October 21, 2022localization

Localization specialist: understanding the role

localization specialist

There’s a new field of career opportunities, departments to be created or digitalized… Now it's the turn of translators.

Localization departments may not be news for corporations that sell their products in brick-and-mortar shops around the world or for the gaming industry. But for the rest of the industries, localization practices have just started.

After decades of advocacy for globalization, we have a reverse focus on localization.

If you’re preparing your first localization project, pay attention. You'll need:

☞ an exceptional localization strategy

☞ the best localization system to support you during the process,

☞ and, of course, you'll need a localization team.

One of the most important roles in localization is the one a localization specialist has.

What is a localization specialist

A localization specialist is a specialized translator.

There's a practice of interchangeable use of the terms localization specialist and localization manager. However, they have different responsibilities and need a different set of skills.

For localization specialists, it's fundamental they’re specialized in two things. The very first is the source and the targeted language. And the second one is the industry they’re working in.

This is important in practice because every industry has its own particular vocabulary that you need to understand and practice on top of the cultural ones.

This means that if you're working in the software industry, in a localization department specializing in the fitness niche, you'll need to manage the following vocabularies:

  1. English - source language

  2. French - target language

  3. Software - working language :)

  4. Fitness - product language

If it seems demanding, it's because it is. You’re localizing software, after all.

What does a localization specialist do

Localization specialist translates, edits, and tests for quality assurance UX/UI copy. It's involved in product testing and adaptation to the local market in terms of user experience, deployment, and launching.

We researched tons of job ads on Indeed, Glassdoor, and Velvetjobs to get a clear picture on what is the overall demand and responsibilities.

The usual responsibilities of a Localization specialist we found out:

localization specialist

☞ Translation of the copy inside the product

You’ll either need to translate it yourself or review the translation and give feedback to a language service provider.

☞ Editing of the copy inside the product

As previously, depending on how big the team is, you’ll either do it yourself or review the translation and give feedback to LSPs.

☞ QA end product testing for a cultural fit

This is the most exciting part. If you’re working in the gaming industry, you'll need to play games or use an app or software. Yes, this is your responsibility as a localization specialist. You need to do quality assurance and user experience testing as if you’re a representative of the culture the product is being localized to.

☞ Collaboration with product & marketing managers

Further on, you’ll need to collaborate with product and marketing managers. You'll have to give them feedback during and after testing. Your goal here is to vouch for improvements that'll lead to better positioning in the targeted market.

☞ Interpretation during the meetings

Sometimes product and localization teams will be located in two different countries, and they won’t speak the same language - figuratively and literally. Your task here would be to be a mediator in the conversation.

What's a localization specialist salary

A salary is a changeable variance in all job ads we went through. It depends on the company and the niche. Payscale offers an average scale that goes from $57k to $66k

localization specialist salary

How to become a localization specialist

To become a localization specialist, you’ll need to mix up a few things.

Usually, the requirements are the following:

localization specialist

Knowledge of English and required language(s) at the proficiency level

Keep in mind this doesn’t mean only grammar and spelling skills. You’ll need to be familiar with overall culture, pop culture, the culture of consumption, taboos, and different slang (depending on how big is the localization country, who is the target audience there, etc.).

If we can believe the current state of job ads, the languages that are in the highest demand in the localization industry are Japanese, Thai, French, and Spanish, in combination with English.

Strong written and oral communication skills

You’ll need to convince product and marketing managers of a lot of stuff. Even though you may know the culture and the language better, they know things or two more about product and marketing.

For that reason, you’ll need to master the vocabulary and critical processes of those two departments as well. You’ll also need to be assertive and persuasive as much as possible.

Translating & Interpreting skills

You may think this one is obvious, but let’s highlight it anyway. Otherwise, someone would just use google translate or other machine translators.

We’re here talking about the mix of the previous two - knowledge of the language and different levels of culture, plus highly skilled in oral and written communication.

Training and certifications that show that you can translate and interpret simultaneously are not always required. However, we recommend you get them, mostly because of yourself.

Industry knowledge

This one is very specific, and while you can mix through industries as a translator, if you want to be a localization specialist, you’ll need to choose a specific niche.

Believe it or not, software is not specific enough. Think about the software industry's niches - like gaming, health care, tourism, and hospitality.

Why is this important? Mostly for further career improvement.

You can advance in the localization team as:

☞ a team lead of localization specialists,

☞ a technical writer for either UI/UX or technical documentation, or move to

☞ a localization project manager role.

If you move to the later one, you can focus on the regular ladder - head of localization, director, and VP.

The difference between a localization specialist and a localization manager

localization specialist

As we mentioned at the beginning of the article - the terms localization specialist and localization project manager are often used interchangeably like synonyms. They’re not. But why do they get mixed all the time?

Our guess is that's happening because they do tend to overlap. Also, most digital localization projects are done by start-ups, and we all know by now that startups don’t have the same hierarchical structure as bigger companies.

So we can easily have an employee in a startup that’s a product manager, UX/UI designer, software developer, UX/UI copywriter, and logically, a localization specialist and project manager.

If you’re laughing now, you probably didn’t work a single day in the start-up. However, if you’re bursting into tears, we got you! (also, maybe it’s time for a burnout check-up).

Anyways, let's clear this out.

A localization specialist is more like a translator/editor/interpreter with a solid knowledge of product development and marketing processes. Sometimes even with a software development background.

As a localization specialist, you’ll be in charge of the product and responsible for its final localized version together with a product manager. You’ll also be responsible for the final marketing materials together with the marketing manager. If you’re not a one-person team, you’ll have to prepare glossaries for translators or language service providers.

Either way, you and the rest of the localization team will be able to ease the collaboration on software localization with translation management systems like Localizely.

translation management

With a translation editor, you’ll be able to translate, review and approve translations faster and within the actual design context. While features like glossaries and translation memory can help you to speed up and always stay on top of the branding.

translation management

As a localization project manager, on the other hand, you’ll be a highly cross-functional person. You’ll be responsible for budget, suppliers, delivery, and deployment.

This means you’ll need to recruit and contract an in-house part of the team, like localization specialists, localization engineers, and other people that are usually part of the localization department, as well as outsourced LSPs.

So, as an LPM, you’re a people manager as well. This means you’ll be responsible for their performance, and a good translation management tool can help you there as well.

For example, Localizely has statistics and reports for both in-house and outsourced translation, and you can easily divide tables andetinto how many words in which language are translated and by whom.

transaltion management

You’ll need to create workflows and briefs and determine deliverables and delivery dates. Among your tasks will be checking on individual deadlines in your team. You'll also work tightly with a localization specialist and a localization engineer.

Oh, and let’s not forget the creation of specific guidelines for particular localization regions in collaboration with different localization specialists.

Choose your starting point

Being part of localization teams can be fun, but prepare for a lot of stress and sometimes even travel.

This may be a fairly new career option for many graduated linguists or a career change for someone trained in software development.

No matter your starting point, working knowledge of translation management systems can help you escalate in your job as a localization specialist. The good news is that Localizely offers a free plan, so you can learn on the go and start with your new job prepared.

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