The Presentation of Novelty
for the Common Good
A critical review of the Global Language Operations concept

By Dr. Miguel Cerna

I celebrate when someone comes up with something new for the common good, and I always stress the importance of clear definitions so that everyone involved receives exactly the same message.

In terms of new concepts that may replace or add value to the old ones, once brought to the public eye, localizing the content is a must, especially if such novelty aims at changes that would affect an industry to a global scale. And nothing is more global than the language industry.

The concept of Global Language Operations (GLO), or LangOps, is a case in place, published in MultiLingual, November 2022. In his article Increasing Localization Value as Global Language Operations, Bruno Herrmann suggests its use instead of “localization.” I would suggest that LangOps is what localization does, not what it is.

Below, I share a critical review of his proposition. Such involvement in regards to this new terminology is important because a new terminology would affect not only how we understand and treat localization, but also how we price it.

Before getting into Bruno’s article, here is how we, at Verve, define and use localization: Localization is the process involving different areas of expertise, platforms, tools, and forms that take one message and modifies it into different linguistic and other cultural characteristics without altering its intended meaning, so that it suits different audiences globally.

The Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA) defines localization as “the adaptation of any aspect of a product or service that is needed for a product to be sold or used in another market,” (see Dimitra Anastasiou, 2010). However, such definition is limited since it refers to messages for commercial purposes only. Ours, instead, refers to any message, in any form with the use of any medium that goes global.

Now let’s get into my review of LangOps. To avoid confusion, I’ve used BH for Bruno’s points of view and MC for mine. Please note that the opinions I represent in this article are exclusively mine as a curious mind and a critical reader. Here we go.

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BH: “Global language operations offer a safe path to increase, demonstrate, and capture the value of localization.”

MC: Since when we localize a message, we operate in various languages, the concept of LangOps certainly demonstrates the “complexity” value of localization. But I am not sure the word safe is the correct one within the context of Bruno’s proposition. As I read it, the following questions arise: What makes LangOps safe? Does he mean safer as compared to localization, and if yes, why or how is localization not safe?

Elaborating on the idea of safety, I would suggest that localization would be safer than LangOps because the first one is specific — it tells what we do to a message — while the latter sounds generic leading to the question: What do those operations do to a message? Do they change it, review it, localize it?

Understanding LangOps piece by piece

BH: “The word ‘global’ in GLO suggests that it creates value for the global business it is tied to.”

MC: When I see the world global, it suggests that something reaches global audiences, not necessarily that it is valuable. To be valuable, it has to effectively serve a purpose. The value of a message is in being localized and in its content, which is relevant to its audience.

BH: “The word ‘language’ emphasizes the value of speaking the customers’ language.”

MC: The way I see it, the word “language” in LangOps emphasizes language; the word localization instead emphasizes speaking the language of intended audience. Would the use of “languages” better represent the plurality that is characteristic of our industry?

BH: “The word ‘operations’ in GLO acknowledges that we create value through a set of activities, tasks, and imperatives that require scalable capacity and specific capabilities.”

MC: This word may imply that we operate within a task/skills/expertise-diverse environment, but the word “operations” just tells us that something is being operated on, not that the action delivers value.

I would suggest that the added value of the terms should be more elaborated so that the added value to localization is clear.

More on Bruno’s proposition

BH: “…[GLO] allows localizers to better control the level of localization readiness of the source content and more accurately measure the overall performance of the content they have localized.”

MC: I couldn’t figure out how this terminology allows for better control and accurate measuring. Regardless of the use of localization or LangOps, it is control and measuring systems that allow controlling and measuring. How well and how accurately? Well, that would depend on the systems in place.

BH: “Localization effectiveness is best when we are able to deliver customers a product that meets their needs and desires.”

MC: I would suggest that there is no ineffective localization. When a message doesn’t deliver the intended message to different audiences, then it’s a failure in localization.

In terms of the consumer market, the language industry does not deliver products. We deliver messages about a product that meet the needs and desires of different audiences. These two elements — product and message — go hand to hand, although those who make the product and those who create the message (before localization starts) do not work together in a typical workflow.

This is an issue of no-integration at the source, which leads to no-integration between the source and the language service provider. At Verve, we face this quite often with new clients, which is why we make sure to work together with them before starting the localization process.

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BH: “I argue that localization should be extended, elevated, and enriched as ‘global language operations,’ in order to speak the customer language.

MC: I would propose that speaking the customer language is localization. I am not sure at this point how the concept of LangOps extends, elevates, or enriches the concept of localization; but if it does, I would ask to what extent, and to what heights and wealth.

BH: “The word ‘localization’ can mean very different things to different people, hindering common understanding.”

MC: I suggest that the opposite is true. LangOps could mean many different things for different people because the word operations is not specific; on the other hand, localization is — it tells that a message has been adapted for a specific audience without changing its meaning.

BH: “… Some localization teams feel isolated in their role as the people in charge of the transaction of content that has to be converted from one language into another.”

MC: I figure that this feeling exists at different stations along the value chain, starting with translators and reviewers. From 1995 up to now, I’ve identified that the main issue for such a feeling of isolation is no-integration.

This happens not only in the language industry but also in any of the industries I’ve worked in and consulted for. What leads to such a state of no-integration has to do with poor internal communication and high levels of expertise acting separately. The latter has the side effect of making the expert blind in regards to other areas of work within the same process. A new concept will not solve this problem, but that is a topic for another time.

BH: “Localization deserves a description and a definition that reflects what it truly entails.”

MC: Revisiting the description and definition of the concept is a healthy thing to do. In the case of this article, such a revisit could lead to updating the meaning and entailment of the term “localization” in modern times.

BH: “Localization has to be seen as the value chain that enables a business to deliver local customer experiences. … The effectiveness of language operations must also be captured by breaking down the performance of the various roles and responsibilities of people involved in the value chain.”

MC: I totally agree, and that is how we see localization — as the value chain operating within the dynamics of global languages.

BH: “Local content must be perceived as if it has been created specifically for the local audience.”

MC: I’d like to emphasize the that “the words we use” have an incredible power and stir positive or negative reactions, or no reaction at all.

Doing something as if makes me think of something fake and even manipulative, something that looks like but it is not. In localization, and this is our strict policy: never as if. Localization must be created for specific audiences, not as if it is.

BH: “… when it requires more than ‘standard’ localization like in marketing or advertising content.”

MC: The following questions arise: What is “standard” localization? Does Bruno refer to localization standards? Why is the localization of marketing or advertising content standard and no more? What is included in “more?”

At Verve, for example, we have standard operating procedures for different kinds of content but do not speak of standard localization. Every project is localized following strict procedures that lead to protecting the integrity of the intended message for all its intended audiences regardless of the field; That is our standard.

Questions Remain

The above is my take from Bruno’s article in regards to the new terminology he proposes. As it is presented in his article, I cannot see the added value to localization — the term or the process — yet. If the intention is for Global Language Operations to be accepted and used by all the players in the industry, I would suggest a more elaborated document to make the value proposition clear.

I like to express my thanks to Bruno for the intellectual stimulation leading to this writing. I hope he and other readers see it in the light of a healthy and professional conversation

Dr. Miguel Cerna is a managing partner at Verve Translations.

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