Software localization

A Day in the Life of a Software Localization Engineer

With more businesses expanding globally, the role of the software localization engineer comes to the fore. A deep dive into opportunities and challenges.
Software localization blog category featured image | Phrase

If you’re interested in coding, languages, and being at the forefront of software development, the position of a software localization engineer might be the perfect fit for you. Let’s dive into what software localization engineers do daily, the challenges they face, and which skills you need to succeed in this role.

What Exactly Does a Software Localization Engineer Do?

In a nutshell, a software localization engineer takes apart all the elements of software that are to be localized and puts them back together once the localization is done. Sounds simple, right? Well, there’s a lot more to it. Let’s look at the tasks in more detail.

Preparing for Localization

The first step you’d take in a localization project assigned to you is to check if the software has been sufficiently internationalized to enable the localization. The source code of the software should be separated from all localizable elements so that you can extract them easily.

That’s exactly what the next step is about – extraction. You’ll pull out all files with translatable text and any other elements (e.g. images) that need to be localized. These are then compiled into a localization toolkit for translators, together with instructions for translation.

This toolkit is crucial as it gives translators the context they require to do their job well; they need to know if there’s a limited character count and if they are translating a headline or a simple body text, for example. Without it, they would be relying on guesswork and their gut feeling.

Once the toolkit is handed over, it’s time to sit back and relax. No, not really! Your translators might need some support in the process.

Supporting the Translation

Software localization engineers are team players. You’ll likely need to answer a few queries from translators. Maybe they need clarification on a particular element, or there’s a problem with their localization tool that needs immediate attention.

When you get a bit of room in your schedule, it’s the right time to update and optimize the translation memory, a database that stores previous translations for later use and translators rely heavily on to increase speed and consistency.

Building and Testing the Localized Product

The translators have submitted their translations on time, and you have verified that all files are in order. Now, it’s time to put all elements back together. You’ll integrate the translated files into the software to create a new localized version of it. When done correctly, the software should “speak” a new language.

Now comes a somewhat tedious but critical task of the job: Testing the new version of the software. One error in the code and the software can look broken. A wrong translation of a Call-to-Action-Button and a user is put off immediately. If you enjoy finding and fixing bugs, then you’re at great advantage here.

Standardizing the Process

Software localization is not a one-off process. Each new update or feature brings changes to the software that needs to be localized too. You can take the lead in streamlining localization by standardizing the process and establishing consistency, for example, through terminology management, glossaries, and style guides.

What Are the Daily Challenges of a Software Localization Engineer?

The software localization process is usually not all smooth sailing. You’ll encounter challenges that need to be passed with flying colors.

Fixing Bugs and Errors

As everyone working with software can attest, handling code can be rewarding and frustrating at the same time. Files get corrupted, small errors sneak into the code, and suddenly nothing is working anymore. Having a knack for experimenting, troubleshooting and persistent problem-solving definitely come in handy here.

Balancing the Technical and Non-Technical Side

You’ll find yourself in between developers and translators with the challenge to let the work flow smoothly from one to the other and back. Translators typically won’t understand code, so you might have to explain technical terms and issues to non-technical people.

Working with Remote Teams

Localization teams are often geographically dispersed. You could be working from home, an office, or a combination of both. With today’s possibilities, there’s no real reason anymore to have everybody in the same place all the time. Working with translators or developers in different time zones comes with its challenges though. Your communication and coordination skills might be stretched to ensure that all work gets done on time and in the right quality.

What Skills Should a Software Localization Engineer Have?

By now, you’ve probably noticed that a diverse skill set is needed to succeed in this role. Here are the crucial skills every software localization engineer should have.

Understand Code

Typically, you won’t have to code anything from scratch, but you should be able to read and write code as well as be familiar with a variety of programming languages.

Know the Right Tools

There could be a vast amount of tools involved in a software localization project. It’s a big plus when you’re already comfortable using translation management systems, computer-aided translation tools, content management systems, translation memories, and quality assurance tools.

Pay Attention to Detail

The devil is in the details when it comes to software localization. Rigorous reviewing and testing localized software should become your second nature. After all, a lot is at stake. A bug in the code or a wrong translation can make the company look unprofessional.

Solve Problems

You’ll do great as a software localization engineer if you’re not afraid to figure things out, even if something is new and unfamiliar. As technology gets more complex, you’ll naturally have to be flexible and keep learning to stay on top of the game.

Communicate and Work in a Team

Localization is a lot about team collaboration. There are many moving pieces, and everyone has to work together perfectly to get a great result. When you’re comfortable communicating with developers, translators, product managers, and even clients, you’ll have nothing to fear.

Wrapping It Up

Software localization engineer is an exciting, highly sought-after role. If you love to solve problems, are not intimidated by new technology, and can handle the technical as well as the non-technical side, then you’ll likely thrive in this role. You can learn a lot about different languages, cultures, and how software is shaping the world.