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How localization is usually organized

Translation companies are often chosen to provide localization. They eliminate the need for companies to maintain expensive in-house personnel. In addition, they offer a broader range of services, technical expertise, and flexibility than freelance translators and also eliminate the need for the company to manage a large pool of freelancers.

Translators who work on localization projects are often part of a large and distributed team. Its complex, multi-layer organization poses new challenges to those independent translators who usually work on neatly delimited projects which they have sole responsibility for. Working on localization projects is more akin to working in the translation department of a larger company, only that the translator does not enjoy many of the benefits of on-the-job training and rapid information flow which characterizes an in-house setting. In actual reality, translators are expected to have complete command of the tools required for software localization, know the market and a lot of products, know their own position in the process and workflow, and understand the constraints involved in ever shorter production cycles — all on their own.

It is for this same reason that most translators working in localization do so through intermediary translation bureaus, which are often specialized localization or “language engineering” companies. The majority of software manufacturers now outsource their localization activities and maintain only a skeleton team for interfacing with their supplier. These companies, which can be responsible for as many as 10 to 20 languages or even more, will pass the documents on to subsidiary partners in the target countries or directly to freelance translators, either in the U.S. or overseas. These will typically be some in-house staff, but most of the actual translation work will probably be done by freelance translators. It is not even uncommon for corporations to outsource the localization of their documentation to multiple translation companies.

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