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How Continuous  Localization Works

The following characteristics define the continuous localization process:

  • translation teams closely integrate with development teams
  • automated string hand-offs
  • string translation, review, and testing occur in pace with development
  • sprints result in feature-complete and fully localized code















Continuous Integration Tightly Couples Teams

Translators are no longer just passive recipients of localization kits. Instead, they can actively mesh with development teams. Then, the localization workflow ceases to be a disconnected process.

Of course, it may not be workable or necessary for every translator to take part in stand-ups. But a localization manager can at least represent the localizers. And that localization manager can then handle information flow between the teams. Translators and reviewers need to learn what features the developers are working on. And suggestions from the translation side must come back to the development team.


Choosing the Right Tools

Tight coupling is only possible if we automate many aspects of the translation process. Sending files around and emailing people by hand is a waste of time and energy. Project and localization managers should not have to worry about batching up strings. They should not be transmitting string to translators by hand. And they should not have to reintegrate localized resources into the codebase. Translation management tools (TMS) are available to take care of such tasks. Do you want to achieve near-simultaneous development and localization work? Then it is paramount to automate any step that you can possibly automate.


Choose the Right Storage Mechanisms

Gone are the days of resource files holding 3,500 software strings. Not only do you not want to wait until you can create such monstrous batches. You also want to give your translation management tool granular access to strings. This requires smaller resource files or temporary database storage with per-string access.


Choose the Right Localization Team

Aim to work with a dedicated localization team and continuously foster collaborative teamwork. Translators would be on standby. They should at least agree to check in during designated time frames. These, in turn, need to make sense in the development cycle. A stable translation team ensures that translators gain product knowledge. And that this knowledge will remain readily accessible. Such teams will also produce more consistent output. Translators learn what words to use in given contexts. They will then continue using those same words elsewhere. And with personal familiarity, developers learn to trust feedback from the localization side. They will come to appreciate translators as valuable bug-spotters and consistency-checkers.


Commit to Agile Development

Only if you produce content at a near-continuous pace does it make sense to have translators on standby. If agile is still new to you, here is a strong case for you to adopt agile development methodologies. It is the precondition for reaping the rewards of continuous localization.


Do It Like Netflix

Have you paid attention to the content offering on Netflix in recent years? You may have noticed that they produce all over the world. Netflix recognizes that “local audiences love local stories ...[and] ... local originals were the most popular 2019 titles in many countries.” Thus, production often happens in the country's language. Yet, they immediately release the content with multiple language tracks or at least subtitling. This satisfies individual locales across the globe. And it also “creates a stream of fresh and diverse content for the broader global market.” Simultaneously.

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Rethinking How Developers and Translators Interact

Traditional translation workflows keep interrupting agile development. The reason is that translation is a separate process, but it does not have to be this way.


Why Normal Translation Workflows Do Not Fit Agile Software Development

Do your software developers feel frustrated? Are they feeling like the localization process keeps getting in the way? They finish one sprint and move on to the next one. Then translations begin to trickle in a week later. So, they must revisit the code from the previous sprint. And after another week, the developers begin with sprint three. But now translation reviewers are raising objections about the translations from sprint one. This prompts further translation updates. Another round of testing ensues for a feature set that they thought was completed weeks ago.

Sound familiar? That is because traditional translation workflows follow the waterfall model. Applied to the output of sprints, they subvert the goals of agile development. Sprints become incomplete steps that need numerous rework phases.

Translation vendors have jumped on the agile bandwagon. They declare themselves to be as agile as developers and to follow similar methodologies. Yet, localization remains disjointed from the development process. Project managers still package up string resources after each sprint. Then they send translation kits to a separate translation team which forces them to keep track of many overlapping agile activity threads.

This causes an unfathomable increase in localization management complexity. It also cannot solve the initial problem. Communication is still out of sync. And localization managers are negotiating content questions between translators and developers. Meanwhile, each side is working on different pieces of the code.


How Continuous Localization Can Help

When we call localization “continuous”, we mean that it is an ongoing process. And it happens in parallel with development.

Localization teams need not ask the development team for “string freezes.” Instead, they can monitor string repositories and translate text as it is added. The end goal is to make the localization process as least disruptive as possible. Software development teams should be able to concentrate on their work and trust that localization keeps pace. And that it does not interfere – except with timely and constructive feedback.

Note that continuous localization does not strive to make localization invisible. Quite the contrary: developers frequently exchange ideas with localizers. And this makes them aware of localization issues at all times. Only if developers are conscious of linguistic variability can they prevent issues at a later stage, such as string truncation in text boxes that do not expand, or garbled sentences from text pieces assembled at run-time.

Once these conditions are in place, continuous localization becomes a best-practice approach for globalized software. Agile localization is the overarching ideal. That is to say, true integration of localization into agile development. Continuous localization is how this gets done.

The Benefits of Continuous Localization

Here are the most crucial benefits of continuous localization:

  • Multilingual development,
  • Simultaneous release,
  • Faster communication from developer to translator,
  • Faster communication from translator to developer,
  • Less work for product managers.


Multilingual Development

With continuous localization, different development teams could work in different languages. The American team could create their interface in English and the Chinese team in Chinese. Nevertheless, localizers work on the user interface immediately. Each team can then look at the complete set of screens in their own language at the end of the sprint. Thus, you no longer need to focus on hiring software developers who happen to speak English. This is an artificial hurdle that does not say much about the developers' programming talents.


Simultaneous Release

You localize as you go along, as a normal part of development. There is no separate localization testing phase. Localization testing is part of normal application testing. A sprint ends when all features are developed, localized, and tested in all locales. Thus, integrated localization is the only way to guarantee simultaneous release.


Benefits for Translators

In integrated teams, translators work on strings that the developers have just touched. Sometimes, they wonder about the meaning of a string. Here they can ask their questions while the information is still fresh in the developers' minds. Developers don’t need to switch their focus and search past code submissions to figure out what translators are asking about. Translators are thus likely to receive quick answers to their queries. This helps them zero in on the best translations early in the process. No need for finding and repairing all kinds of tentative translations after the fact. Constant rework is just as frustrating for translators as it is for developers.


Benefits for Developers

Nobody will ever read any text as closely as a translator. If the text contains mistakes, a translator is most likely to find it. And if any passage is unclear enough for a translator to ask, the developer can rethink the wording and improve its clarity. This will benefit the end-user as well and raise the overall quality of the software. It used to be a chore for developers to wade through pages and pages of translator feedback. Timely feedback is, therefore, something that developers will appreciate as much as translators.


Benefits for Product Managers

We discussed above how mini waterfalls create overlapping sprints. In busy teams, this can become a project management nightmare. The goal of continuous localization is to keep translation in sync with development. Whenever this can be accomplished, project complexity reduces drastically. Automation creates smooth and tightly coupled workflows. It also takes lots of tedious work from product managers that they would otherwise have to perform.

Agile Development Saved

We have discussed how to extend agile development by integrating localization via a developer-friendly translation management system. If the global market is your market, agile workflows have clear advantages. And it only makes sense to choose a localization method that not only avoids disrupting your development but enhances it. Continuous localization is the best possible practice at present. Instead of grafting localization onto development methods that continue operating as if localization were not happening, localization becomes an integral part of development.  And while it may require some effort for setup, the increased awareness for all participants is a boon for overall product quality.

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The Role of a Translation Management System (TMS) in Continuous Localization

Above, we often mentioned automation and drove the point home that continuous localization crucially depends on it. You may have been wondering how on earth you could achieve tight coupling of translation and development teams. This is where a translation management system (TMS) comes in – with the following minimal features:

  • Translation memory – a database of translations for reuse,
  • Web-based – in the cloud or on a server,
  • Workflow management – hand-off to relevant participants between steps,
  • Resource management – keeping track of translation personnel,
  • Business management – costing, reporting,
  • Integration via plugins – accessing and monitoring your content repository.

As an application that started out as a tool for developers, Phrase shines in particular on the last point. With numerous plugins and client apps for different programming environments, Phrase can adapt to the way developers work: it speaks their language and it runs on their platform. It can detect changes in your text resources, quietly take care of the translation process, and then seamlessly integrate the translations back into the repository. Aware of versioning, Phrase can ensure that your most current content remains up to date. Translators appreciate the In-Context Editor for web content: seeing where a text string comes from makes a huge difference. Developers can further embellish contextual clues by uploading screenshots that pop up for the translators in predefined places.

Using such a TMS does not only have benefits for the translation process per se. With appropriate access rights, developers can check their wording against the database in real time. This allows them to increase consistency even before translators spend valuable time looking for the answer. Note that such checks do not need to be carried out by a bilingual speaker: the developer can simply determine whether strings already exist in the TM and adjust them to close matches. Consistent wording creates a more predictable and intuitive user interface. Buttons or menu options with the same functionality receive equivalent names everywhere, and similar names are associated with similar functionality. Clearly a better user experience, at a lower cost.

Continuous Localization

Continuous localization is a best practice for integrating translation into software development cycles. Instead of adding a separate localization workflow to an existing agile software development process, localization teams work with content as soon as developers make it available. Translators and translation or localization managers are aware of what developers are working on at all times and can discuss translation issues with them in a timely manner.

While traditional translation methods undermine agile development by superimposing waterfall structures, continuous localization aims to translate and review in step with the developers. As a result, you see less frustration among developers and translators, better product quality, and your deadlines stay safe.

This end-to-end guide to continuous localization will:

  • Discuss why traditional translation methods do not work well for agile development,
  • Elaborate on continuous localization as a solution,
  • Show how continuous localization benefits all members of a localization team,
  • Evaluate the crucial role of a translation management system in this context.
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Why Is Localization Management Important for Business?

While English remains the most common language of the internet, Internet Statistics show that Chinese users are almost as numerous. Moreover, English internet users make up just over 25 percent of all internet users (IWS, 2018).

This means that if your site is in English only, you’re effectively ignoring three-quarters of all internet users! That’s a pretty big market share. Of course, not everyone surfing the net is going to be interested in your product. But with the right market research and localization management tool, you can reach significantly more customers.

Here are just some of the advantages of localization for your business:


Increase Market Share

The right localization management service, website localization tool, or app localization tool will help you target more customers around the world. This will increase your market share with relatively low investment.

Just think about Airbnb. The company that began in its founders’ apartment is now in over 190 countries around the world. Through effective software translation and localization management, the company was able to go from a value of zero to north of approx. $40 billion today.


Grow Revenue

Localizing your content isn’t cheap, especially when you invest in a quality localization management service. However, localization should never be seen as a cost but always an investment. As your share of the market dramatically increases with each country you enter, so do your revenue streams.

There may be no one-size-fits-all localization ROI model for each company. But we do know that Fortune 500 companies that invest in localization report higher revenue.


Gain a Competitive Advantage

In the cutthroat world of business, chances are you’re operating in a competitive market. One fast, effective, and simple way to gain a competitive advantage is through website and app localization.

Remember that 60 percent of users who never buy from an English-only website? If your website is translated and localized to cater to local tastes, you’ll be leagues ahead of your competition still trying to force English onto Spanish-speaking buyers.


Strengthen Cultural Awareness and Be Truly Credible

When you localize your content for your customers you treat everyone as if they’re first-class citizens. Rather than offering a weakly translated version of your original content, you show your customers that you understand and care about their problems, needs, and wishes.

In simple words? You speak their language. You know what products they like and how to communicate them. Imagine trying to promote your winter line of wooly scarves to people living in the Southern hemisphere in a heatwave in summer! With effective localization management, you can become a respected global player.


Boost Global Presence

Just as your market share and revenue grows, so does your global presence. More people become aware of your brand when you reach new markets, strengthening your position. Facebook, for example, reports user saturation in its home market. But India now makes up its fastest-growing user group!

How Continuous Localization Works

The following characteristics define the continuous localization process:

  • Translation teams closely integrate with development teams,
  • Automated string hand-offs,
  • String translation, review, and testing occur in pace with development,
  • Sprints result in feature-complete and fully localized code.


















Continuous Integration Tightly Couples Teams

Translators are no longer just passive recipients of localization kits. Instead, they can actively mesh with development teams. Then, the localization workflow ceases to be a disconnected process.

Of course, it may not be workable or necessary for every translator to take part in stand-ups. But a localization manager can at least represent the localizers. And that localization manager can then handle information flow between the teams. Translators and reviewers need to learn what features the developers are working on. And suggestions from the translation side must come back to the development team.


Choosing the Right Tools

Tight coupling is only possible if we automate many aspects of the translation process. Sending files around and emailing people by hand is a waste of time and energy. Project and localization managers should not have to worry about batching up strings. They should not be transmitting string to translators by hand. And they should not have to reintegrate localized resources into the codebase. Translation management tools (TMS) are available to take care of such tasks. Do you want to achieve near-simultaneous development and localization work? Then it is paramount to automate any step that you can possibly automate.


Choose the Right Storage Mechanisms

Gone are the days of resource files holding 3,500 software strings. Not only do you not want to wait until you can create such monstrous batches. You also want to give your translation management tool granular access to strings. This requires smaller resource files or temporary database storage with per-string access.


Choose the Right Localization Team

Aim to work with a dedicated localization team and foster collaborative teamwork. Translators would be on standby. They should at least agree to check in during designated time frames. These, in turn, need to make sense in the development cycle. A stable translation team ensures that translators gain product knowledge. And that this knowledge will remain readily accessible. Such teams will also produce more consistent output. Translators learn what words to use in given contexts. They will then continue using those same words elsewhere. And with personal familiarity, developers learn to trust feedback from the localization side. They will come to appreciate translators as valuable bug-spotters and consistency-checkers.


Commit to Agile Development

Only if you produce content at a near-continuous pace does it make sense to have translators on standby. If agile is still new to you, here is a strong case for you to adopt agile development methodologies. It is the precondition for reaping the rewards of continuous localization.


Do It Like Netflix

Have you paid attention to the content offering on Netflix in recent years? You may have noticed that they produce all over the world. Netflix recognizes that “local audiences love local stories ...[and] ... local originals were the most popular 2019 titles in many countries.” Thus, production often happens in the country's language. Yet, they immediately release the content with multiple language tracks or at least subtitling. This satisfies individual locales across the globe. And it also “creates a stream of fresh and diverse content for the broader global market.” Simultaneously.

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Five steps to localizing a product

Five steps to localizing a product

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An example of a continuous localization workflow within an agile development cycle
An example of a continuous localization workflow within an agile development cycle