Forging a Relationship with Developers
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Forging a Relationship with Developers

Forging a Relationship with Developers


We’re all doing our jobs with passion. But it’s that passion that can lead to clashes between the development and localization teams. When that happens, both sides need to step back and think about what’s really important.

Don’t mess with my baby

Let’s say there’s an app developer. Day after day, he does his thing, enduring months of overtime and sleep deprivation, and now his work is taking shape. He gives it a name; a shorthand way of referring to the project. In his mind, the name’s really catchy, and it starts to grow on him. His fellow developers like it too. Since they all like it, everybody must like it. Soon it becomes the unofficially official name.

Then come these localization types, dissing his work. They say change the name because it doesn’t make sense, or it has a negative meaning in the target market, or whatever. How dare they come in at the last minute and mess with “my baby!” Those translators need to just shut up and translate.

Well, if you’re on the localization end of this story, you will feel like the developer is starting to ignore you, or telling you not to worry because he did “market research” (those development colleagues), or maybe even asking you for alternative suggestions (that he will reject because it’s too late to change anything anyway). At this time, as a linguist and representative of your language, you might be tempted to give him a few choice words from your own extensive vocabulary.

Disastrous disconnect

This is a worst-case scenario, of course. But all too often such scenarios play out in real life because localization gets involved way too late in the project’s development cycle, and because the more specialized and compartmentalized people’s jobs get, the more difficult it becomes to maintain a healthy stream of communication.

As a localization team member, you may be put in situations where you need to defend your language against some serious abuse. As a linguist, that would be your duty. The trick (and challenge) is being diplomatic about it. They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but in this case, damage control is a task best applied with a cool head. So cut the guy some slack; see where he’s coming from.

Empathy, not entitlement

Be firm where you have to be, but empathize. Don’t speak from a position of authority because, although you may be the onsite expert for a certain language, that’s not entitlement. Stress that you have the best interests of the app (or product) in mind; that you want it to be a market success and another name will improve its chances. Don’t merely provide negative feedback; show how the name can be improved.

Have references at the ready to support your theories so that the conversation doesn’t degrade into an exchange of personal likes and dislikes. And regardless of the outcome of that particular project, extend your hand in good faith and ask to be put in the loop earlier on the next one (there always will be a next one).

All in it together

Once you become more than just a name on an email header or a chat handle, you can really begin to communicate and forge a relationship based on trust. Of course, cultivating this “same side” mindset might take some effort, but in the long run you’ll be saving time and frustration, especially if you’re in an agile development environment. After all, how good is your agile localization if you can’t address issues in an agile manner as well?

And a final word of advice: Keep it for the record. Face-to-face communication is great, but also be sure to have your suggestions, comments, and concerns well documented through emails and such. That way, especially in those cases where you acquiesce, you will be covered from the blowback if/when the stuff hits the fan.

Ideally the localization and development teams will hold joint regular meetings to keep everybody up to speed and on the same page. If this can be done, the likelihood of success increases. Developers bring the project to life, and localizers make it walk and talk all over the globe. Without close cooperation, that “baby” you’re fighting over doesn’t have a chance in this cruel world.