Notes from Code for America Summit session on “Localization: Benefits & Challenges”

Day three of this year’s Code for America Summit followed an unconference format. Luke Crouch and I facilitated a session called “Localization: Benefits & Challenges.” During the session, each of us talked about why we find localization a valuable and beneficial activity, challenges to localization and brain-stormed tools and solutions.

Here are our notes. If you’re working on localization/internationalization in open source projects, especially mobile web apps, I’d love to hear from you!

Why localize?

  • greatest need for access to info is often non-english speaking
  • human needs are language agnostic, services should be as well
  • incorporating all perspectives requires crossing languages
  • empower cross-cultural understanding

What needs L10n?

  • websites
  • documentation
  • knowledge bases
  • phone trees
  • SMS
  • forums
  • social media
  • print media

Challenges

  • keeping content up to date
  • maintaining parity with english-language content
  • machine translation vs human translation
  • quality assurance
  • analytics
  • keeping entire loop translated / fractured experiences
  • cost
  • selecting and prioritizing languages
  • fonts / non-roman alphabets
  • right-to-left languages and user interactions
  • partnership building takes time
  • determining best practices
  • trust between communities?
  • socio-political context

Solutions

Note: Internationalization (I18n) is the process of preparing a project for localization. Localization (L10n) is the process of translating content.

Approaches

  • have users be translators
  • concentrate on building local communities
  • *listen* to needs of users. what do they need translated?
  • user interface vs content
  • platforms & tools address user interface
  • content is trickier: micro-sites, data stores, other?

Tools (libraries for L10n)

Platforms (for collecting/managing translations)

Action items moving forward

  • establish best practices
  • create a turn-key process and/or technology stack
  • organized translation camps

“One-thing” takeaways

Unconference facilitators asked each member of the session to provide a “one-thing” take-away from the session.

  • Localization is not just an international issue
  • Frame of reference for doing localization
  • Localization is solvable and urgent
  • We can work together right now to make this better

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