Localization World – Were We the Little Green Men?

The Localization World conference that ended in Santa Clara yesterday was my first—and it was in some ways an eye-opener. Here are some impressions:

  • As industry gatherings go, it’s a compact affair, with a total of about 600 attending.
  • Most of those present represented a core group of about two dozen well-established players, all of whom know one another.
  • The heavyweights in the room were the Localization Service Providers (LSPs) such as New York-based TransPerfect. These guys provide comprehensive and indisputably high-quality localization services, mostly to the mid-size and larger companies that can contemplate their sizable fees without shuddering.
  • Holding Localization World in Silicon Valley was more an expression of aspiration than a true reflection of how the industry operates. LSPs, translation companies and the other established players do use technology—but as things stand now, localization is far from being a tech industry.

No real surprise there, of course. International organizations have always been faced with the challenge of translating and adapting written materials for local audiences—and no one—not even Smartling—thinks that technology can replace people any time soon when it comes to translating accurately and with appropriate cultural nuance.

Enter the Martians and their machinery

At the same time, Smartling must look more than a little brash—a bit of an upstart—to these old-line consulting firms. They’ve focused since before the dawn of the Web on the things that human beings do best, like translation and interpretation. They’ve worked out systems to do them—systems that use technology without being based on it—that can, at a price, output a top quality customized product, including localized websites.

Then along comes a tiny tech start-up called Smartling with newfangled terms like “crowdsourcing” on our lips and apparently claiming to render many of those systems redundant.

You can hardly blame them if they wonder whether or not to take us seriously.

Smartling is a game changer…

Well, Smartling doesn’t aspire to replace the existing players in the localization industry, but we know we have a product that will reshape the terrain over which they operate. After all, the Smartling platform:

  • Removes the need to build new language sites from scratch – with huge savings in development time and expense
  • Makes it exponentially easier to publish a website in another language, at a much more affordable price
  • Provides a robust and complete workflow framework
    • for managing the translation process
    • for keeping the translated sites up to date
  • Works! It really does – try it out and see. You can try it for free (and you’ll see the first results in less than five minutes).

…and it’s only a matter of time

It may be that the first beneficiaries of Smartling’s innovation will mostly be smaller and younger organizations, which might have not have translated their sites at one point because they couldn’t afford to. But this can only be the beginning. The folks at Localization World may take a year or two to realize it—but while there’ll never be a substitute for the human wisdom of translators and other localization consultants, the arrival of Smartling in their midst means that the days of clients spending big bucks on bespoke development of localized websites are definitely numbered.

About Team Smartling

Smartling is a software company with the mission to make the world’s content multilingual.