By Alaina Brandt
See also the plain language Localizer’s Code of Conduct edited by Ashley Zillian.
Editors: Ghio Anton, Nathaniel Bybee, Simona Scotto d’Antuono, Sherine Emara, Amelia Evrigenis, Yusen Huang, Alexandra Ladd, Silvia Pinheiro, Yan Ning, Salim Martell, Megan Murphy, Vanessa Prolow, Nadya Rodionova, Tianxing Tang, Huei Ping Yu, Kimberly Zie
Localization managers routinely make decisions in a fast-paced global environment in which they simultaneously manage multiple multilingual projects in many languages and different sizes across time zones. The circumstances for their work is complicated by the fact that localization managers direct the production of language service products in languages they cannot read. They take responsibility for the quality of this content too. This aspect of the work means that localization managers face challenges that do not affect other professional industries. Relying on industry experts, standards of best practice, and guiding codes of ethical and professional conduct is paramount when localization managers are disadvantaged in their inability to read the language of the translation.
Those who are unfamiliar with localization often do not even think of translation. Moreover, when they do think of translation, they think of it is as a matter of passing monolingual content in one language through a widget-like conversion process that produces monolingual content in another language. In reality, every project has unique variables that require definition to produce appropriate deliverables and quality in localization productions. These variables are impacted by complex dependencies that include the interaction of human and programming languages, data import and export laws, content type and strategy, and differences in the conceptualization of ideas as designated by human languages. This variation and the speed of change requires that new problems be solved every day, before those problems escalate to adversely impact the brand and bottom line of professionals, employers, clients and organization. Localization managers have a major impact – either positive or negative – by establishing and contributing to the unique characteristics that make quality products for each of their clients.
In addition, localization managers are also the regulators of unregulated markets. Localization vendor managers establish and verify the minimal qualifications of the teams of translators that produce the raw language service products around which localization services are built in specialized domains, such as medicine, marketing, and law.
Localization project managers either ensure that best practices are followed in the processes they run for each client, or they do not. Localization engineers and quality managers manipulate content in languages they cannot read as a matter of routine course. Professional localization managers supplying great volumes to meet demand at the rush of global economics benefit from understanding the following responsibilities to be true in their duty to all project stakeholders.
LOCALIZATION CODE OF ETHICS DEFINITIONS
Throughout this code, the following definitions are adopted as key concepts.
- Client – A customer-service based approach considers any colleague to whom one owes deliveries to be a client. Deliveries may include actual target files, but they might also include resources, instructions, and status updates. Therefore, clients may include external clients such as buyers of localization services and any internal clients who process the data associated with localization production. Simply put, clients are any project stakeholders.
- Quality – Quality is relative. Per international standards of best practice for localization, “quality” is defined as the degree to which a language service product meets client expectations. Since localization managers’ clients include all project stakeholders, quality is defined as the ability to meet all stakeholder objectives when producing a product. The existence of quality can only be verified by measuring end products from input-process-output chains against the expectations set for a project at the start. Whether or not a quality product has been produced cannot be determined without documented pre-project expectations in the form of specifications.
- Specifications – Specifications are defined as the combination of expectations for a project held by project stakeholders, including target user expectations, client expectations, internal processor expectations, social expectations, etc. Ideally, specifications are documented explicitly. Specifications are often implicit as well.
- Localization manager – In this document, localization manager refers to localization project managers, vendor managers, localization engineers, quality managers, or anyone else who processes source and target content during localization. Localization managers operate within localization productions.
- Localization production – A localization production is the combination of efforts coordinated among various departments to produce localized product. Localization production teams generally consist of project managers, vendor managers, localization engineers, translators, terminologists, quality managers, and desktop publishers. These teams include these stated professionals and additional specialized roles, as localization production varies per organization.
- Linguistic resources – Linguistic resources include highly valuable bilingually-aligned content in translation memories, and termbases, glossaries; parallel and monolingual corpora; style and language guides, among other content. Linguistic resources are generally applied in projects to serve as a reference, reduce word counts, speed translation time, and for terminology extraction and concordancing. Linguistic resources are important subset of the intellectual property produced during localization.
- Delivery – Professional localization managers strive to make deliveries that are on-time, on-budget, and on-scope.
CAUSE NO HARM
Localization managers do not deliver work when they have reason to believe that the product contains errors that could cause death or damages to life, property, or reputation. Localization managers eliminate translation memories and other language resources with errors of this kind. For translation memories that are borderline-quality cases, localization managers work with necessary stakeholders to identify the minimal thresholds under which the content can be used. They direct any rework of these resources with due caution.
Localization managers do not – through their actions or decisions – bring the professionalism of the industry into disrepute. As localization managers identify factors that would bring the professionalism of the industry into disrepute, they have the obligation to address those factors in constructive collaboration with colleagues.
Localization managers take responsibility for their work. They understand that instructions from the client do not justify deviations from this code. They refrain from unfair competition, including the assignment of translation work to the lowest bidder with no regard for professional qualifications. Localization managers try to provide working conditions that balance the triple constraints of quality, time, and cost, while understanding that “quality services” are a basic enabler. They make necessary information available to team members in a transparent fashion so as to not impede the work of others unnecessarily. They provide feedback in a timely manner too so that mutually beneficial progress can be made.
Localization managers routinely onboard to new technologies with little notice to keep pace with client demand. Still, they do not claim to have skills they are not confident they could obtain within provided timeframes. When localization managers do not know the answer and are not in the position to research the answer, they seek answers from localization professionals who are qualified to provide them.
PERFORMANCE OF WORK
Localization managers do not initiate work without a reasonable expectation that project objectives can be met. Localization managers establish reasonable expectations in documented specifications that clearly outline the purpose and manner of the work, deliverables, deadlines, and other important contextual considerations, to deliver quality deliverables, understanding quality as being the ability to meet client expectations, and understanding clients to be any stakeholder to the project. Localization managers make every effort to deliver work according to agreed-upon contracts. Localization managers account for uncontrollable change in process through contract updates. As soon as localization managers have good reason to believe that they may not or will not be able to deliver by agreed-upon deadlines or according to agreed-upon scope, localization managers let their clients know and redirect projects as necessary to renegotiate deliveries.
Working with properly qualified professionals at translation stages is essential. Understanding that all language work is outsourced to either humans or machines or a combination thereof, that the human translation work product for sale is produced by individual translators who are often independent contractors, localization managers assign work to translators who are qualified to work between the language pair and in the domain. Localization managers assign work to translators who have the necessary competencies to translate content “faithfully, accurately, and impartially,” and “ensure… fidelity of meaning and register” (ATA Code of Ethics, FIT Code of Professional Practice). Localization managers assign work to translators who are equipped to navigate both the systemic and conceptual differences in how ideas are expressed in different languages and subject fields.
Localization managers carry out work in conformance with international standards of best practice, i.e. through the incorporation of specifications and other linguistic resources. Where work is not carried out in conformance with these standards, localization managers mitigate risk by duly documenting who is responsible for that decision making and the work performed and by exercising increased caution in the management of work processes. No matter the circumstances, localization managers implement some form of terminology management to prevent rework and promote ease of usability of the product.
Localization managers endeavor to create a work environment that is balanced in autonomy and consensus. They do so by giving project stakeholders within their sphere of influence equal opportunity to weigh in on risks and the manner of work, practicing empathy with regards to the needs and desires of any stakeholders not represented. They provide status reports and contextual resources in a manner that is timely and truthful. They initiate projects in a timely manner too, balancing competing objectives through consensus building to establish a clear agreed upon scope. Should it become necessary to cease projects, they let all relevant stakeholders know. This proactive communication is known as managing expectations. Localization managers also manage expectations by documenting, responding to, and resolving queries that arise during translation and localization. Localization managers accept and respond to queries as healthy by-products for on-the-fly resolution. Queries are responded to as quickly as possible given capacity. Localization managers manage risks systematically and proactively.
Localization managers are team builders. They foster communication among onsite and virtual team members. In order to limit the perception of bias, which is damaging to team performance, localization managers do not play favorites. They foster participation in naturally ambiguous environments, in which everyone has a duty to speak up about risks, opportunities, and concerns. They exemplify accountability, and they also foster an understanding that human mistakes are natural. They focus on issues rather than people in dispute resolutions, escalate issues in a timely manner, and regularly incorporate reflection on work performed into the improvement of future work. Localization managers also show respect for colleagues’ time in communications in whatever way is appropriate for the audience.
As with all localization professionals, localization managers participate in ongoing client education in day-to-day operations to aid in heightening the recognition of the professionalism of our field and ensuring the production of language services products that are characteristic of that professionalism.
Cultural fluency is defined by respect for the identity, dignity, values, history, religion, and cultures among those with whom localization managers collaborate. Acceptance of other cultures does not make one culturally fluent. Cultural fluency is being aware of other people’s cultural perspective and adapting one’s communication and behavior to the expectations of their culture. Cultural fluency is gained through the deconditioning of the dominant modes of existence in one’s mother culture and is not learned mechanically. It must be understood profoundly. It takes ongoing practice, patience, guidance, determination, failure, persistence, and empathy. It is a hard soft skill to gain and maintain and an ethical imperative for localization work.1
1 Thank you to Alex Ladd for the beautiful wording in this paragraph on cultural fluency.
Localization managers who are culturally fluent tend to avoid communication approaches that are one-size-fits-all. They understand that meeting stakeholder expectations requires that all stakeholders feel comfortable with communications. Culturally fluent communication takes into consideration a wide variety of characteristics of audiences, including age, languages, time zones, and communication styles. For localization managers, culturally fluent communication also suits communicative objectives. Understanding audience expectations is equally important when establishing the translation strategy to be carried out on projects and when communicating with subject-matter experts and localization buyers alike.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, CONFIDENTIALITY AND PRIVACY
Localization managers handle and share large amounts of confidential information through third-party technologies every day. This data includes client and company intellectual property and personal identifiers of translators and is shared and stored around the world. This data is duplicated over and over as working copies of documentation are produced as by-products of localization processes. Localization managers carefully handle and store confidential client and vendor information, whether that content is a copy of highly valuable bilingually aligned content in various file formats (translation memories, termbases, bitext tables) to be leveraged in human or machine translation, training documents that disclose trade secrets, or rolodexes of contacts with personal confidential details.
Localization managers also understand that any NDAs, purchase orders, terms and conditions, style guides, or templates represent the IP of the companies they work for, and that once this content is shared, ultimately, it can no longer be recovered. As a result, localization managers carefully choose who they share information with externally, lest the resources developed by one’s company be poached by a sub-contractor.
In general, localization managers handle the confidential information of others with no less care that what is considered reasonable. Ideally they handle content with at least the amount of care with which they would handle their own most sensitive personal data. They do so because clients’ and vendors’ information is strongly confidential. It includes but is not limited to personal identifiers, trade secrets, and linguistic content. They do so to mitigate the risks associated with leaking information in unforgiving competitive markets.
The work of localization managers requires a broad yet specialized set of competencies, including competencies in management, technology, stakeholder engagement, subject matters, languages, characteristics of international markets, legal language, data stewardship, processes, best practices, research, and critical thinking to make sound decisions across localization projects.
Localization managers switch among multiple different projects during any given work period. Each project they work on has its own set of variables, such as languages, domain, technology needs, that determine the knowns on projects and research and work that must be conducted to account for unknowns. Localization managers routinely learn new knowledge and skills independently to keep pace with and adapt to clients’ changing needs in fluctuating markets.
Localization managers build an understanding of the context for work in a manner that is logical. That is, they prioritize obtaining the core knowledge in languages (source and target languages, subject matter jargon, human and computer) and technology necessary to produce work and continue filling gaps in knowledge to grow continuously more specialized as work progresses. Localization managers prioritize gaining knowledge in small, repeatable chunks, rather than making inordinate investments in training for work that does not actually pan out. They prioritize research and training in proportion to the value that the knowledge gained will have on current tasks.
In general, localization managers are lifelong learners devoted to self-improvement by gaining new knowledge. Localization managers also endeavor to answer their own questions through research of available resources. They are collegial about sharing knowledge and resources too. Localization managers document learning in training documents that can be leveraged and built upon by teams. Localization managers are also aware of when it makes the most sense to consult a subject matter expert, such as when linguistic queries arise in specialized domains. If unable to obtain answers to questions via their own research, they are consultative when seeking guidance from managers, colleagues, subject matter experts, and clients as necessary. That is, they state problems clearly, accounting for the context and possible future outcomes, and provide recommendations for moving forward.
Localization managers practice ethical behavior during their work. They identify and account for conflicts of interest transparently. They endeavor to identify all project stakeholders and bring them all into the loop. They ensure that the views of under-represented stakeholders, such as the end users who often have little to no direct control over the product produced, are represented in complex negotiations. While doing the utmost to incorporate all stakeholders, big or small, localization managers must also exercise confidence when making decisions that may not satisfy all stakeholders. They ensure that work progresses and is tracked in an unbiased way. They do not judge performance on characteristics that are not related to the job. They work to identify root causes for improvement rather than assigning blame.
Localization managers take responsibility for project failures by the team and give credit for successes to responsible colleagues. They are fearless in their decision making despite ambiguity. They are aware of how their own subjectivity impacts their work, while also endeavoring to remain as objective as possible when mediating and negotiating among diverse project stakeholders. When conducting work, they are aware of what is and is not in their control because of their experience. They endeavor to act as both managers and leaders, by remaining calm and professional in emergencies, by communicating about realities openly and transparently, by patiently fielding questions and conducting work alongside partners, and by inspiring others around a common purpose that meets the unique needs of all project stakeholders.
Above all, localization managers operate and behave in a consultative and mutually beneficial way, in which people gather together to produce good work that keeps clients and end users happy and practitioners and producers paid.
PROMOTE HIGH STANDARDS
All the above necessarily relies on professionals around the world being willing to work together to make communication possible even where languages differ. Localization managers who adhere to best practices and codes of conducts promote the high standards and progress that is beneficial to all practitioners within our industry. Anyone can manage localization, but not everyone should because they are not qualified. It is a complex job which requires dedicated and trained professionals to oversee. Those dedicated and trained professionals are LPMs.2
2 Thank you to Salim Martell for the beautifully worded concluding statements.