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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What is the “right” term?

In Southeast Asian languages, you can get a generalized idea of what is the standard or what is “right,” but this is from the middle- to upper-class trained linguists that would tend to make a living as translators. This is usually based on the “official” usage.

However, this “right” term might not be commonly used, commonly understood, or colloquially acceptable depending on the client. This is because the official terms in many Southeast Asian languages are set by bureaucrats and these terms have no relation to how the language is actually used.

So clients who insist on official terms often face howls of protest when they find their customers or workers are unable to understand the translated material.

For this sort of issue we find that the best resource is often the client salesperson. This is the person who interfaces with the buyer of the product being localized. The salesperson is the person who gives the sales presentations and thus has to understand the expectations of the industry. That means the input he can bring to an issue like this is often far superior to anything a linguists can—even though the linguist is an expert and doing things in the “correct” and “proper” way.

It may be that the expected correct terms in a certain business segment is far different that the generally accepted standard or the “proper” standards being promoted by a government organization.

It is not uncommon that when a linguist employs “standard” or “accepted” terminology or other standards in a work these can be totally rejected by the client as these might not be the commonly understood terminology of their very narrow industry.

Getting this input from sales is an excellent feedback loop to create as the ultimate intent of all localization is to enable a client to sell. Bringing this issue to the client is also a good way of demonstrating consultative knowledge and expertise that the client should recognize as a way to produce a better outcome for their project.