Tenth CTS Professionalisation Talk 2017-18

On 05 December, Google’s Corinne Chen and Meredith Clark gave the CTS students an insight into how languages are a key part of Google’s success.

Doing something well on a small scale is easy; wowing the whole world, however, is not. Especially when you have over 100 products to deal with. This is where localization comes in. With a little cultural awareness and sensitivity, Google’s localization team can ensure its platforms cater to everyone's needs by speaking to them in their language and, more importantly, with the right tone of voice.

Corinne and Meredith told CTS what life was like behind some quite complicated scenes. Google employs translators and reviewers across the world who work with 4,800 language pairs, and translate hundreds of millions of words each year. That amounts to translating the entire Harry Potter series hundreds of times over on an annual basis! But localization is not only about languages. The localization team also covers a range of other services to ensure a tip-top end product. Thanks to the company’s slick processes, projects run smoothly and customers consistently come into contact with the Google they know so well. 

For a multinational technology company like Google, localization is vital and involves a lot of complex jobs. 

Google aims to share its magic with the world by making its products speak to people whoever they are, wherever they live. Their localization department supports the company’s growth by offering language services and acting as a trusted language advisor on all content. The company now has over 100 products, many of which exist in 90 languages. However, dealing with projects on such a large scale is no mean feat. The company must consider the number of employees, and ensure their products are good quality and consistent.

So with so many balls in the air, how does Google run its translation services? They focus on three targets: speed, quality, and low cost. In order to keep up with the times, Google needs to translate words effectively and efficiently. To achieve this, they use “translation memory”; this acts as a shortcut, giving translators the words they have already translated, so all they have to do is tweak them and fill in the remaining gaps. Whatever the product or language, it should always look and sound “Google”. 

The huge breadth of localization, from interfaces to legal content to help centres, means Google needs a variety of professional translators. Different content types have different potential markets, so having cultural awareness is crucial to success. Through localization, the company can make sure that each product speaks to the target audience. For example, Google successfully adapted itself to the Canadian market by using French-Canadian idioms. 

But localization is actually not all about translation. The global team offers not only language services, but also global launch planning, quality assurance, and technical support. So don’t worry if you don’t speak ten languages! You just need to be able to adapt ideas to different markets.

Localization involves various roles and responsibilities. Language managers oversee the quality of the target language, checking it has Google’s voice, tone and terminology. Localization program managers determine budgets and funding, supervise projects from start to finish, and act as the main point of contact for teams and vendor PMs.

As Google is constantly changing, the operations teams are also essential. The project leader communicates what the client wants to programmers, who then get down to designing. Working closely with business analysts, the team can come up with a product that lives up to the customer’s expectations. But the process also requires assistance from financial analysts, the supply team, testing and insights experts, and others.

With such a vast pool of employees, you might be thinking that communication is tricky. However, the teams ensure they are on the same page by holding regular meetings online or in person. 

To round off an inspiring talk, Corinne and Meredith offered the students their thoughts on what makes a successful employee: if they have examples of key skills such as communication, time management, and analysis up their sleeves, it wouldn’t be a bad thing. 


Reporters: Sophie Roche and Tianyu Zhang