Where are the localization managers?

Translation and localization are essential aspects of any international deployment strategy. Optimising your approach to localization can make a fundamental difference and directly contribute to your success on new markets. This is why it might be a good strategy to invest in recruiting a localization manager.
But although this role is commonly found in US companies, it is rarer in France. While the majority of localization managers are employed by IT companies to adapt SAAS and Web solutions, they orchestrate the internationalisation of all types of content.


What is localization, anyway?

As its name suggests, localization takes into account local specificities. It digs deeper than a straightforward translation in order to adapt the content to its target audience, their habits and culture.


Adaptation and translation

Localization considers any aspects that might create a barrier for a customer within the conversion path. These include payment methods, units of measurement, currencies, date formats – anything that might affect user experience and the clarity of your message. Nothing should tip users off that the content was translated into their language. Instead, they should believe that it was originally written in their language by a native speaker. Every aspect must feel natural. This will determine how they perceive your product or service and, ultimately, whether or not they embrace it.
Keep in mind that you must follow local laws and regulations, and a linguist can inform you that you may need to attend to compliance issues. However, you should of course seek legal counsel from a specialised lawyer for the specific implementation.


Building in the cultural dimension

The cultural dimension is central to the process of localization. As previously discussed, it takes into account local specificities and habits, as well as more subtle aspects that influence how your target may perceive your offer.
This approach is vital for your marketing content. Who are you speaking to? What should your tone be? What message are you trying to convey? How can you hit the mark? In this case, the linguist will be asked to adapt the message and even to rewrite it if needed, drawing upon their detailed knowledge of the target country’s market. In this regard, their skill set can be compared to a copywriter’s, which involves honing in on the nuances that will hit home. In some cases, this might mean completely revamping your campaigns. Here too, you can plan your strategy with your international deployment in mind from the outset and rely on your localization manager to advise you along the way.


IT localization

When localizing IT content specifically, you will also need to carefully select fonts, icons and colours. You will need to consider that text length will vary from language to language as you design the size of navigation elements. Your interface UX should be designed with the specific reading direction of your target country in mind. It is also recommended to start thinking about the localization step at the design and development stage of your web tools or platform. Working on it later on is likely to create additional hurdles.


The role of a localization manager

The localization manager oversees the entire process of bringing a company to new markets. They are responsible for implementing and executing the localization strategy by steering all translation projects from start to finish.
Their core mission is to adapt a tool kit and coordinate the translation of a wide range of materials. They create glossaries, style guides and any other documents required to manage the project. This ensures linguistic consistency between service providers, which directly contributes to the brand image.
In-house, depending on the type of company, they may liaise with developers, market analysts, marketing and SEO experts, the documentation department and sales leadership.


Choosing the right tools

Translators rely on a large ecosystem of professional tools (CAT – Computer-Assisted Translation). The localization manager is often in charge of choosing the right CAT tool to fit the company’s unique needs and requirements.
When you decide to integrate an application, tool, software or any other technological solution, it should help you save time, streamline your tasks, ensure the best possible communication and help you focus on the key details of your project. It should enable everyone involved to work smoothly.
The professional tool also helps plan the work flow. It can help you plan ahead to address potentially costly issues (e.g. delays, errors, inconsistencies). It is important to remember that these tools need to be carefully configured in order to ensure optimal usage by the linguists.


Building a dream team

The localization manager selects the team they will work with. They short-list a few translation agencies and assess which one will be best suited to kick off the project. For multilingual projects, they may choose different agencies for different language pairs or ask a single agency to handle all languages. They work hand-in-hand to plan workloads, set up the project in the CAT tool, send it out to the linguists, and check their work upon delivery.
A localization manager must also have the leadership skills needed to manage remote workers hailing from different geographical locations, time zones, cultures and specialisations. Keep in mind that in some (fairly rare) cases, the translation is performed by an in-house team of linguists and the project is entirely managed within the company.


A localization manager is the perfect partner to work with your linguistic service provider

A localization manager knows the ins and outs of the business, which creates a delightful experience for the project manager at your translation agency. They are on the same page and love working together! They can easily communicate about tools, file formats, optimisation and language pairs, making your project run smoothly. They are a dream team for a successful internalisation project.
Without specific training to understand the localization industry, it can be challenging to manage translation projects. A specialised professional will save you time, create efficiencies and ensure consistency – all of which puts you in a good position to succeed on new markets.


A localization manager can avoid potentially damaging pitfalls

While mistakes sometimes happen, using a suitable localization tool will enable you to keep track of your entire project. And when your translation agency makes use of linguistic testing and rigorous quality control, you will detect any errors before they reach the public.
The industry is full of amusing anecdotes about communication campaigns that have missed the point, or worse, triggered the opposite effect from what they intended. When poorly managed, localization can sometimes have catastrophic consequences (here are a few examples).


The maturity of French companies in terms of localization

Considering how beneficial this role can be for companies, you might be wondering why it is not more common.
This role is often assigned to internal resources who do not have the needed skill set to manage the project under the best possible conditions. And they can scarcely be blamed, as it is a profession unto itself. Documentation managers, marketers, CTOs and export managers have not received the training to understand the complexities and subtleties of the transversal management required to steer a linguistic project.


What might happen if I don’t have a localization manager on my team?

You might think you don’t need one. Perhaps you cannot justify the expense in light of your content volumes and stakes. If this is the case, you should ensure that the person who will be in contact with the translation agency is at least aware of a few basics: not all file formats can be extracted, linguists work based on source files, having a glossary and a style guide makes linguists’ work much easier and ensures a high level of quality. It is also important to be aware that a quote can only be finalised once the source document has undergone a detailed analysis. They should understand how many words a translator can work on each day (e.g. they should not expect a turnaround time of 10k words in a day).

You might also subcontract this role to your service provider. We can assign a linguistic advisor within our agency to a client account. In this case, an internal audit of all needs and key contacts is required in order to map the content and determine which processes should be put into place. This solution has many short- and medium-term advantages, including building a global content strategy that is directly linked to your international development strategy.


An often underestimated service

A company’s arbitration surrounding the recruitment of a localization manager depends on its international ambitions. If they are foundational to the company’s strategy and there is a high volume of diverse content to be translated, considering ROI may be wise when approving the recruitment project. Often, after evaluation, a company realises it does in fact make sense to recruit a full-time localization manager. But this assessment requires prior knowledge of the issues at stake and the specificities of the role. It may therefore be judicious for the company to seek advice from a consultant.
In addition to the question surrounding specific skill sets, we should also explore the level of maturity of French companies in relation to linguistic issues. How is translation valued? Translation is often perceived as an ancillary skill and thereby not considered as a key aspect of a successful international deployment. It is often a budgetary afterthought and suffers from a lack of consideration and interest.

You have invested significant sums to develop your products and services, and in your operational and digital marketing strategies. Why then neglect the linguistic aspect, considering that your international development has the potential to make your sales revenue soar?
When it is perceived as a cost rather than an investment, localization is rarely given the consideration it deserves as a strategic issue. The skills of a localization manager or a team of linguists provides essential added value for your target. Consider all of these aspects. And do not rely too much on your in-house resources to fiddle with DeepL and ChatGPT if you hope to establish or maintain a good brand image!



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