This session was originally recorded via Zoom webinar and transcribed using Sonix.
Katie: [00:00:11] As you’re kind of trickling in here, just want to make sure that you’re able to use our chat. For folks who joined us last time, we did have some technical issues with Zoom. If you’re able, drop a chat and let us know where you’re tuning in from and what you’re most excited to learn about today, and if you’re not able to use the chat, I apologize. This was something we struggled with Zoom last time. So you can also use the Q&A function and that should go through to us and I’ll be monitoring that during the conversation. Awesome. So we have someone joining us from Ireland. Good to see you, Gabriella. If you’re coming in now, please let us know where you’re from. And today we are going to be talking about the value of product localization for UX, which is a topic very near and dear to our panelists hearts. Before we get into the conversation, I just wanted to share some quick notes. So this is being recorded, so feel free to watch it after. You can turn on closed captions in the settings if you would like to see the transcript as the event goes on. If you have questions that you’d like us to address, you can ask that in the Q&A feature. And we will share a recap after the session with the full transcript, the video and some further links and resources. I’m just looking at the chat really quick. It looks like we have folks in Poland, China, Brazil, Barcelona, Thailand, Germany. Amazing representation. Argentina. Awesome. Thank you all. I know everyone is very busy and we’re really grateful for you to spend some time with us today. And just so everyone can meet our lovely panelists, we have Patricia Gomez Jurado, who is our course author at UXCC, as well as the content design lead at King. We have Rosa Vieira de Almeida, a content and localization lead. And Gabriel Lek, who is a content designer. So we have folks working in localization and content design who can bring a 360 look at this conversation. And I’m Katie. For everyone wondering, I work with UX Content Collective and I’m currently based in the United States on the East Coast. Awesome. So with that, I’m going to pass it over to Patricia to kick off the conversation and then we’ll get into the the good stuff, the Q and A.
Patricia: [00:03:38] Thank you, Katie. So before we jump into the Q&A, we got so many questions from the audience. Thank you so much. And I’m so glad that we are having such a global and diverse audience, first of all. So I’m going to give you some introductions into the topic, talking about what is translation localization, why product localization matters, why I created this course, and then we can jump into Q&A. You can go to the next slide, Katie. So you may have heard these really long names that are localization and internationalization and these weird acronyms. Um, well, you can find like really good or to me, like the best descriptions that I could get for these really long words. You can find them in the blog from Nathalie Kelley that is called Born to Global. All these resources are in the course, of course. But, you know, it’s a good way to frame the conversation because what is translation? It is a process of adapting the message into other languages. For other cultures, localization is the process for adapting the user experience, and internationalization is about adapting the code. So it’s more about the technical aspect of it. And then globalization, which is a new term that maybe people might not be familiar with. Normally it’s the framework that companies and organizations put in place in order to facilitate translation, localization, and internationalization. We’re having this session in English, and as you know, English is the common language in the business setup.
Patricia: [00:05:24] And also it’s more or less the lingua franca. However, the world and our users are multilingual and also like people in the chat, we come from different markets, different countries, and we speak different languages. For example, I’m based in Barcelona, so my native mother tongue is Spanish, although I also speak English. So looking at some data from the Internet world stats, the top nine languages are Chinese, Spanish, etcetera. So as you can see, English only accounts for almost 26% of the internet users. Although we always work in English, we need to work or we need to be mindful that we have a diverse and multilingual audience in front of us. And language definitely matters. According to this study from CCS research that is called “Can’t read, won’t buy” 60% of the respondents preferred content in their language. So although most of the audience, we may think that they speak and understand English, they still want to see content in their language. 67% of them, they may tolerate mixed languages, English and their mother tongue in a website, 73% want product reviews in their language, 66% use online machine translation. So even if the quality is not great, at least they prefer to also read in their own language.
Patricia: [00:07:00] And most importantly, 40% of the respondents will not buy in other languages than the mother tongue. So that’s really, really important because although people might be comfortable using English online, they might not buy products if the content is offered to them in English. So they really have a preference for accessing and using products in their own language. So language definitely matters. And the other reason why I created this course is because, like both content designers and localization specialists, they work really closely together because in the end, we both work with words. Through my whole career, I’ve been getting lots of questions from content designers on how to work with localization folks, how to raise the profile of localization in the companies. So I wanted to provide some help to content designers to understand what the discipline is about and how they can help their companies understand localization a bit more and how they collaborate better with localization colleagues in order to enable a more global user experience and also adapt the experience into different requirements and expectations from our multilingual, multicultural audience. This is the content of the course. It has six units. Each unit has some lessons. So at the end of each lesson, you can find a quiz, so you can find some questions to test the knowledge and understanding of the content.
Patricia: [00:08:48] And also at the end, there’s a practice project that every student has to complete. And then our course instructor is helping students and providing feedback about the project. The content is very hands on, has lots of links to resources that you can use in your company to help your stakeholders understand localization a bit more. Get a better understanding on how to work within the localization space. So two highlights that I’d like to mention, the first one is that in the course you will find one of my recommendations or ideas that I have that is bringing UX writing or content design and localization closer into a team or a group that will be global content. You can read more about about this in the course. This is the idea that I’m always aiming for. I love bridging gaps between and increasing the collaboration between localization and and content design. And lastly, design stage localization. This is a new way of adapting the content into other languages. We are moving away from looking at localization as an afterthought to actually including localization as part of the design process. So yeah. Let’s start with the Q&A.
Katie: [00:10:35] I was muted. Thank you so much, Patricia, for taking us through that overview. And for folks interested in learning more, we’ll obviously share some links and recaps after. But we received 50 or 60 incredible questions. And so obviously we won’t get to all of them today, but we hope to cover some of the main themes and topics that we saw. And if we don’t cover your question, we’ll have a recap blog where we can hopefully go more in depth. So with that, let’s get into it. So the first question here is at what stage of the product development process should localization be involved? And I would love to hear from Rosa. Rosa, if you want to give us some thoughts here, that would be awesome.
Rosa: [00:11:29] First off, thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here with everyone. I think in this one I would say I would sort of follow on from what Patricia was saying at the last two points that she sort of highlighted from the course, right? This idea of global content setup and a design stage localization, particularly the latter design stage localization. Ideally localization, if at all possible, should be coming in at the design stage, if not fully, then at least partially in one way or another. And I think the main reason for this is that just like good content design, good localization really requires a thorough understanding of things like a thorough understanding of the user. It requires a really strong grasp of constraints. The earlier you have those, the better. As we all know as content designers, it’s no fun to receive constraints as surprises later on down the road. It also really requires a few good rounds of iteration and testing. The more testing you can do in some kind of testing environment before things go live, the better that’s going to be. So I think the more tools translators have, but also the more time that translators have to do translation and to use the tools that are given to them, the better the outcome. I think the results for that sort of speak for themselves. When we talk about design stage localization, I think it’s one of the interesting things there is it can mean many different things to different people, right? One of the ways we can think about it is we can sort of pick and choose what we want and what we are able to because not everyone works at these super large organizations with huge budgets and amazing resources and all of that.
Rosa: [00:13:12] But if we can pick and choose, one thing that we can do, for example, is research. We can do research with translators, which will lead to obviously more research in more languages, which is good because we’re not limited to the languages that the content design team speaks necessarily. We can have better research insights because people are generally more comfortable speaking in their mother tongue or a language that they’re just more comfortable in rather than English being forced to speak English when maybe they’re not as comfortable in that. A key thing here also is that doing research in localized languages, it really makes localization visible. And I think that’s something that we may return to later on down the line is localization really needs to be made visible in order to make an impact in an organization. It really helps increase translator knowledge. So one of the things that I’m really keen on is this idea that Patricia also talked about, which is sort of decentering the English experience and sort of making space for more language experiences. So the more translators have knowledge, the more they have knowledge about the business and the user, the more they’re actually able to contribute to commenting on things like the English copy. So it really helps form the space … The earlier it comes in, it really helps form the space for good localization to happen and good content design. I think like Patricia, I think these things do go hand in hand.
Katie: [00:14:42] Wow, that was a great answer. Thank you so much for sharing that perspective. Gabriel, as a content designer, I want to hear from you and your thoughts on the involvement in the process.
Gabriel: [00:14:59] I agree with Rosa about localization being involved in the design stage, especially during the research stage. As a content designer, I also feel that it’s critical for localization to be included at that particular stage. So I’ll just give some examples of that. Like at Grab, we do a lot of research on ride hailing. And so when I when I was doing a recent project on ride cancellations and the goal for that project was to use a confirmation notch on the app to dissuade people from canceling their rides. The team wanted to do a number of A/B tests in this case, and one of the hypotheses was whether we should highlight the potential savings or potential expense of canceling the ride in the message nudge to get fewer cancellations. So in an experiment like this, it is really critical to make sure that localization is aware of the hypothesis itself and the nuances of the experiment at each stage of the discussion. I made a mistake earlier of just looping in localization at the end and telling them to translate the variant strings. And then when that happens, the localization team might not really understand what the point of the experiment is and how critical it is to get the nuances right in both variants. And they might also unintentionally add new variables into the strings themselves. So this can result in the test being inconclusive. Besides, just like getting the right content for testing right, localization is also key in certain places where we need to get the local context.
Gabriel: [00:16:29] For example, in another A/B experiment we did at Grab, we wanted to find out whether time or distance info is more important in cancellation messages. So for example, should we should the message say something like, if you’re going to cancel, should it say your driver is coming in five minutes? Are you sure you want to cancel or should it be … Your driver is 2KM away? Are you sure you want to cancel? So we thought this was just a straightforward experiment until we met one of the language specialists who told us that this might not be appropriate because traffic conditions in Jakarta, Indonesia, it’s kind of different. The driver could just be to 2 KM away, but then that could translate to like 25 or 30 minutes of waiting time. So obviously we cannot show the time variant in that case. And similarly, we also did another kind of A/B test on empathy, where we wanted to see whether we wanted to include driver names in these cancellation messages. So, for example, you would say your driver is nearby, are you sure you want to cancel? Or should we say Carlos is nearby, are you sure you want to cancel? I mean, it’s really easy to do, right? But the thing is that you must note that in English, because we use the first name, I mean, it is very easy to put these things in the content and make it fit in the string.
Gabriel: [00:17:39] But if you are talking about the names of other languages, like Thai names, we will probably have to end up truncating a lot of these things. And then the end result of this is that we end up with a message that’s more mechanical, which is not what we wanted to test for in the first place. I also want to add on that it’s not just quantitative research where it’s good to bring in localization in. I mean, even for discovery research, there’s also a lot of cases where localization really help us to make sure that we are testing the right things. At Grab, there was a project in which we wanted to come up with a new flow so that people can create business accounts to book corporate rides and take them as corporate so they can get easy reimbursement later on. And we wanted to make sure that these people use their business emails to sign up. But before we even tested, we realized that in Vietnam, this was coming from some of the people from the localization team as well, is that a lot of people actually use Gmail for their business email. And so because of that, fundamentally the logic of the product just wouldn’t work. And then we could save the time and resources to do something else rather than spend all that money doing research on an idea that isn’t going to work.
Katie: [00:18:54] Those were very, very practical use cases and think it just shows that localization is so much more than just changing the button or translating the string, right? It’s thinking about the local context, the nuances, and actually understanding what users in that geographic region want and need. So those are really great use cases. Thank you so much for sharing those with us. Patricia, I’m just wondering if there’s anything that you want to add on to that or should we? Those were some great answers, so we can move on if you’d like.
Patricia: [00:19:35] This one example that I wanted to mention that proves how involving localization early actually works. During my time working in an online travel agency, for the first time we launched a product in a non-English market first. So we had to launch Edreams Prime into France first and then we rolled out the product into the different markets. So this was a reason why we started doing research directly with the French users for the French market. And that was a really good opportunity for the French content specialist to actually move away from a localization-specific role to actually be a French UX writer and bring specific insights about the expectations from the French users that might be completely different from the expectations from the UK users. Because normally we were doing research in English only and then translating the content into other languages. So the fact that we had to launch a product in France first, for example, was the reason for us to do research in the target language. And that brought a lot of insights that then the product teams were able to use to make the product really adapted to the expectations of the French users.
Katie: [00:21:04] Wow. Awesome stuff. Well, that’s just the first question. Let’s keep going. So this one’s a bit more tactical. So talking about the best plugins to localize content in Figma or any other add-ons or tools that you’re using within the design process to help localize content. I’m wondering if anyone would like to start with this one?
Patricia: [00:21:37] I can take this one. We are seeing that more and more design tools like Figma or Sketch are creating plugins to connect with translation and localization tools. In the course you can find a matrix or a map of all the translation management systems that you can find in the market. And most of them already have a plugin that connects with Figma. So for example, using the Lokalize plugin, you can from Figma push the strings in Lokalize and then the translation team will do the translations in Lokalize. And then from there, you can pull back translations into Figma and see how the designs will look in other languages. These plugins are enabling this collaboration with localization and they are making it possible that localization can get into the design process earlier and also they can get a lot more context because believe it or not, sometimes translators don’t even get a screenshot of the string that they are translating.
Katie: [00:22:46] For folks interested in different kinds of plugins and tools, we can share some resources after as well. And like Patricia mentioned, there are resources in the course. Rosa, I see a raised hand. Love that.
Rosa: [00:23:02] Thought I should just use the feature. Yeah, I was just going to jump in on what Patricia was saying. So, yeah, definitely. So we also use Localize at my org and I think one of the really cool things there is that we can actually have translators in Figma. So going back to the previous question is like, how do you start collaboration? I think you start it right at the beginning and you start with giving localizers Figma access if at all possible. I know many of us in content design are still fighting for us to have Figma access, let alone localizers. But I think having localizers see their copy in context and be able to play around with copy and be able to play around with lengths and dynamic text and you know, all of that. I think that’s going to be really crucial. The other really nice thing about maybe not Lokalize necessarily, but one of these TMS, is that you could push and pull content from is that we personally use it as a source of truth for copy, which is actually really useful because you could just download your entire spreadsheet of copy across your app and you can create an archive of the copy and have a little bit of documentation there as well. So that’s one way that we use it that I find pretty useful.
Katie: [00:24:19] Awesome, awesome, awesome. Alright. We’ll keep moving along so we can get to more questions. So localization specialists are often not recognized as UX writers. What can they do to communicate their essential role?
Patricia: [00:24:38] I think I mentioned earlier this example, which was a really good example of how a localization specialist can provide value for a given market. So one thing that I like to mention as well is how important it is to have in-house localization specialists for key markets, depending on the size of the company and the budget of the company. Many companies, they have internal UX writers who design and write the copy in English and then they send or get translations from a third-party provider that work with external or freelance translators. But I would like to have a think about how great it would be to have internal language specialists that can advocate for some key markets. In my previous job, I had one localization specialist per market. Just considering the top five and six markets for the company and the way they can communicate their essential role. They can help research understand why it matters. Doing research in other languages beyond English. They can help developers understand why you need to format keys in a given way because developers may not speak other languages, so they might not be aware that, for example, that plural work differently in languages like Polish or Russian. That’s why having diverse team is key.
Katie: [00:26:16] And there’s a comment in the chat. So someone said, I don’t fully agree with the idea that localization needs to cover UX writing tasks. These are not exactly the same areas. So the way this question is framed, I think it should say localization specialists are not often recognized like UX writers, meaning they aren’t given the same kind of value. We’re not saying that localization folks need to be UX writers, but they’re not given the same appreciation as UX writers.
Patricia: [00:26:54] At the same time, UX writing might be a career path for localization specialists at some point.
Katie: [00:27:03] Yes. Yes, of course. Awesome. Great. So we had a couple of questions in the chat about this and several people asked. So we all know it’s important, how do we actually convince stakeholders to prioritize making these improvements to the localization process? And Gabriel, I think that you had a couple examples you wanted to share.
Gabriel: [00:27:33] Yeah, well, this ties in to some of the work I’m doing with localization at Grab. I think that if we want to start with any kind of like localization process changes, it’s good to start small, like experiment with smaller teams and then work with different stakeholders like your content designers, different localization people, even content ops and maybe even your product designers. Some of the ways to do it, I mean, first and foremost would be to just like try it out. So recently, one of the recent things I’ve been doing at Grab is to actually introduce the pluralization feature on our TMS, which is what Patricia said as well, to our content processes. So this pluralization feature, for example, if you have a string on your app that says “Your gift has been sent,” and then you need another variant that says, “Your gifts have been sent,” you can actually store these two variants on the same key. And then for all the other languages, the TMS will actually figure it out based on the number of plural forms each language has so you don’t have to worry about that. So when I was trying to propose this, in the back of my mind I have a workaround in place in case engineering was not able to handle these plural keys. And this is still a new process at Grab because at Grab we mainly deal with Southeast Asian languages and in Southeast Asian languages, usually for most of the Southeast Asian languages only have one plural form and that’s called the other form.
Gabriel: [00:28:54] So one of the things that I wanted to do in order to get buy in for this feature was to first get a sense check of whether we can even use this. So I tested this in a small team. I wanted to find out how would the language specialist for the Southeast Asian languages actually fill up the plural forms of the strings on the TMS and at Grab we are using like phrase then would they know what to do when they see two variants and then would they wonder which one are they supposed to localize and things like that. I also wanted to see how engineers work with such keys. If, let’s say, we gave out the JSON files for them and then they see there are two variants, would they be able to handle it in the code? Is the system actually configured in a way that would allow that? For the experiment, this actually worked for Android but not on iOS because of the string requirements. And then one of the things I had to do was ask the engineering managers for advice on how to socialize this.
Gabriel: [00:29:52] So it’s more about finding out how much effort these things will take. But at the same time, don’t go around sounding like this is a decision from one person or from one team. And then the other things that you can also do to kind of get more buy in for such experiments would be also to kind of like make sure that you communicate that whatever you’re trying to find a way to isolate the impact. So, for example, in a separate experiment with regard to localization processes, we wanted to actually introduce this feature called the Review workflow on the translation management system, which is basically just a simple way to mark whatever keys you have on the system with status labels like verified or reviewed, so that people will know whether the translation that you see on those keys are actually finalized by the localization team or not. And then this will also benefit us if, let’s say if we proceed to use large language models in the future and we use these LLMs to pre-translate content, we will be able to identify these pre-translated keys with status labels. So to make sure that a human actually goes in to verify these machine-translated translations.
Gabriel: [00:31:07] One of the things that we wanted to see from this experiment was to find out whether this is effective or not, because it also adds steps for the localization team. So testing it in a in a contained environment would be a good way to socialize this impact if it works later on. And then, of course, another thing about this is also the fact that you need to raise awareness about the different kinds of processes that you have in mind, because a lot of the time, at a large organization like Grab, it’s always assumed that if it’s not in place, that means that someone else has already tried it and it didn’t work. But that’s actually not the case. For example, when I wanted to set up this automation feature on our TMS to actually duplicate all our English EN/UK strings into the EN-US language and then find a way for the TMS to actually change the spelling and formatting of these strings such that it is keeping with the EN-US strings. A lot of people didn’t actually know that there was actually such a way to do this. And then it is only from the start, where we formed small groups to explore how these various features work. Only then can we actually socialize this to other people.
Katie: [00:32:23] Gabriel, thank you so much for sharing all these use cases and case studies. I’m sorry my dog just entered the room, so hopefully he doesn’t bark. I think what you said about starting small, right. And scaling impact or being able to isolate impact is very important. And thank you for sharing that. Oh, Rosa, I love the hand feature.
Rosa: [00:32:49] I want to echo just one thing of what Gabriel was saying, which is, I think starting small is really crucial. And the reason for that is, like everything Gabriel said, but also I think also just sort of sanity because coming from a startup to scale up environment, we were only dealing with seven languages. So my idea was, okay, we’re just going to improve localization across these seven languages. We did it sort of the right way, which was we created a priority matrix. There were a few languages that were deemed to be priority languages. This was business impact related and user numbers related. But had we not done that and had we tackled them all, I think it would have been very difficult to sort of perfect the craft and the operational side of localization while also at the same time evangelizing and doing all the socialization that Gabriel was talking about as well. For me, if I had to go back, we started with two and then quickly increased to three. But if I had to go back, I would have just done the one language and I would have just chosen our main localization language and perfected that because I think we ultimately ended up having a few problems, in terms of stakeholder management, that I don’t think we were doing very well precisely because we were too focused on the craft and the operational side of things and not as much on the management of stakeholders. So that’s definitely something that I learned through our own process with localization.
Katie: [00:34:21] Great. Yeah. Patricia?
Patricia: [00:34:23] Continuing with the stakeholder management topic that Rosa mentioned. I think it’s also a good idea to tie localization efforts with the company KPIs on the goals. Because if you’re able to, for example, link the improvements in localization with time to market, then you have an improvement that the business can understand and can relate to their needs. As usual, understand your audience. And in terms of stakeholders, understand what they need, what they care about, and try to link your value, your goals, your KPIs to the needs of the business and your stakeholders so that they see you as a value-added partner.
Katie: [00:35:08] Yep. Absolutely. Absolutely. Alright, let’s keep going. So this is a good question. How can we maintain brand voice and tone in the translation process? I’m wondering. Patricia, if you have any thoughts here?
Patricia: [00:35:28] The easiest way is to keep style guides in several languages. I know that many content designers create tone of voice guidelines for normally English or the language that they manage, but it would be great to actually roll out these guidelines into other languages to make sure that the brand guidelines and tone of voice guidelines are also defined and mapped for other languages as well to be guidance for translators. Another good resource is creating glossaries to map key terminology or key feature names or product names that translators need to follow and keep consistent within the translations. And in general, I would say make sure that content designers provide as much context as possible to guide translators and also to give them context about how to interpret certain messages into their market. So I would say these: contexts always, style guides, and glossaries.
Katie: [00:36:38] Great. Awesome. So kind of getting back to the idea of KPIs, which we just talked about, and connecting to business goals. Are there specific localization KPIs that folks should be building and measuring against to prove the value and the impact of their localization work? Patricia, you also might have some thoughts here.
Patricia: [00:37:06] Yeah, normally there are two different kinds of KPIs that we can have around localization. The first one could be the internal KPIs and then the external KPIs that you hold your external provider accountable with. For example, on time delivery is a really important KPI to make sure that translations are getting in on time for the release or for the feature. And then regarding the quality space, it’s really important to have KPIs to measure how many translation errors happen in every translation project and also the severity. So translation errors can be spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, mistranslations and even readability. You know, the translation is correct, but still doesn’t sound natural to the target reader or to the local user. And there’s a third category that you can put in place that is about communication and service delivery. That’s a really important way to keep your translation provider accountable for how they work, how they manage projects, how they communicate with us and internal stakeholders, etcetera.
Katie: [00:38:25] I thought this was a great question. Because as content designers, UX writers, localizers, I think we’re very familiar with following the rules. So is it okay to break the rules in order to speak, to write, more naturally in some of these certain geographies? I would love to hear from anyone who has some hot takes on this one.
Gabriel: [00:38:56] I can start first then. For me, not breaking the grammar rules, but I guess it ultimately depends on what you want. For me at Grab, clarity is still important. It’s important to follow global standards in terms of grammar and universal style guides. But the more important thing is also about what your product is going to be used for and who is going to be using it. So for example, for an app like Grab, right? We have travelers who are coming in to South East Asia and then they’re trying to book rides. And some of the top concerns they have, especially for travelers from China, safety is a major consideration when choosing a ride-hailing service. And so we want to make sure that when they see the Grab app, we need to really make sure that it’s professional and we cannot have anything that makes them doubt whether this is a legit service or not. Research studies have shown that some of the concerns from travelers coming to Southeast Asia is that they think that they will get kidnapped. I’m just wondering where this come from.
Katie: [00:40:09] Okay, so safety and professionalism. Definitely understand that. Do we have any other thoughts around breaking the rules to read or speak more organically?
Patricia: [00:40:24] I will go back to our users because this is the difference between the grammar rules that academia provides and then it’s how people speak. For example, in Spanish, a good example that we have is the academia that marks or creates all the rules for Spanish. But then we have our users that are spread among many countries around the world. And sometimes, academia takes some time to actually capture the real usage. And since we want to provide products to our real users, I think sometimes in my opinion, it is better to use a language that represents where the users feel represented rather than maybe using the strict grammar rules. So without making any errors or mistakes that will damage understandability, I think it is okay to create a language that resonates with real users.
Katie: [00:41:26] Yeah. Awesome.
Rosa: [00:41:28] Katie, can I still jump in on this one? I agree with both of you. I think it really, of course, depends on the product. It depends on the language, it depends on the user and the tone even of the product. But I think one anecdote I have from my work is that since we started doing design stage localization, we started experimenting a lot with code-switching and bilingualism. So we’ll have things that are maybe a little bit more difficult to understand. We’ll sort of put it in the localized language and then we have it in the language of the locale where it is used. So, for example, we’ll have something that is a flow in Somali language, but it is set for users who are connecting to us from Sweden, for example. So then we’ll have terms translated. We’ll just go back and forth between the languages in certain terminology. This has to do with bureaucratic things like numbers and certain types of documents. So that’s one thing where we mix. Another example that we never actually did anything with, but in terms of research, it came back to us a few times when we were speaking to users about our use of German. So our user base that uses German in the app is mostly speakers of German who are of a Turkish migration background. So these are first and second-generation immigrants with some kind of migration background from Turkey. And very often we got the response that our German was actually too German, it was to correct, and it was not the way that people spoke. And this, of course, presented a bit of a dilemma for us because we have other people who read us in German who are not necessarily from a Turkish background.
Rosa: [00:43:15] But that I think was actually quite rich for us to realize like, oh, this, this sense that we have of like, oh, is it in perfect German? That’s maybe not the question. The question, and this goes back to the larger issue of content design, right? It’s not so much about wordsmithing and getting the precise, at least not for me, not getting the precise word down, but it’s actually, does this entire experience make sense? It can be the most beautiful sentence, but if the experience doesn’t make sense, if the component doesn’t necessarily need to be where it is, then maybe, maybe the actual sort of word choice is a little bit less important. And one of the things that I think about is… how can we be less precious with language? And if we are less precious with language, will that distance from language allow us to ask better questions like macro strategic questions about … is this actually serving a user need? Right. I think just to plug here, there was this recent content strategy insights interview that Larry Swanson did with Casey Garza. I think her name is? At Hotjar, and she basically talks about this. And it’s a really interesting interview, if anyone’s curious. Where she says, it’s really about the meaning, it’s not necessarily about the precise word. So I definitely fall on the side of breaking grammar rules where necessary.
Katie: [00:44:40] I’m looking that up right now as we speak. When I find that, I’ll drop that in the chat. I think that comes back to an interesting concept around language policing, grammar policing, and the elitism that might come from that, right? So being able to allow folks to communicate and express themselves and not feel like they’ll be criticized or critiqued or have to follow these specific rules. And so, yeah, I think what you said about not being so precious about language is is is on point.
Katie: [00:45:19] Okay, awesome. Let’s move on to the next question. How do you manage gender-inclusive language while also designing for different geographies? I know this is definitely a big question. I think we’ll start with Patricia here and we’d love to hear from you and maybe you can talk a little bit more about the Gender Inclusive Language Project that we also worked on.
Patricia: [00:45:46] Yeah, sure. This is an area where localization can play a really key role because they are the ones in actually providing guidelines on how to make language or messages or communication in other languages in a more gender-inclusive way. You mentioned the UX Content Collective recently launched a project about gender-inclusive language. Maybe we can add the link in the chat because we recorded videos for up to ten languages giving practical advice and resources and tips and tricks on how to write, being more inclusive, from a gender perspective for different languages. So it’s a really important resource so that you don’t have to start from scratch in your companies. You can use that information already available on the website. It was a really interesting project to work with different content designers from different countries, backgrounds, and languages. And also, in my case, I was working with a content designer from Chile. We focused on capturing Spanish from Spain and Chile because as you may know, Spanish is a super diverse language. So we made it specific to our markets. But we plan to add more countries and languages as well.
Katie: [00:47:19] Great. Gabriel, do you have any examples you want to share from your experience?
Gabriel: [00:47:24] For some of the Southeast Asian languages, I’ve actually checked some of this with the localization team at Grab. In Chinese, we have the pronoun which reads like “ta” in Chinese. They’re actually two forms of that in Chinese. One is the traditional, masculine form and then the other one is the feminine form. But the thing is that in Chinese, usually we default to the masculine version of the pronoun if we’re referring to either or both possibilities. So what we do at Grab would be to write. For example, if a sentence is like, “We are sending a gift to this person,” in Chinese, it will be something like Sung Li Ping guitar. So instead of using “ta,” we will actually just use the more gender-neutral option called tar but ta will still be in the masculine form. So it’s not ideal, but the problem is that the Chinese characters are not that easy to change certain endings, like we can do with Italian languages where we can invent a new suffix to support gender-neutral pronouns. In Chinese, this is more complicated. For other languages like Thai, in Thai it’s usually considered polite if you end the sentence with the word crab or car, but then the choice of word will actually depend on your gender. So we use crab if you’re a male speaker and car if you’re a female speaker. So at Grab, in order to be gender neutral in this, we have to avoid using these forms and then we have to find other ways to sound polite. This is in contrast to other companies who can solve this problem if they have a gendered persona for their brand, voice. So in that case, they can just choose like crab or car. And then for some of the other languages like Burmese or Chinese, the localization team actually tries to use different kinds of words or pronouns to solve this issue. So for example, instead of saying them or him or her, they will just say if we are talking about a context about getting rides with others, they will just say, “Are you trying to get a ride with your with your friends?” Or if the context is about ordering food, they will say, “Would you like to order food for others?” instead of saying, “Would you like to order food for him or her?”
Katie: [00:50:06] Great. Awesome. Any other thoughts on this question? We’ll keep moving along? And like Patricia said, I dropped the link to the Gender-Inclusive Language Project in the chat as well, so you can see how folks in other languages are addressing more inclusive language in their products. Great. So I think we’re getting close to our last questions here. So this is a big one. How do you close the gap and collaborate across localization and content design teams?
Patricia: [00:50:51] This is the million-dollar question. There’s not a single recipe that works for everyone because, some companies have a global content team set up. But some other companies, depending on the structure, they’re not able to bring these two teams together. However, collaboration is key and breaking down silos is also key. So, I normally encourage UX writers to provide as much context about their microcopy as possible, not only through screenshots but also explaining the intent of the message, explaining why, what is the intention and what is the flow about? What is it that we want users to do in a given feature? Also they can be a great influence in design and also development on how to create experiences that are more adapted to requirements from other markets. So we can play a key role in advocating for users in other markets beyond, English-speaking markets. And as Rosa was saying, decentering English, we can play a key role there. And also on the other side, localization experts can help content design by providing international input on what are the expectations from a given market or what are the requirements that a given language needs in terms of formatting the strings or formatting the information architecture in a given string. They can also provide content about how to write copy that can be localized more easily and also give input on how certain jokes or cultural references can be interpreted in other markets, so that there’s this conversation around how we’re going to deal with cultural references in different markets for our product and as well they can help with internationalization, advising on how we need to prepare the code before we even start thinking about translation. They can also help with culturalization, providing cultural input, for example, on how maybe a character in a video game can be perceived in different markets and cultures.
Katie: [00:53:26] Great. Rosa, I think you might have a story to share?
Rosa: [00:53:35] Not so sure if it’s the story, but I think just following on from what Patricia was saying. I mean, there’s a lot to say, but I think essentially it would be creating moments of shared work, creating moments of collaboration, whether that’s through a crit like a synchronous crit, whether that’s asynchronously through a shared Figma file, but actually discussing what’s going on in terms of the design and why the design decision was made in such a way, I think that’s extremely useful. I think the earlier one can get localization in the design process, that’s even more important because then you’re actually allowing translators to come in at the point right before design decisions are being made, right? So then you can actually take into account what people have to say and you can actually sort of avoid all kinds of problems. I think going back to something that we discussed earlier, I think visibility is going to be really key. One of the things that, especially UX content designers who, hopefully, are on a design team and hopefully are a little bit listened to by this point in many organizations, I think it’s really incumbent upon them and us to actually make localization more visible. And so that means talking about localization and demos or raising localization, when you talk about timelines, always add time for localization and mention it. And I think that’s one way that we can sort of create the space and the time for the collaboration because we’re all super overworked defending our jobs and other people’s jobs and just doing the actual craft of the job, right? So I think if we don’t show the work and if we don’t make it more visible, then I think it’s really hard to create these moments. So visibility is something that I find really key here.
Gabriel: [00:55:36] All about the visibility, but I feel that this can also be done in like two main ways. I mean, the first part would be knowledge sharing and sharing context. Letting content designers know about the localization process challenges. For example, if the content designers are working on an emoji guide, it would be good for the localization team to also be involved because they have a more contextual idea of what emojis are accepted or not. For example, in Indonesia, we cannot show the piggy bank or the beer emoji. Things like this, which are important for content designers to know as well. I mean, questions like how to format currencies. A lot of people might not understand that even though there are some universal ways to display currency, there are still some differences when it comes to certain languages. Like Indonesian, even if you’re using currency codes, right? In English, we write it as USD 5000. But for the Indonesian language, currency codes have to go behind the value, which is different from many other languages. Even when it comes to things like, if you want to show times of day, if you want to use the 12-hour system, is it really practical? Because in certain countries like Vietnam, they have four different words to refer to the times of day. And it cannot just be collapsed into two groups like AM and PM.
Gabriel: [00:56:49] So this adds new challenges and these things should also be flagged up with content designers as well. Now on the other part, I mean, it’s also about being involved in standards and processes. So for example, the localization team can actually play a really instrumental role in looking at the design system when it’s being created, not just content designers. So at one of my previous companies, there was this card component which has images on the right part of the component, which take up space that can be used for the text. And then this led to all the localized translations, especially in Thai and Vietnamese, to go to four and five lines. Things like this can be spotted by the localization team, so we can fix these things. And also when it comes to things like creating research processes, right? Localization should also be made aware of this so that they can step in to also include local participant pools in their own countries. This is also one of the things that happened at Grab in which we had participant pools in the main office in Singapore, but then we also had regional offices as well. And there were a lot of untapped local people we could actually ask for to do research which was underutilized. And so the localization team actually made that happen.
Katie: [00:58:15] Well. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow.
Katie: [00:58:18] I thought we would have time for more questions, but we are almost at time. I want to keep going. I think we might need to follow up because this is just too good. Unfortunately, folks, I’m so sorry. We really are at time. So we’ll definitely have to schedule some more time and get some other questions answered. I really just appreciate Gabriel, Rosa, and Patricia for sharing your perspective. It was really great to hear from you. And if you want to learn more from Patricia in her course, I have to plug that we’ll give you 15% off with code PLUX15 so you can keep the learning going. But obviously, the conversation doesn’t stop here. So we’d love to keep in touch with everyone and you can find myself and all of us on LinkedIn. I think this has been a great conversation to hear from everyone from different corners of the world. So thank you so much for joining, everyone. Really appreciate it. Thank you, Rosa. Thank you, Patricia and Gabriel. I want to keep talking. Thank you. Thank you. Okay. Super helpful. Thank you so much. Alright. Goodbye, everyone. We’ll have a follow-up soon. Goodbye.
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