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          Jane Farber.
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How can I get budget dollars for localization?

"We have a fair number of overseas customers, but I can't seem to convince top management that we should translate our Web content into any language besides English. How can I persuade the Ugly Americans in my company to show a little more enlightenment?"

—Francine in Finovia                           



Dear Francine:

For starters, let me suggest that translation decisions are a little more complicated than the Ugly Americans vs. the Globally Enlightened. Even the biggest software companies have learned the hard way that true multi-language support is hugely expensive-- and, worse, doesn't always leave their overseas customers feeling good about the effort.

The biggest problem is that the job is never done. Software companies are constantly rolling out new products, constantly adding new tech notes, new resources, new tools to their Web sites. Even with the most streamlined procedures, it can take a good three to four weeks to translate and distribute every new item of localized Web content.

And for overseas customers, the net result is that their localized content usually lags well behind the latest English-only pages. Especially during a new-product launch, overseas users quickly figure out that they're missing some of the best support information available--and they end up back on the company's English-only pages.

Is there a solution to the content-synchronization problem? Well, one approach is to focus your efforts on translating just your top 25-50 "frequently asked questions"--which, if you're accurately tracking the issues that are getting the most traffic, will probably resolve two-thirds or more of all your total overseas incidents. Creating an FAQ section in several languages is a manageable problem, it's not a budget-buster, and it sets up more realistic expectations about what kind of localized content you offer. Of course, your overseas customers will still have to fall back on English-only tech notes for help with more obscure issues, but they're probably doing that already.

—Jeff




"One solution is to use an automatic Web translation service, such as http://www.alis.com/en/indexfl.html. Or offer a link to a free service on the Web. It is far from perfect, but it show's a sensibility, perhaps." —Bernard Daoust




For an excellent ROI model for localization investments, check out this article by Rebecca Ray of LISA: http://www.lisa.org.archive_domain/newsletters/2003/1.2/ray.html.




[Other comments and suggestions about this topic? Send me an email and we'll post your feedback.]