An overview of Udacity’s Localization Essentials course

I completed Udacity’s Localization Essentials free course a few weeks ago. Here’s their pitch on YouTube:

The course is brief and can be comfortably finished in half a day. It offers a broad if not very deep overview of software localization. In particular, translation memories and glossaries are discussed only briefly and the concept of tagged file formats isn’t discussed at all.

As with other Udacity offerings, this course was developed in partnership with a company, namely Google. The most interesting part of the course were the interviews with localization leads and language managers in charge of localizing Google products. They presented a bird’s eye view of the overall workflow for the localization of Google products, including both apps and cloud-based products.

I suspect they watered down the tech content because the relevant web-development material is readily available elsewhere—both on Udacity itself and on the wider web—and to make the course more accessible to people with a less technical background. Indeed the responses in the forums suggest that most students are linguists, translators, translation students, and translator wannabes than techies. That said, I think a brief overview of the tagged file formats most commonly used in localization or even just a few pointers to the technology on which the products are built and localized would have been helpful to students without a tech background.

Another interesting omission is crowdsourced translation. I wonder whether this is because they don’t put much faith in this approach—and indeed it produces inconsistent or downright awful results—or because they don’t want to tell newbies that at least some companies in their supply chain expect people to work for a pittance of even for free—as The Economist bluntly put it, work as “the coffee-bean pickers of the future.” Silicon Valley has its ugly side too.

In summary this course provides an overall idea of what localization is about and can help you decide whether you want to plunge in. Notwithstanding the ugliness, there is a job to be (well) done and maybe even an industry to be disrupted.

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