To kickoff the new year, we interviewed Yuka Kurihara, Director of Globalization at Syncsort, to get some quick insights into the current state and the future of the i18n and L10n industry.
How has L10n technology evolved since you began in the industry?
Yuka Kurihara: I started my career 20+ years ago as a Software Localization Engineer in a start-up software company. I graduated with a double Major in Computer Science and Linguistics. Back then, there was no localization industry per se. Companies were just starting to develop software for different languages/encodings. There was no commercial tool to manage the localization process so I built it myself. I did a lot of batch scripting to gather files for localization kits. Our build engineer used to consume my scripts so that pre-processing could take place when the nightly main build kicked off. I was fixing i18n bugs in the C++ code whenever I found corrupted characters. I also wrote a lot of test scripts for automating localization testing because I was tired of the manual testing – having to repeat the same operation in 20 languages.
We have come a long way since then. Now we have numerous options for TMS with many different content connectors. “Continuous Localization” is the norm in the software industry. We’ve seen tremendous improvement in the Machine Translation quality in recent years. There are many new faces in technology companies supporting localization. It’s really exciting!
What would you describe as the leading challenge localization experts face?
Yuka Kurihara: I think it depends on the industry, the type of solution/content you are managing, and what role you are playing. Even though there are many different interesting views out there, there are two things that have been very consistent in my mind. First, change is inevitable. You will need to be able to anticipate change and make the best of it. If you are not initiating change yourself, change will happen to you. In terms of localization production, there is an emphasis on automation so how does a localization project manager transform themselves to be more valuable than just an email inbox? On the other hand, even though business is accelerating due to technology advancement, personalization and human empathy are more important than ever in winning customer loyalty. How do you balance this? Secondly, the speed of change. If you are not keeping up with it, you will quickly fall behind. This is especially true if you are in the technology field.
How do you feel i18n and L10n will evolve over the next 5 years? How will technology affect future processes?
Yuka Kurihara: Hyper automation for localization production process including automated content hand off/check in and continuous delivery for all and every type of content. I don’t think you can stop this trend. Machine translation will get continue to improve and start to get embedded in the human communication channel whether it’s text or speech based. I also think that language technology can play a significant role in new innovations, not just supporting the localization production process in enterprises. I think there is an opportunity in the areas of data management and NLP also.
How has agile development impacted localization teams?
Yuka Kurihara: It certainly has impacted in many ways. The biggest positive is that agile development brought the localization team closer to the development team. The challenge we all experienced was adopting and creating a model to be able to perform “continuous localization”. You need to get your team and stakeholders behind it. There may be a lot of prep work you need to do before you can embark on the journey. You may even have to either build the tool yourself or buy something commercially available to support this. This will help deliver localized products at the same time as English so it’s great for our global customers but it’s an investment to make it happen and to operate in this model.
What is the biggest opportunity to improve L10n processes?
Yuka Kurihara: Currently commercially available TMS’s lack comprehensive capability to support “Continuous Localization” for all different content. Many companies are developing their own solutions to fill the gap. If someone develops this, please let me know. I’m interested!
There is also an opportunity for Content writers and UX designers to be learning from Globalization/Localization specialists. UX designers own UI design during the development process but often don’t take into consideration the global audience. Content writers can produce better English content if they write content with a non-English speaking audience in mind.
What advice would you give to individuals just getting started in the L10n industry?
Yuka Kurihara: The Localization industry is becoming more mature now. However, it’s still ~10 years behind compared to software development in terms of recognition as a profession and an industry. Last year, I was admitted to the Technical Ladder program as a “Distinguished Engineer”. This program is very prestige and only a few top talents in the company are accepted. It was very much “trail blazing” because this was the first time ever for “Globalization” to be recognized as an expertise. Even today, there are no industry wide standardized job descriptions and competitive salary studies that corporate HR departments can readily use. We need a comprehensive career development track for our industry. Having said that, our industry is growing and there are lots of opportunities. If you are just starting out, know what like and enjoy and find a position/career where you can use your strengths. Globalization is poised to take center stage rather than merely being a supporting function. It’s an exciting time for all of us.
Want to hear more from Yuka?
At LocWorld38 (Seattle, 2018), Yuka Kurihara presented together with Lingoport’s Olivier Libouban, Lingoport’s VP of Product Development. This session had a packed room, with standing room only. Yuka did an outstanding job of presenting real-life situations and solutions.