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Localisation: A no-brainer for enhancing tenant experience
We speak with Nadja Ruhl, Localisation Manager at Chainels, about what's motivates her, why localisation is no brainer and what's in store for its future.
Nadja Ruhl joined Chainels in March 2022. As localisation manager, she’s in charge of ensuring that the Chainels platform is available to all our users in ten languages: English, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, French, German, Polish, Swedish, Turkish and Czech (and seven more to be added in 2024!)
Without her, Chainels wouldn’t be the multilingual platform it is today. Moreover, we wouldn’t be able to provide high quality, linguistically rich and culturally diverse services to our users. One shining example of this is our recent project to transform all our German language content to reflect more inclusive language.
We sat down with Nadja to take a look behind the curtain: her story, what motivates her, the trials and tribulations of her day-to-day tasks, the importance of localisation in an international company like Chainels and where she sees her role transforming in the coming years.
Let’s dive in.
How did you end up in the field of language and localisation?
I've dedicated a significant portion of my career to language-related pursuits: first studying, then teaching, as well as translation and copywriting. I’ve also pursued a Ph.D. in language studies.
My research project centred on evaluating language acquisition in bilingual children. I helped develop a tool capable of evaluating proficiency in multiple languages. This marked the initiation of my journey into localisation.
After earning my degree and spending a few more years as a postdoc, I moved from Italy to Poland. There I entered my first tech role expanding Google’s shopping services across the European markets.
Afterward, I transitioned to the world’s largest Language Service Provider, Lionbridge. As a senior project manager, I had a brief but intense period where my portfolio went from one client to 40 clients within a month. Juggling so many clients simultaneously was challenging, but it provided valuable experience.
Eventually, due to personal reasons, we relocated to the Netherlands, leading me to my current position at Chainels.
Why does localisation matter? What’s the benefit to a platform like Chainels and the people who use it?
Localization doesn't only benefit the company by enabling entry into new markets; it has a significant impact on end users.
According to research, more than 80% of people prefer purchasing and engaging in their native language. If a product is not localised and doesn't feel familiar to their local context, they are unlikely to engage with it.
There's a clear distinction in our brains between what feels familiar and what is foreign. People are more inclined to use and engage with something that feels like it belongs to them. Even if a foreign product is excellent, if it's not in their native language, people might hesitate to interact with it.
Everyone benefits when products are available in local languages.
On a personal level, why is localization important to you?
Well, I am a localised product, in a way.
I do not identify with just one nationality, language or culture. Growing up in a bilingual family where both Ukrainian and Russian were spoken, and with my dual German-Ukrainian heritage, I’ve always lived in a bilingual world.
My university studies further added to this mix, with French, English, Polish, Italian, Latin, and old Slavic becoming part of my linguistic repertoire.
My journey extended beyond academics through trips and internships in Mexico, Finland, Ukraine, and Poland. These encounters exposed me to diverse cultures and religions, shaping me into a blend of different influences.
This makes localization significant to me. I understand firsthand how vast and varied the world is, and I believe in making good products accessible in different regions, allowing people to feel a sense of local connection.
This belief is rooted in my own desire to feel like a local when I visit new places. Experiencing a location the way locals do adds richness to the journey, and I want others around the world to have that same opportunity through well-localised products.
How do you add a new language to the platform? Where do you begin, and how do you know when it's ready?
It starts when we acquire a new client in a region in which we haven’t previously had a presence. That’s kind of a no-brainer: it doesn't make sense to invest resources in a language that our users aren’t currently speaking.
From there, the preparation phase kicks in. We get the platform ready and start by hiring freelancers and linguists for cooperation. Project management is the key here, breaking down the entire process into manageable steps to maintain control at every stage.
As for determining when it's ready, perfection has no limits, but practicality is crucial. The minimum viable product (MVP) in the local language undergoes reviews, quality assurance, and then is introduced to the new market.
We consider the MVP ready when it's well-received by the local community, and we don't encounter issues or complaints.
The beauty of the process is its flexibility, allowing us to quickly address any concerns or preferences that may arise among end users, ensuring continuous improvement.
Can you give an instance of a particularly challenging localization project that you worked on?
One of the most challenging localisation tasks we faced recently was with inclusive German.
One of our Austrian clients reported that our platform language wasn't inclusive enough, which made me realise the importance of reviewing it.
I worked with our German translator, Jess Leder, to rethink how we address our German users in an inclusive way. It required creativity and empathy rather than simply relying on machine translation.
It was a significant task given the volume of words, not to mention the grammatical complexity of German, but we considered it worthwhile, especially with the growing importance of inclusivity.
German was our first step, but I'm confident more languages will follow suit over time.
Why is inclusive language important in 2023?
Language mirrors real life, it reflects societal changes. As the world evolves, language adapts. The rapid changes we see today, including the way we address each other, get reflected in language. Ultimately it's a cultural shift, and I predict that other countries will also make this shift eventually.
In any industry or sub-industry, there are always specific jargon, lingo, and abbreviations. How do you manage these industry-specific terms and expressions across various languages?
Fortunately, we have a wealth of industry experts from all over the world here at Chainels, and we leverage their expertise.
Having experience in translating topics related to property management is a significant advantage. We seek out translators who not only have linguistic proficiency but also a deep understanding of the specific industry we operate in.
In our translation process, we don't just hand translators material without guidance. We have a thorough onboarding process, ensuring they understand how the product functions and how to navigate it.
Before they begin translating the actual product, translators construct glossaries that encompass essential terms from the industry and our products. This approach helps them get familiar with the terminology they'll be working with.
How do you ensure that translations not only convey the literal meaning of what's being translated, but also resonate culturally and contextually in each language?
We follow a three-step procedure.
Firstly, there's a technical review, this is where we iron out any obvious red flags in a translation. For instance, a recent task involved translating the English verb 'book' (as in ‘to book’) into Bulgarian. By relying solely on machine translation, we would end up with the Bulgarian word for 'a book.'
This is why a technical review is important. If I notice any issues, I flag them to the translator who has consulted our glossaries and available contextual information for further clarification.
The second step involves an internal review by native speakers within the Chainels team. They ensure that the translation not only adheres to correct spelling and grammar but also aligns with our company's tone of voice, industry jargon, brand messaging and sales strategy.
Lastly, we have a quality check based on feedback from end users. If users spot any issues, they report them to our customer success team, who create tickets for us to address and fix the problems.
How does effective localization contribute to the services we offer multinational corporations?
Our primary focus is on the people who use the platform to make their lives easier– managers, service providers and the tenants they serve. The platform is designed with them in mind to ensure a positive user experience and satisfaction.
That's why we make it multilingual. Tenants can choose the language that suits them best and maximise their experience with the platform. The core principle is user-centricity, prioritising the needs and preferences of the end users to enhance their overall satisfaction.
What trends do you see emerging in the field of localization?
In the general landscape, there's a prevalent concern about AI, as is the case in many fields. However, the current consensus is that AI is far from being a substitute for writers, especially those creating content for new brands. Creating something entirely original remains beyond the capabilities of AI.
I don't foresee substantial global changes in the next couple of years. Changing established business processes to incorporate AI is challenging. The use of AI would necessitate a complete reevaluation of how content is created, extending beyond just localization and translations.
While AI may contribute to drafting text or generating parts of a piece, the ultimate assembly is still in the hands of human beings. They must make decisions on how the final product should appear. This evolving landscape might lead to the convergence of localization and user experience (UX) since, ultimately, it's all about shaping the end-user experience.
I remember there was a similar panic among translators when Google Translate first launched. In its early days, there were widespread doubts and criticisms about its effectiveness. However, over the years, it has indeed evolved and become a useful tool.
Yet, even with its advancements, the crucial point remains that the human touch is indispensable. While tools like Google Translate have improved significantly and serve as valuable aids, they can't fully replace the nuanced understanding and creativity that human translators bring to the table.
I think the same can be said for AI, at least for now.
What's in store for 2024 in the localization world? In the world of loco? What new languages are coming up?
Seven new languages. Most of them are Eastern European languages. So Bulgarian, Croatian, Serbian, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Romanian, and Slovak.
We also have an automatic translation module on our roadmap. It will help users translate content generated by other users. It's going to be the same approach as Facebook has. So there's a post, and under the post you see 'translate to' and then translate to the language of your choice.
This tool is intended for translating user-generated content rather than serving as a means to translate the application itself.
For instance, consider a scenario involving one of our Dutch city clients. They often create announcements in Dutch, as it is the official language in the Netherlands. However, end users of the Chainels app, who have recently moved to the Netherlands, may not be comfortable with the Dutch language and may prefer using other languages.
To ensure they don't miss any crucial information in these announcements, users should be able to translate them into a language of their choice. This feature will display both the original text in Dutch and its translation, providing users with the opportunity to enhance their language learning and integration process.
Localisation makes Chainels
Chainels is a global company, with a global outlook. It’s something we take great pride in and our localisation team is a reflection of that fact.
We believe it is one of our superpowers, making us more agile, more adaptive and better suited to deliver high-quality tenant experiences the world over.
If you want to keep reading our content in your language, check out our blog in German, French, Dutch or Polish languages.