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New Technical and Commercial Trends of the Localization Service Sector in China


by Cui Qiliang

Secretary-general of Localization Service Committee of TAC


1. Information Localization Service (ILS) is connected with Content Management Service (CMS).

Statistics show that information in the world in the coming five years will increase ten times, and information in China over the same period will increase 30 times. In turn information localization service will be expecting soaring growth in business. The scales and numbers of localization projects will be expanding and higher requirement will be raised for managing localization projects. For language information service providers, to implement and apply ILS becomes necessary to improve the quality and efficiency of project management, and to lower the cost of management and production.

On the other hand, the buyers of language information service (clients) are increasingly adopting Content Management System (CMS), or even Global Management System (GMS). They prefer that ILS can be seamlessly connected with CMS and exchange data smoothly and in a timely manner, in order to enable a swifter and more transparent localization and internationalization of information.

2. Machine Translation (MT) and Translation Memory (TM) become the mainstream language processing technologies.

The new generation of machine translation technology, showcased by Google automatic translation, exerts a major impact on global language information service sector, in particular, machine translation of Latin and European languages is greatly improved. For certain information in huge quantity, some clients are willing to adopt the localization model, relying mainly on machine translation supplemented with human editing.

Developers of localization tools also take notice of the changes in technologies and have integrated or are integrating machine translation technologies with traditional translation memory technologies. Language translation of information localization service will combine machine translation and translation memory with human editing.

3. Computer-Aided Interpretation (CAI) becomes a new hot spot.

With the rapid growth of communication technology, it has been applied in various sectors and territories, and users of mobile phones increase rapidly in number. In the backdrop of economic globalization and growing regional economy, the need for communicating in different languages based on communication technology is growing fast.

In sectors such as international conference, business negotiation, global hospital diagnosis and patient nursing, global service support and call center, new demand for interpretation of multi-languages has been raised. The traditional interpretation model that relies on the language proficiency of interpreters can no longer meet the need of these particular service sectors. As a result, CAI system or software tools are introduced to assist in improving the efficiency and quality of interpretation in multi-languages.

4. Community localization and crowd sourcing are being researched and explored.

Some products of Facebook and of game developing companies are using online communities to complete localized translation. In the online communities clustered with many people familiar with the mass products and sharing the same interest, the products are virtually managed, and their language contents are translated and edited by these people following the terms and requirements provided by the developers of the products.

Other software developers such Microsoft also started globally the so called “crowdsourcing” for the localization of their products. They outsource at relatively cheaper price some small-scale and new software products for localization into different languages to some virtual teams in the online communities, and offer support of technology and platform for these teams.

5. Trade information data sharing and open source are making progress.

After over 20 years’ development, localization service has accumulated rich data resources, including corpus and terminology data bank known as language assets which are dispersed in many localization service providers. With the growing business of information localization, the localization sector realizes the importance of language resources in improving the specialization of service and lowering production cost. Translation Automation User Society (TAUS) and other similar organizations have started to launch actions to share these public language information resources.

Open Source is a new model of software development, which over the recent years is used in localization service sector. For instance, Welocalize joins global software companies to develop open source tools such as GlobalSight for managing localization business.

6. The industry is impacted by the international financial crisis and China emerges as the new market for language service.

The global financial crisis since 2008 has a deep impact on the localization service industry. The localization projects of clients decrease in number or are postponed. Localization companies in the world have to lay off employees, stop recruiting or reduce salary in order to keep cost low. For Chinese localization service companies, they feel the same pressure from the market in 2009, as 99% of their clients are from Europe and the US. This single income source has its defect and is seriously challenged in face of the financial crisis.

On the other hand, the huge market potential and the cost advantage of human resources in China attract more global localization companies to China. Amongst the top 25 global localization service companies, over 80% set up branches in China in the past two years, including Transperfect and Tek. China has become the new processing centre of global language service.

7. The globalization of enterprises leads to outsourcing of technical writing service.

Technical writing is to design instructions or users’ manuals of various products that are used globally. Manuals and instructions are essential components of global products. To a certain extent, mistakes in manuals or instructions affect the experience of users of the products, and have a negative impact on the image of the companies. Global companies thus have paid greater attention to the importance of technical writing.

With the extension of product lines, the quantity of information content soars. Global companies focus on core businesses such as the development of new products, and outsource to vendors technical writing, which had been previously undertaken by the companies themselves. In China, IT companies such as IBM, Microsoft, are finding vendors for some of their technical writing projects, which brings new business opportunities for localization companies. To meet the need of their international clients for technical writing, localization companies must have skilled staff that is proficient in English writing, familiar with the clients’ products as well as technical writing standards.

8. Localization service companies move to second-tier cities.

Localization companies established in earlier years in China are located mostly in Beijing, Shenzhen and cities that are economically developed. However the cost of human resources and office facilities rise rapidly due to keener competition in these cities. In addition, the price of localization of Chinese has reduced to irrationally low level, which brings greater pressure on the operational cost of localization companies.

At the same time, second-tier cities in China are restructuring their economy and supporting IT and software sourcing sectors. Attracted by favorable policies and supportive measures, localization companies, same as other sourcing companies, move to cities like Chengdu, Wuhan and Jinan. In April 2009, TAC and Chengdu High-Tech Zone Management Committee jointly established Chengdu—Global Multilanguage Information Processing Center in Chengdu Hi-Tech Zone in Sichuan, which attracts many Chinese translation and localization companies to set up their offices there.

9. The “ecological chain” of localization service sector grow to be complete.

Over a long period of time, there are only a very limited number of localization companies in China. They do not have their own organizations, or training or educational institutions for skilled and specialized people. At the initial stage, localization service has not grown as a sector and needs nurturing. During 2007 and 2008, the ecological chain of localization service sector has witnessed changes.

Localization companies started to join forces under the Translators Association of China (TAC) in 2007, and the proposal for establishing a Localization Service Committee under TAC was filed to the Ministry of Civil Affairs for approval (the Committee was approved in January 2009), signals that localization service in China has embarked on regulated development. The Department of Language Information Engineering of Peking University started to offer master-degree education of computer-aided translation and natural language processing, and to probe into the possibility of combining this major with Master of Translation and Interpretation (MTI), with the aim to train graduates with multi-skills. IGS Technologies Co., Ltd has committed itself to training of specialized and skilled people for the localization sector. These organizations play a role in completing the ecological chain of localization service sector in China, and promoting the healthy development of this sector.

10. Chinese clients of localization service start to appear.

For a long time the clients of Chinese localization service are mainly from Europe and the US, as clients from these markets already have steady need for globalization and localization. But the risk of having a single source of clients becomes outstanding in the context of the international financial crisis. Over the recent years, some Chinese enterprises have quickened their steps to develop in the international market, and the need for domestic localization service starts to appear.

It is significant that localization companies are able to provide service for Chinese clients and have a breakthrough in the market, though some Chinese clients of localization service need to have a better understanding of the value of localization service. Clients and service providers should strengthen communications and exchanges, and coordinate to help more Chinese products enter the world market. Localization service companies can provide constructive exchanges and professional language information service for the localization of products of Chinese companies, based on their experiences of serving their international clients.


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