as a global marketing and customer service tool – a process we can refer to as globalization.
The corporate problem is, of course, that many companies do not understand HOW to internationalize their many products, documents, web pages and database interfaces effectively – and thereby reduce the costs of localization – hence the services of the language industry.
The origins of the industry lie in early concerns with writing systems and character sets, but once these issues were resolved (e.g., with Unicode), attention turned to strategies and tools for making the “translation” of software and other electronic documentation easier, faster and less disruptive to the software or web development processes.
For software packages, this was accomplished by engineering culture and language-neutral software kernels that can be compiled together with separate “locale packages” usually contained in independent resource files (internationalization). The software techniques for isolating language/culture content (localization), and the tools for manipulating the isolated content (localization tools) are part of a rapidly growing industry.
Internationalization is an engineering process whose objective is optimizing the design of products so that they can more easily be adapted for delivery in different languages and in locales with different cultural requirements (localization). Internationalization is a precursor to localization and its purpose is both to lower the effort and cost of localization and translation and to increase the speed and accuracy with which localization can be accomplished. In an age where the simultaneous release of multilingual documentation, web pages or software is a corporate objective, such strategies are indispensable.
Localization is the process of preparing locale-specific versions of a product and consists of the translation of textual material into the language and textual conventions of the target locale and the adaptation of non-textual materials and delivery mechanisms to take into account the cultural requirements of that locale. Localization is currently one of the fastest-growing sectors of the international economy. Localization vendors provide critical international business services such as web-page translation and software localization for multilingual versions of software.
According to research firms such as IDC only 45% of sites make any effort at all to accommodate non-U.S. customers – even if doing so could be immensely profitable. Those companies that do market products globally receive over 40% of their total revenues from international sales, so it is clear that the investment in globalization (e.g., translation and localization) yields a significant return on investment. Why, then, have fewer than half of the all web sites in the United States made any effort to localize?
Globalization has created an unprecedented need for the translation of software and web sites into locale-specific versions. There has been explosive growth in demand for translation and localization services. In 1999 it was estimated that localization comprised 32 percent of the $11 billion world market for translation. This market can be expected to grow dramatically! Currently, fewer than half of the world's businesses are actively implementing internationalization and localization agendas. But, as companies wake up to the need for globalization, one thing will become obvious: there is a shortfall in quality language industry services – I18N and L10N. The rush of new business to the Internet will create a demand that has already begun to overtake the supply of individuals and companies who can translate and localize for them. This shortfall in language service vendors will create a bottleneck in the rush to globalization.
Why is there such a disparity between the demand for language services and the ability of the language industry to meet that demand? One of the most important reasons is that there is a chronic shortage of trained personnel in the language industry. Qualified candidates for positions in translation, localization, internationalization, and language-related project management are very difficult to find.
The language industry is relatively immature. It is composed of young language service companies that are highly project-structured. This means they have relatively heavy investments in expensive, highly trained personnel with hard-to-find skills.