I Just Need “Hey, Baby” in Twelve Languages. What’s the Holdup?

Part 4 in a series: Optimizing the Localization Process

  1. Why Does Localization Take So Long?
  2. Why Is Localization So Expensive?
  3. Can’t Linda in Accounting Translate It?
  4. I Just Need “Hey, Baby” in Twelve Languages. What’s the Holdup?

Remember last December one late afternoon when you were about to leave for vacation? Someone stopped by your desk to ask, “Hey, can you tell me where to find a list of translations for ‘Happy Holidays’? I’d like to do about fifty languages. The campaign goes live tomorrow.” Tomorrow! And on February 12th they said they needed “Hey, Baby!” in 12 languages. And on July 1 they said they’d found an Uncle Sam impersonator who spoke eight languages, but maybe you could just review the videos of his clever humor for the Independence Day sale.

Remember how disappointed they were when a customer said the version of “Happy Holidays” in his language didn’t really mean anything, and when one back translation for “Hey, Baby” in your romantic Valentine ad was “The attention of a male infant under eight months is required”? And didn’t they end up scrapping the Uncle Sam videos? Turns out the only words he knew in some languages weren’t appropriate for your campaign.

You tried to help them. First, you offered to give them a calendar so next year they could know in advance when Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and July 4th were coming. (Your sarcasm didn’t go over very well.) You did your best to explain that romantic idioms have trouble crossing cultures, and you warned that American Independence Day puns don’t seem so clever in Finnish. And they seemed to acknowledge your point that localization is important, and, therefore, worthy of the proper investment of time and trustworthy workflows.

But ultimately, they couldn’t hear your advice. They could only hear their bosses telling them to hurry. So how can you educate those bosses? How can you influence their thinking so that they become advocates for linguistic responsibility?

Don’t start with a lecture. Instead, work hard on establishing relationships with the people making the uninformed decisions. Take them to lunch. With a sense of humor, show them good and bad examples from other companies. Share some laughs about the struggles your company has had, too. Ask them what their goals are, and say you can help the team achieve them. Then as time goes on and as projects come up, you can build on that foundation and develop sensible timing and cultural awareness in your company.

In an unhurried moment, most of your colleagues understand that localization involves negotiating cultural meanings. And if you explain it, they’ll concede that localization workflows are necessary to protect your company’s brand.

The trick is to let them know you’re on their side, helping them avoid embarrassment. You’re not trying to slow them down; you’re collaborating together to make localization as efficient and effective as possible.

With any luck, those urgent requests for translations of “Happy Halloween to All the Ghouls and Boos” will be fewer and farther between.


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