Career opportunities in Localization Industry

Written by: Ananya Banerjee

The inception of the Localization Industry traces back to the 1980’s, when American Software giants started expanding on a global scale. As computer softwares and desktop computers started to become available to common people, demand for locale-friendly features and interface became a need of the moment to drive efficiency and encourage adoptions. Microsoft was the first to begin endeavouring towards localization and business expansion in Tokyo and Europe (1978-1979), later Sun Microsystems followed its footstep between 1983 to 1986, and marked its presence in Europe, Asia and Australia.

Not only for the corporate sector or educational purpose, but availability of computer hardwares and softwares to commoners’ desks experienced a surge of product and service adaptation according to specific locales and practices; that in turn set the wheels of localization into motion. Before we delve deep into the topic, some important terminologies need to be introduced for understanding the scope of Localization Industry. Globalization, Internationalization, Localization and Translation that are commonly abbreviated and widely used as GILT. In this context Globalization refers to the process of conceptualizing a product or service for the global market, so that it can be sold world-wide with some minor revision. Internationalization refers to rendering a product/service in such a manner that it can be easily and efficiently localized.  Localization is the process of customizing a product or service for customers of a target market so that it seems to be designed by the native of their own country. Finally, Translation as base of the entire process refers to actual conversion of written words of source language to that of target language. Having explained these terms, it is clear that localization is not synonymous with the stand-alone translation industry. Contrary to that, it is an industry, the scope of which is multifaceted.

A survey reported, the global translation market is estimated to be 33.5 billion USD in 2012 with an expected growth rate of about 5.13%. In terms of revenue, the Indian translation industry is just 19% of the Asian Localization Industry. Therefore, in context of the fastest growing Indian economy, it is needless to mention career options in the Localization Industry are numerous. 

For the sake of narrative, career opportunities in the Localization Industry have been divided in three categories: Linguistics, Technical and Business.

 As the nucleus of Localization Industry, linguistic professionals provide translation from language to language for any content according to their clients’ requirements. Many people who start in a linguistics-based role either have a natural bilingual or multilingual background and have studied for many years to make their linguistics skills marketable to clients who need their services. Linguists fall into several different job categories or roles in the language industry, such as interpreters, translators, editors or proofreaders. Be it text or speech conversion, familiarity with some recent localization aides like Translation Memory (TM), Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) Tools, Text Editor Software, Video Remote Interpreting (VRI), Over the Phone Interpretation (OPI)  etc. are counted as added merit.

Localization Industry being part of a global digital landscape has a strong technical component as information and content are developed in a wide range of digital formats. From software to website documentation, devices and technical platform, any content requiring localization need to be managed technically. Localization quality assurance (QA) professionals are responsible for maintaining quality, functionality and precision of a finished technical product. Next comes the role of Localization Engineer who directly deals with any product, document, website or device that requires localization. At an LSP, localization engineers are responsible for varied technical things. They assess files for quoting localization and translation work. They dictate how files for localization are received by the client company. When files are translated, they recompile the files in any development format or system for reintegration into the final localized product. They work with localization QA to verify and fx errors. For both these roles specialization in several, if not all, major technical software development platforms are required. Additionally, expertise in translation-related technologies should work as an advantage.

Apart from having expertise in languages if someone is keen to take on business roles, then this industry holds promising roles for you. Localization Industry services are most commonly described as a professional services industry, though a tangible product is being delivered at the end of the day. To that end, there are plenty of business functions which help to carry out the business of language. Team of professionals and specialists, clubbed under “Localization Management” serve as Project Manager, Strategist, Vendor Manager, Operations Manager get work completed on time, allocate budget for specific project, assign resources according to skills, approve timeline and execute localication with an excellent quality.

Albeit these categories are different, but not detached from one another. Thus, if someone starts a career in the industry as a Linguist, climbing the ladder of experience and expertise can easily launch him/her in business or tech roles. 

Aside from the broader categorization of work opportunities, if someone wants to pursue the career of Linguist as a core profession of Localization Industry, then it is important to delineate few other roles, without which, perhaps the discussion will be incomplete.   

Career in interpretation and translation is segmented in myriads of domains which provide ample opportunity to fine-tune linguistic skills and attain precise expertise. Salient among these are Information Technology (IT), Software, Gaming, Legal, Medical, Medico-Legal (Clinical study and study related legal procedures, ICF, ICD, Consent documents), Education, Health, Insurance & Banking, Financial and Media domains. Gaining experience and expertise in these domains can attract job roles in corporate sectors, pharma companies, research institutes, governmental organizations, legal consultancy and even in courts. Many advertising agencies, streaming services, e-commerce and e-learning portals are selecting video as a medium to convey their message to the audience. This began to boom the career in  video subtitling or audio transcription. In the context of Covid-19 pandemic, work-from-home or part-time opportunities are added advantages of this industry. Whether creative minds or tech-lovers, engagement in blog translation, transcreation, User Interface (UI), app, gaming software translation- roles are aplenty in this industry that cater to everyone’s passion and interest. Besides, working with foreign Language Service Providers (LSP) paves the path for making profit in international currency.

Tech giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon and many similar national and international brands are recognizing the importance of localizing their content. Hence, there will be a stronger emphasis on providing authentic user experience and investing capital for localization will be on rise. Onset of Covid-19 experienced career opportunities to take a dip on the graph, whereas, the curve for localization is still steady and ascending. In conclusion, be it exploring new career options or switching careers, the Localization Industry stands a step ahead to be on top of your consideration list.

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