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The GILT Industry and the Cultural Gap

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Minako O’Hagan 
LISA Asia-Pacific Editor The theme for this Asia-Pacific edition of the Globalization Insider is cultural gaps — not only between countries, but also within the GILT industry itself. At a recent international screen translation conference I attended, DVD subtitling was a hot topic, and it became quite clear to me that the emergence of global DVD markets will necessitate the convergence of screen translation (subtitling and dubbing) and localization if multilingual digital content is to be delivered efficiently. Yet this connection was never made explicit during the conference. I think we face a kind of cultural gap within the GILT (globalization, internationalization, localization and translation) industry: there is not enough discussion between players involved in each of the G, I, L and T silos. As digital technology continues to produce new content, the GILT industry has to ensure that its accumulated collective knowledge is usefully applied. Without this step, GILT will suffer further fragmentation and lack of standardization.

Speaking of screen translation, this year’s Best Picture award in the Oscar went to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the first fantasy feature ever to win the honor. Consumers obviously love fantasies, including the make-believe worlds of computer games: Sony alone sold 153,000,000 PlayStation and PlayStation2 consoles as of August 2003 (Console Manufacturers, Games Investor Consulting Ltd.). Our first article Bringing Fantasy to Reality: Localizing Final Fantasy (premium content) is by Carmen Mangiron, who is involved in making Sony’s Final Fantasy games friendly for Spanish-language markets. While the subject matter may seem somewhat flippant in the wake of the appalling incident in Spain, video games may help the international consumer escape the troubles of a harsh reality. According to Mangiron, video game localization is an emerging and under-explored domain that demands closer attention in order to cater to its unique requirements, including fine appreciation of cultural issues as well as technical dimensions. The article highlights the need for further research in this domain and the training of game localizers to ensure the high quality and standards of the end products. Given the size of the game market, this may be the next big thing for the localization sector.

The training issue comes up again in our second contribution A Passage to Localization Down Under, from a translator based in New Zealand. While most readers of Globalization Insider are from the localization sector, a large part of the translation industry consists of translation companies that are not yet involved in localization proper. This means that they are unlikely to be versed in, for example, the specific engineering process involved in localization. This difference is apparent with regards to Translation Memory (TM), which is an integral part of the localization operation. However, there are translation companies that have never used it or which are at an early stage in adopting the technology. Judging from a number of recent translation conferences, for example, I am under the impression that TM penetration is still relatively low among Japanese translation companies.

Evelyn Olsen’s article describes the joy of discovering TM but addresses the question of how a translation firm can transform itself into a comprehensive localization service provider in a country where there is no existing localization industry. As implied by Olsen, TM alone, of course, does not fill in the gap between conventional translation and localization. She also points to the cultural gap between translators and the techies in the software industry – an experience that many of our readers may be familiar with. A 2003 article by John Hogan, an Australian LEIT (LISA Education Initiative Taskforce) member indicates that localization is gathering momentum in Australia, with new courses being offered, but is still at a nascent stage. These two reports from Australia and New Zealand suggest a niche opportunity emerging for localization training providers, as well as for well-established localization firms looking “down under” for a partnership.

Our third article looks into yet another kind of cultural difference seen in the way technology is used. Setting the standard with DoCoMo’s i-mode, the Japanese can be considered to be the world’s first mass consumers who had a taste of (and for!) multifunctional mobile phones. Given the complexity of Asian writing systems with large numbers of characters, the huge popularity of text messaging in Asia may seem particularly puzzling to the Western population. Carl Kay, well-known in the Japan-related consultancy circle, provides an in-depth examination of Japanese language input methods for cell phones in One Finger, Ten Keys and 6,000 Characters (premium content). He demystifies the mechanism by which thousands of characters can be typed via tiny cell phone keypads. Kay’s article provides insight into the main players in this area and touches on the cultural dimension associated with the use of mobiles. Indeed, the picture of contemporary Japanese society is incomplete without mentioning ‘keitai’ (literally ‘portable’ but used to mean ‘mobile phone’ in Japanese).

Thinking about oyayubi (“thumb”) culture in Japan as discussed in Kay’s article reminded me of a recent film set in Tokyo. Lost in Translation became a box office hit and has some relevance to our business. The film has not entirely escaped criticism but manages to convey how lost one can get in a culture where not just language but all customs appear so alien. In this regard, the film could just as easily have been set somewhere else like China. Despite the existing foreign investments and interests, new entrants and potential investors into the Chinese market are often as clueless as the film’s Bob and Charlotte were in Japan. In China: To Build or To Buy (premium content), Terry Shidner and Gráinne Maycock present a case study of how their company successfully set up a software testing operation in Nanjing in China and offer a line of thinking and specific steps which will help you avoid pitfalls if you are thinking of entering the Chinese market.

The LISA editorial team endeavors to address the diverse interests of its increasing range of readers and accordingly we would welcome your feedback to the editor. Drop us a line on this issue or to suggest topics for future Asia-Pacific editions!


Minako O’Hagan
School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies,
Dublin City University, Ireland.


Reprinted by permission from the Globalization Insider,
19 March 2004, Volume XIII, Issue 1.3.

Copyright the Localization Industry Standards Association
(Globalization Insider:, LISA:
and S.M.P. Marketing Sarl (SMP) 2004

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