How to Build an Effective Localization Team

Chidinma Egwuogu
21 Sep 2023

14 min. read


Building a localization team is like forming your own Avengers.

You need to hire a diverse ensemble of talents who can work together to tackle the most formidable challenges.

Not unlike the Avengers, your localization team needs a strong leader, clearly defined roles, effective communication channels, and sartorially exquisite costumes to emerge victorious from their battles.

Well, maybe not that last thing. But you get the gist.

Now, let’s take a closer look at what makes a great localization team and how to build it.

Pro tip: A professional localization management platform Centus can centralize and streamline your team’s work to save money, cut turnarounds, and bring better translations. Check it out here.

Why do you need a localization team?

You may wonder why you need a localization team in the first place. After all, isn’t translation enough to reach your global customers? The answer is No.

Translation is only one part of localization. The other part is adapting your product to the specific needs and preferences of the target market.

Localization requires extensive planning, coordination, expertise, and resources. A project of that scope can be handled only by a team of professionals — a localization team.

Let’s look at the responsibilities of a good localization team in detail How to build a localization team Localization teams can help you with many aspects of localization, such as:

  • Analyzing your products, services, and content to determine the scope, budget, timeline, and quality requirements of your localization projects.
  • Choosing the best tools, methods, and standards for your localization projects.
  • Translating and adapting your products, services, and content from the source language to the target language, ensuring accuracy, fluency, cultural appropriateness, and style.
  • Verifying the functionality, usability, and appearance of your localized products, services, and content, checking for any errors, bugs, or glitches.
  • Providing guidance, advice, or consultation on the best practices, standards, or terminology for your specific domain or industry.

Localization team benefits

A localization team can also bring you many benefits for your business success in the global market. They can help you with:

  1. Effective communication: Let's face it, nobody likes reading a manual or advertisement and feeling like it wasn't written for them. When you have a skilled localization team, you make sure every piece of content, whether it's a manual, ad, or blog post, is clear and understandable for your audience. Your team also ensures that the essence and intent of your message remain intact, regardless of where your audience is.
  2. Building trust and loyalty: It's a simple gesture, but adapting to a specific culture indicates how much you care about your customer’s unique background, traditions, and values. And when customers feel you're addressing them personally, they're more inclined to trust your brand.
  3. A competitive edge: Your competitors will always want a piece of your market share, wherever you are. However, having localized content gives you the home-field advantage.
  4. Boosting revenue and profitability: Localization is an investment with high returns. While it might seem like a substantial initial cost, the potential returns are significant. This isn't just about driving immediate sales. It's about ensuring sustained growth in the long run.
  5. Minimizing costs and risks: Mistakes in translation or cultural understanding can be costly. An incorrect translation can lead to misinterpretation, which can result in customer complaints, returns, or even legal issues.

A dedicated localization team ensures that your content is culturally and linguistically accurate, reducing potential pitfalls and protecting your brand's reputation.

As you can see, a robust localization team isn't just an optional part of a global expansion — it's the heart of it. If you want to reach your global customers effectively and efficiently, you need to build a kickass localization team.

Who should be on your localization team?

memebers of a localization team A localization team requires different roles and skill sets depending on your project and goals. Here are the basic roles and skills you might need in your localization team:

1. Localization project manager

Role: The backbone of the team. The localization manager oversees the entire localization project from start to finish. They're responsible for planning, coordinating, and overseeing the localization process. This involves setting the budget, defining the timeline, assigning tasks to localization team members, ensuring quality, and solving problems that might arise.

Skills needed: Strong organizational, communication, and leadership skills. A deep understanding of localization tools and processes is also a must.

Certifications: Many opt for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, but specifically for localization, the Localization Institute offers a certification course.

2. Localization engineer

Role: They're the tech whizzes. These engineers prepare files and resources for the localization process, such as extracting text, converting formats, and creating glossaries. When technical issues pop up, like bugs or compatibility problems, it's their job to squash them. Some also combine this with the software developer role.

Skills needed: Proficient technical skills, including programming, scripting, debugging, and testing, accompanied by a solid grasp of localization standards and formats.

Certifications: No standard certification is needed, but taking courses from institutions like GALA can provide an edge.

3. Translator

Role: The heart of localization. Translators take content from the source language and adapt it to the target language. Their goal is not direct translation but rather capturing the content essence and ensuring it's culturally relevant.

Skills needed: Native or near-native proficiency in both the source and target languages, cultural awareness, and subject matter expertise. Experience with translation software is a plus too.

Certifications: American Translators Association (ATA) offers certification in multiple language pairs, and there are other regional associations worldwide that provide certifications.

4. Editor

Role: They're the safety nets, catching any translation slips. After translation, editors review the content for clarity, accuracy, and consistency.

Skills needed: Native or near-native proficiency in the target language, a keen eye for detail, and cultural and subject matter expertise.

Certifications: Since editors are specific to the languages you’re localizing for, there is no standard certification. However, they can pursue any local certifications or proficiencies.

5. Proofreader

Role: The final line of defense. Before anything goes live or reaches the client, proofreaders check for spelling, grammar, punctuation, formatting, and layout errors.

Skills needed: An impeccable grasp of the target language and a keen eye for even the smallest of errors.

Certifications: Same as editors.

6. Linguistic tester

Role: After all the translating and proofreading, these testers ensure that the localized product works flawlessly in the target language and environment. They look for issues like truncation, text misalignment, or incorrect display of graphics.

Skills needed: Meticulous attention to detail and a knack for spotting functional or localization issues.

Certifications: There isn't a specific certification for linguistic testers. However, proficiency in their target languages and software testing courses, like those from the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB), can be useful.

7. Cultural consultant

Role: The soul of the team. While linguists focus on language, cultural consultants ensure the content vibes with the local culture and market. They provide insights into the customs, preferences, values, norms, and laws of the target audience.

Skills needed: In-depth knowledge of the target culture and market, along with the ability to provide constructive feedback on content and design adaptability.

Certifications: There isn't a standard certification. However, a background in anthropology, sociology, or regional studies can be an asset. Cultural competency workshops or courses also help.

8. Marketing team

Role: The promoters of the localized product. They strategize and implement marketing campaigns tailored to the target market. Their job is to ensure the content doesn't just translate but also sells in the local market.

Skills needed: A knack for understanding consumer behavior in the target culture, adeptness in localized marketing strategies, and the ability to adapt global campaigns to a local context.

Certifications: While not mandatory, a background in international marketing or a certification from national institutions can be advantageous. On-the-ground experience in the target market is a major plus.

These are some of the main roles and skills you might need in your localization team. Of course, depending on your project size and complexity, you might need more or fewer roles or people. You might also outsource some of these roles to external vendors or freelancers if you don't have enough resources or expertise in-house.

Whether you're assembling a team in-house or outsourcing some tasks, understanding these roles ensures you're set to nail localization.

How to build a localization team

Forming a dream localization team is similar to gathering the Avengers. Both require a wide mix of talents, common objective, and strong cooperation to achieve it. Here's a guide to assembling your dream localization team:

1. Assess your needs

Just as the Avengers need to understand the looming threat, first outline what localization challenges you're up against and what/who you need to surmount them. This means identifying specific languages, content types, and unique regional nuances.

If you want to penetrate the German market, for instance, consider the German dialects, the content type (technical, marketing), and any niche industry specifics.

Think of this as your S.H.I.E.L.D report - a comprehensive overview of what you're tackling.

2. Define your objectives

Lay out the mission. What's your end goal with localization? Do you have a localization strategy? Maybe it's to boost sales in a region, or perhaps to offer seamless support in multiple languages. Knowing your mission helps streamline the hiring and training processes.

3. Core heroes first

Localization project manager: Acting as your Nick Fury, they organize, strategize, and lead. In plain terms, they'll coordinate tasks, set deadlines, and manage resources. You're looking for someone who's a great communicator and organizer.

Translator(s): Translators job it to turn your content into something that feels local. They need to be proficient in the target language and understand the culture behind the words.

Localization engineers: Your tech geniuses, similar to Iron Man. They'll handle technical bits and prepare content for seamless localization.

4. Specialist recruits

Sometimes, generic won't do. Just like you need a Doctor Strange for the mystic arts, specialist roles cater to niche content areas, like law, medicine, finance, or other technical sectors.

5. The interview process

Look beyond the CV during selection. And once you have potential candidates, draft an interview process that evaluates both their technical skills and their team spirit. Apart from translation tasks or technical assessments, look for soft skills like adaptability and effective communication.

6. Training and development

Once recruited, initiate them into your organization's objectives and tools. But onboarding is just the start. Regular training ensures everyone's familiar with your tools and aligns with your brand voice.

7. Use top-notch tools

Tools matter. Whether it's Hawkeye's arrows or a robust localization platform, ensure your team has what they need. Familiarize them with platforms that help them streamline localization workflows, like Centus.

8. Feedback and reviews

Collect and provide feedback to your team members on their performance and quality of work. Establish a feedback system that allows you to monitor, measure, and evaluate the results of localization. Communicate the feedback in a constructive and respectful way. Encourage feedback from your team members as well.

9. Stay updated

Keep your team updated with the latest in localization tech, trends, and best practices. Encourage participation in relevant courses or webinars too.

10. Recognize and reward

Give credit where it's due. Celebrating successes, big or small, can boost morale. It could be as simple as a shoutout in a team meeting or a performance bonus.

11. Keep communication two-way

The best teams communicate openly, both about work and casually. Encourage open channels of communication to share feedback, ideas, or even weekend plans.

Remember, building a dream team isn't an overnight job. It takes time, patience, and continuous effort. Also, as you work on building your team, you might face some bumps along the way. Let's discuss some challenges you might face and how to overcome them.

Challenges of building a localization team (+ solutions)

When assembling a localization team, several challenges might arise. However, knowing what to expect can help you find your way out.

Here are some common challenges and practical solutions to solve them:

1. Finding qualified talent

  • Challenge: Getting the right talent with the necessary skills, cultural understanding, and expertise in localization can be difficult, especially for less common languages.
  • Solution: Use specialized recruitment platforms, attend language and localization conferences, or partner with universities that offer language and translation courses. Additionally, consider offering internships to students to build a pipeline of potential hires.

2. Coordinating remote teams

  • Challenge: With team members possibly spread across different time zones, ensuring synchronized work might be difficult.
  • Solution: Use translation management tools like Centus, or team management tools like Trello and Asana. Schedule regular video check-ins, rotate meeting times to accommodate all team members, and establish clear expectations on response times.

3. Maintaining consistent quality

  • Challenge: Ensuring all team members produce consistent, high-quality work can be challenging, especially when working with multiple languages and cultures.
  • Solution: Provide regular training sessions and clear guidelines. Use Centus’ quality assurance tools to spot errors on time and maintain consistency.

4. Overcoming cultural barriers

  • Challenge: Misunderstandings may arise from cultural differences, leading to potential miscommunication.
  • Solution: Hold regular cultural awareness workshops, encourage team members to share about their cultures, and promote open dialogue.

5. Budget constraints

  • Challenge: Building a top-notch team can be expensive, especially when you're aiming for the best in the business.
  • Solution: Prioritize roles based on immediate needs. Consider hiring freelancers for short-term projects, and invest in training to upskill current team members.

6. Keeping up with technology

  • Challenge: The localization industry is always evolving with new tools and technologies that have varying learning curves.
  • Solution: Dedicate resources to continuous learning. Attend industry webinars and workshops. Also, encourage team members to explore new tools and share their findings.

7. Speed constraints

  • Challenge: You need to deliver your localized product or service to the market as quickly as possible, without compromising quality or accuracy. You also need to keep up with the changes and updates in your source content and optimize your localization workflow and resources.
  • Solution: Use agile localization methods that allow you to localize in parallel with development. Use automation tools that speed up your localization program, such as machine translation. Opt for cloud-based solutions that enable you to access and update your content anytime and anywhere.

Top tools for your localization team

Centus dashboard If you are building a localization team, you will need professional tools to help you run your projects effectively and efficiently. Here are some of the top tools that you can use for your localization team:

  1. Machine translation: Machine translation tools provide a quick way to convert text from one language to another. While not perfect, they're great for getting the gist of a foreign text or generating a first draft to be polished by human translators. Some examples like Google Translate, DeepL, and Microsoft Translator are accessible to everyone, though they may lack the precision needed for professional purposes.

  2. Translation management system (TMS): This platform acts as the control center for translation projects. It allows you to oversee everything from assigning roles to translators and managing your translation memory, to tracking project progress and keeping all files in one place. TMS tools like Centus are vital for keeping everyone on the same page, especially in larger projects.

  3. Computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools: CAT tools help translators by providing databases of previously translated phrases and specialized terminology. They can speed up the translation process and ensure that terms are used consistently across different projects.

  4. Localization automation platforms: This category includes platforms that automate many of the tedious tasks in localization. With these tools, content can be extracted from its original format, translated, and then reinserted without manual copy-pasting. They take over the general drudgery of the process, freeing translators to focus on language quality.

  5. Quality assurance (QA) tools: QA tools are vital for checking the accuracy, consistency, and fluency of translations. Tools like Xbench, Centus, Checkmate, and ErrorSpy provide automated checks for common mistakes like typos, missed translations, or inconsistencies, which makes the final review stage much more efficient.

  6. Bug tracking platform: A bug tracking platform helps you identify and resolve issues or defects in your localized product or service. A bug tracking platform allows you to report, track, prioritize, assign, and fix bugs in an organized and efficient way. You can also use a bug tracking platform to communicate with your team members and stakeholders about the status and resolution of bugs. Some examples of bug tracking platforms are Jira, Bugzilla, and MantisBT.

  7. Cultural consultation platforms: These platforms offer insights into the cultural norms, values, and expectations of target markets. They help you research what kind of content connects with the audience. Cultural Atlas and Hofstede Insights are rich resources for understanding what might be acceptable, appreciated, or taboo in different cultures.

  8. Project management tools: Managing a team, especially if working remotely, requires clear communication and task tracking. Tools like Jira, Trello, and Asana are used to set tasks and encourage team collaboration.

Pro tip: Don’t tire out your team with a multitude of tools. Instead, use a localization management suite Centus that combines all the aforementioned tools in one handy and highly interoperable platform. Learn more.

Get the week's best content!

By subscribing, you are agreeing to have your personal information managed in accordance with the terms of Centus’s Privacy Policy ->