Localization Engineering – what works for Asian languages?

The term localization engineering might seem out of place when referring to translations, but it’s a fact that it and translations go hand-in-hand. After all, all codes and software that the localization engineer extracts must ultimately be sent to the translator to produce a high-quality translation project, which is then converted into code into the desired target language. Although this is a rather simplistic explanation, the process of localization engineering is crucial if you’re developing a product, website, e-learning module, or even a game for the Asian market. Asian languages have their own specificities and what works for Asian languages may not work for others. Here are a few reasons why.

1. The character system

The Korean, Japanese, and Chinese languages, among others, make use of characters as their language source and such characters will typically not have the same spacing as English letters. This is especially the case if you’re localizing from English into an Asian language. One example of intricacies in language use is that in Korean, a person’s name will usually start with the surname first followed by their first name, whereas in English, one would normally start out with the person’s first name first.

2. Character tiering

Another element to consider is character tiering. Korean is a great example of this as it creates words and syllables starting from the top left-hand corner of the space or “block”, moving right working clockwise and then shifting to the bottom where there’s space for one or more character placements. Such “tiering” of characters can sometimes be difficult to translate into code and an accurate translation into the target language is critical.

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3. Literal translations

As most experienced translators know, literal translations often fail quite significantly and are typically avoided. The same is true if you’re assigned to translate the code “file” which in itself could be confusing and requires the localization engineer to specify whether it’s “a” file, “the” file, or even “one” file. The more specific instructions that are offered by a localization engineer in terms of translating to Asian languages, the better the translation and localization project will ultimately be.

4. Local customs

localization engineeringLocal customs also play a critical role in translations and localization engineering as these are the driving forces behind a language, and they fully embody the way a language is spoken. Even different dialects from different parts of an Asian country could affect the meaning behind the translation, so it’s critical to consider customs in the translation project as well. In most cases, when considering a localization project in Asia, think about employing the services of a bilingual local who will be able to pick up on these cultural intricacies and help you understand when a direct translation will be offensive or in some cases, even nonsensical.

5. The use of colors

In China, the color red is very popular. It is believed to bring luck and joy and is often worn by brides based on the belief that it will ward off evil. When working on a localization project and there are color themes that need to be conveyed, it’s also important to determine what the cultural meaning behind the specific color is in order not to offend the specific Asian nation or to come across as culturally insensitive. Localization engineers should also double-check the use of colours in coding and in final translation projects as well.

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6. Images are important, too

As a final point regarding localization engineering and its link to Asian languages, images are other types of files that need to be portrayed accurately not only in order not to offend the target population, but also to ensure a smooth follow-through with the intended ideas in the main text. Alt-text, which is text that describes images is another feature of this intricate process and text describing images must be extracted, accurately translated, and finally returned to the localization engineer for implementation.

Final thoughts

When it comes to localization engineering, which has a history that dates back to the 1980s, techies tended to do their own thing while translators did the same. However, in this day and age, techies and translators need to work together closely and effectively. This is especially the case since the world appears to be shrinking and it’s easier than ever to do trade across borders. This is also important taking into account the fact that Asia constitutes 60% of the world’s population and is the fastest growing economic region. Catering to Asian language localization is vital if you’re planning on moving your business to Asia. And this is why you need effective localization engineering to determine what works for Asian languages and what doesn’t.