Savvy Diversification Series – How I Became a Mobile App Localizer
The Savvy Newcomer team has been taking stock of the past year and finding that one key priority for many freelance translators and interpreters has been diversification. Offering multiple services in different sectors or to different clients can help steady us when storms come. Diversification can help us hedge against hard times.
With this in mind, we’ve invited a series of guest authors to write about the diversified service offerings that have helped their businesses to thrive, in the hopes of inspiring you to branch out into the new service offerings that may be right for you!
A million-dollar question. Which is better: to pick only one specialization to position yourself as a superb expert, or to gain professional skills in several fields to adapt to the volatile market? The correct answer is probably somewhere in between.
On the one hand, it helps to attract high paying customers when you’re highly specialized. But on the other, it might be tough to survive when the demand for your narrowed specialization suddenly drops. That’s why you need to find your balance.
My diversification story
Guided by intuition, passion, or a drop of common sense, I managed to find my balance a long time before the pandemic hit. I became a localizer.
When I look back, it seems like an obvious choice. As a translator specialized in IT, offering website and mobile app localization was a natural extension of my portfolio. It helped me to diversify my services and navigate quite smoothly through the pandemic.
The next natural step in my diversification journey was to start teaching about localization. I set up my first online course on website localization for translators in 2014. By the time the pandemic hit, I had already published two other courses, and started collaborating with a local university as a localization teacher (they found me through my online course). During the pandemic, I created three more courses, so all in all localization kept me busy even in the hardest times.
What does a mobile app/website localizer do?
To put it in simple words, you translate apps and websites. But it’s much more than that. You need to wear three hats at the same time: that of a linguist, cultural expert, and a technical savvy localizer. You won’t work with texts only, but also with variables, content wrapped up in pieces of code, images, or videos. Depending on the product type, you might work with various file formats, such as html, xml, xliff, Apple strings, php, po, json, and more. That’s why you need the right tools to be able to process these files and deliver the localized content to your customer.
Since there are many great localization tools in the market, choosing an online or desktop solution that will meet your needs should be an easy quest. Sometimes your clients will have their preferred tool and will expect you to use it as well. Sometimes you’ll work with a different platform for every customer. That’s how I ended up switching between memoQ, SDL Trados Studio, Smartling, Crowdin, Lokalise, Passolo and Alchemy CATALYST on a nearly daily basis. And this is only a brief excerpt of a long list of useful localization tools.
Apart from dealing with a multitude of file formats, codes, or variables, you’ll also need to act as a cultural consultant and be an expert in local user experience. Design or programming skills may come in handy too, but it’s not an absolute requirement. The key is to know how your local users think, act, navigate websites or apps, and how they take purchase decisions. In some cases, you’ll need to advise your clients what items should be modified, removed, or included to make sure that the localized product meets the expectations of your target market. Of course, it goes beyond replacing colors, images, or adjusting number formats. The devil is in the details, so be aware of the differences between your source and target culture when it comes to interacting with digital products.
For example, some users require more data to trust a brand and complete their online purchase. Then the website you localize could include a visible section with awards, certificates, clear terms and conditions, or number of physical stores available on the local market. As a localizer, you’ll need to explain to your client why it matters and why such changes might be necessary.
How to specialize as a mobile app/website localizer?
If all this doesn’t overwhelm you and you want to try your hand at localization, you can start from following online courses.
When I embarked on my adventure with localization, online teaching wasn’t a thing yet. After reading the few books available on that topic (you can see a list of useful books here), and enrolling in the MSc in Multilingual Computing and Localization, I started creating my courses. Luckily, now you can find plenty of resources that will help you take the first steps, for example the free Localization Essentials course created by Google. You can also have a look at the courses offered by the Localization Institute or on-demand webinars available at the ATA website (for example, Introduction to Localization).
It won’t harm to learn the basics of coding, for example in Python, HTML, or Java. Programming languages are as fascinating as natural languages, so if you mastered the latter, you probably won’t struggle so much with the former. To tap into this field, you can begin for example with the free Learn Python course by Codecademy, or Python for translators: key methods and techniques created by yours truly. To learn HTML or Java, you can have a look at the free and comprehensive tutorials offered by the W3schools.
Finally, spend some time on analyzing and comparing websites/apps that have been successfully localized (one of my favorite pastimes). Browse through the original language version, then switch to the version published for your market and spot the differences. In this way you can learn about the strategies used by developers, designers, marketers, or global brands, and asses why their ideas appeal to the local users.
Working on localization projects might be challenging, but it’s an extremely creative and rewarding process, especially when you realize that the app you’ve localized has only 5-star reviews or the website you’ve translated becomes successful on the local market.
So, are you ready to start your new diversification adventure?
This blog post was edited by Lauren Ray of The Savvy Newcomer team
Dorota Pawlak is an English and German into Polish translator specializing in IT and website/mobile app localization. She holds an MA in Translation and MSc in Multilingual Computing and Localization. Dorota runs online courses on localization on her website at www.DorotaPawlak.eu, and helps other freelancers to start and grow their businesses.