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Why a Localization Kit is Essential for Documentation Translation

Many customers new to translation projects ask us what they need to provide in order to receive an accurate cost-estimate quotation. Some potential clients who have not submitted resources for a quotation even think that translation is a “drive through” process: drop the document in a window and drive around the corner to pick up the analysis.

The reality is quite different: quality language translation service takes time and goes through a review/QA process, just as you would do when you created your source documents. Your translation company can only produce a quotation promptly and accurately if they are provided with complete and accurate information and resources at the time of the initial quote request.

You will need to provide the same items to your language service provider for a quotation that you would provide to initiate an actual translation project. The name for these collective items is referred to as a “Localization Kit” Quite simply this is composed of your source files and the specific information that will enable your translation agency to understand the scope of your requirements.

Essential files and information for a documentation translation project quote:


Source document files:

Typical source files for a document  translation project are MSWord, FrameMaker, InDesign files or PowerPoint files. Be sure to include any source graphic files in their native format, which have text that will need to be localized.

A PDF file is not a source file. It is essentially an image of a source document which is not editable. Your vendor will need the source, editable document to provide a firm quotation. Analysis of a PDF file does not provide a true word count for leveragability of matching segments in translation memory. Source file format document structure is not visible to your translation agency staff, so that many Desktop Publishing issues may remain hidden.

A PDF file does not allow the vendor to see how the file is set up in the source format to gauge time for formatting accurately. Images in the PDF also are not editable.  It is, however, useful to include a PDF file created from your entire documentation project (e.g. book) so your translation vendor can use that file to make comments and annotations to communicate where there may be problem areas in your actual source files.

Glossary and style guide:

Many clients do not have an established glossary or style guide. If these files are not available, your translation company can create these as part of your document translation project. A Glossary is a very important foundation tool for your translation partner’s team to use while translating your content. Having key terminology agreed to upfront in a project will help the active translation project be successful and save time in the review process. The glossary will also aid in all future projects as well. GE uses the term “GE Speak” to refer to their agreed upon global corporate terminology.

Translation memory:

Translation memory (TM) is not a previously translated source file and it is not machine translation. This is a database file that matches the source language segments (i.e. sentences, phrases, etc.) with the matching segment for each language you have had that content translated into in the past.

Most translation companies maintain the policy that translation memory is your property, as you were billed for the linguistic services that produced that asset. Some translation agencies deliver updated TMs to their clients at the conclusion of each project, while other translation vendors deliver a TM update on a quarterly basis. This is an asset to you which will reduce your costs, save time and maintain consistency of your translation.

Translation memory technology allows translation teams to store and reuse both source and target language content for any translation project. Your translation company’s linguistic team will utilize translation memory tools in order to create and maintain multilingual glossaries and translation memories for your projects.

Project details necessary to a localization kit:

Target language and locale

You must identify the target language and specific locale (e.g. Canadian French vs. Continental French) in order for your translation vendor to deliver accurate document translation. It is very important to identify the locale for languages such as Chinese, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Identify required services

Does your project require translation and Desktop Publishing (DTP)? Or only Translation? Will in-country review be required?

Identify any specific format requirements.

Must target language page breaks (pagination) match that of the source language? Many target languages expand both word count and the number of text lines after translation.  If your source language (usually English) has text content that nearly fills the page, maintaining matching page breaks after translation will be challenging. Your translation vendor will discuss alternatives, such as reduced point sizes, reduced line spacing or alternate fonts.

Document format:

Identify the source and delivery document format, for example, unstructured FrameMaker version 10.  Be sure to specify the DTP application, version and operating system. The same information will be required for any graphics that have text which requires localization.  You may wish to refer to a previous GPI blog to discover What You Need To Know About Graphic Localization.

Localized screenshots:

If your document contains screenshots from software or website applications, please identify if localized screenshots will be provided or if you want your localization vendor to create localized screen captures. In the latter case, your translation company will need information of how to capture each of the images and also a list of precisely which images need to be captured.


Be specific in identify your timeframe expectation for your document translation project. Be sure to include time for any internal processes that must take place, like internal or in-country client review.

Providing the minimum, essential files

While some clients provide a full localization kit to their translation partner for a project quote, others are only able to provide a subset. And that is OK. The most important items to provide are:

  • the source files,
  • any existing translation memory,
  • and basic details on the project scope

Beyond that, your translation vendor can discuss the other items with you as they confirm the project requirements and expectations.

Additional resources on project management

To further understand how you can help optimize input for project management on your next project, read two of our previous blogs on translation project management: 11 Project Management Challenges for Translation Projects, Part 1 and 11 Project Management Challenges for Translation Projects, Part 2.