Sarah Dillon in There's something about translation has a very interesting post on multilingualism and cultural identity and their implications for language professionals.
It made me reflect on cultural awareness and the role it plays in the development and localization of Microsoft products. As an Italian terminologist in the Microsoft Language Excellence team, I often take part in reviews aimed at ensuring that specific product features are suitable for a global, yet culturally diverse, audience:
- Globalization reviews analyse unlocalizable (English) product and service names, nonverbal messages and visual representations to determine if they are acceptable in local markets and if they communicate the same or a similar message to a global audience as meant for the source product, without the need for any adaptation or translation.
- Localizability reviews verify that terms, feature names, catchphrases or user-interface solutions can be localized with straightforward translations or with an acceptable amount of rework.
Globalization and localizability reviews require cultural competencies – the ability to recognize any characteristics that are peculiar to the language and culture of the source context (in the Microsoft context, the United States) and to identify any implicit information contained in the source text or visual items, compare them with the cultural framework of the local market and determine if they carry across also into the target culture.
In case they don’t, solutions should be suggested that help convey the same message as meant by the source material, for example by making explicit any subtext or specific connotations that are not implicit also in the target language (alternatively, advice might be given on aspects that are acceptable to lose in translation); it is equally important to provide recommendations on how to avoid unwanted target language connotations that might negatively impact product perception.
Not all multilingual individuals are aware of, and able to identify, cultural implications that might require attention in the development and localization of a software product, but language professionals (terminologists, localizers, translators etc.) are usually well suited to provide meaningful contributions in this area.
Licia Corbolante, Italian Terminologist