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As we approach 2024, the landscape of localization is going through a fascinating transformation. The industry is buzzing with anticipation and a bit of uncertainty, as technological advancements promise to change everything we know about our work. Everyone, from seasoned professionals to newcomers, is trying to find their place. For UX localization, we believe this change brings exciting opportunities. Here are four predictions on the changes we’re looking at in the upcoming year.
1. Localization is going to move further in-house
In 2024, we're going to see a significant shift in how product companies approach localization. The trend is clear: more and more companies are bringing their localization efforts in-house. By hiring in-house localization managers, companies are taking the reins of their app and software localization workflows.
This approach allows for a seamless integration of localization into the product development cycle, so that users get a more cohesive and consistent experience. And when the content pile gets high enough, companies are also starting to recruit in-house translators. They’re building a dedicated team that deeply understands the company's voice and mission.
But why this sudden urge to keep everything under one roof? The answer is control and quality. Having an in-house team means companies can closely monitor and guide the localization process, ensuring that every piece of content aligns perfectly with their brand voice and values. This level of control extends to collaboration as well. In-house teams can work hand-in-hand with other departments – be it marketing, product development, or customer support – creating a synergy that's hard to achieve with external partners. This collaboration isn't just about meetings and emails; it's about creating a shared vision and understanding that impacts every aspect of the product.
Going in-house does take its toll on the company, as people do need to work harder and more to facilitate that collaboration. But thankfully, technology is continuously evolving as well (more on that in a bit). Companies will leverage those localization tools to ramp up productivity: Translation management systems, automated workflow management, AI-driven quality assurance, and platforms for remote collaboration. These tools are essential in compensating for the time and resources invested in building an in-house team.
2. Machine translation will finally reach UX
Machine translation is already deeply embedded in localization workflows – there’s nothing new here. But up until now, MT wasn’t considered good enough for UX content. The technology wasn’t designed for short-form content, the outputs weren’t good enough, and the risk was simply too high. The accuracy of content in an experience is critical, since there’s limited additional context readers can use to find their way in case of errors or mistakes.
In the upcoming year, companies will gradually give MT a chance, even in UX localization. They may need to experiment with different forms of AI-based translation, from neural machine translation (NMT) to large language models (LLMs), to some hybrid solutions. New models released in 2024 will offer improved output, better prompting capabilities and enhanced tuning features that’ll make AI-based UX localization a real possibility.
What’s going to be a real game-changer, however, is the evolving capability of these models to incorporate visual context into their prompts. LLMs that can consider screenshots, layouts, and design elements of a user interface will provide more accurate outputs in AI-based workflows. This advancement is crucial in UX localization, where the placement of text, the flow of a user journey, and the overall layout can significantly impact the content. It's a leap from seeing translation as a purely linguistic task to understanding it as an integral part of design and user engagement.
But don’t worry: this shift towards MT doesn't mean the end for human translators.
3. Humans will be in the loop, but their role will change
Incorporating AI into UX localization workflows will mean companies can leverage the strengths of both humans and machines. The traditional model, where human translators are manually moving content from one language to another, is going to evolve into one that’s more efficient. More importantly than that, it’ll also help companies deliver better international experiences.
In the upcoming year we’ll see machine translation being used for the initial, manual translation step, and human experts step in later, particularly during the linguistic quality assurance (LQA) stage. This shift is more than just a change in sequence; it's a strategic realignment of resources. By allowing MT to handle the initial translation, companies can process large volumes of content rapidly, meeting the demands of today's fast-paced digital world. However, this won’t diminish the role of human translators. They will become quality guardians and cultural consultants, adding value through their nuanced understanding of language and culture. The shift will focus their skills and expertise where they are most needed – in ensuring relevance and enhancing the experience for their target audience.
The emphasis on in-context LQA is a game-changer in this new workflow. Traditionally, translators and reviewers worked with text in isolation, often detached from the actual user interface or product experience. But as we move into 2024, seeing the translated content in its intended context will slowly become the norm. This approach allows translators to understand how the text interacts with design elements, how it fits within the overall user experience, and how cultural nuances play out in the actual product environment.
This in-context review is not just about catching errors; it's about fine-tuning the language to resonate with users, ensuring that every button, menu, and state feels natural and intuitive. Human translators, focusing on the LQA stage, can work more effectively, as they are dealing with content that has already been processed and structured by MT. This synergy between machine efficiency and human insight leads to a more streamlined, agile localization process.
4. Translation and design teams will have better relationships
The final pivotal shift we foresee is in the dynamics between translators, localization facilitators, and design teams — moving towards a much tighter, more integrated collaboration. Gradually, teams will establish deep, ongoing communication channels that allow for better flow of ideas and feedback. Product teams are beginning to recognize the immense value that localizers bring to the table, not just as language experts but as key contributors to the overall user experience. This enhanced collaboration means localizers are allowed in earlier in the development process, offering insights that can shape the product from a localization perspective.
With translators having a clearer understanding of the product's objectives, audience, and context, their translations can go beyond mere linguistic accuracy. They are able to create helpful, valuable content that resonate with users in different markets. This level of detail and customization can only be achieved through a robust exchange of information and a deep understanding of the product and its users. Companies are investing more in this area, recognizing that effective communication between translators and product teams is not an overhead but a critical investment. The focus shifts from merely translating content to creating an immersive and relatable user experience for each market.
This evolving relationship signifies a new era of respect and recognition for the role linguists have in the product development lifecycle. On the linguist side, this requires a commitment to continuous learning and adaptation. Translators will be expected to stay up-to-date of industry trends, technological advancements, and evolving user preferences. In turn, product teams will also be expected to provide translators with the resources and insights needed to understand the product comprehensively. This mutual respect and investment in knowledge-sharing lead to a more informed, nuanced, and effective localization process.
Heading into the new year
Even with the tech powering forward and industry evolving at breakneck speed, there's still plenty of space for localizers. The key? Stay curious, keep evolving, and keep bringing value to the table. This will be the best way to secure your spot in localization in the upcoming year.
Four UX localization predictions for 2024
For UX localization, we believe this change brings exciting opportunities. Here are four predictions on the changes we’re looking at.
Michal Kessel Shitrit