Localization 101

If you’re new to translation and localization services, many of the concepts and terms may be confusing. There are a lot of alien concepts and terminology flying around. So, it can be hard to know what you need and what you don’t. Below, we try to clarify and unpack frequently asked questions, as well as everything we think is necessary to make a good decision about localization.

The Anatomy of a Standard Project

Professional translation and localization projects have a lot of moving parts and, therefore, can be counterintuitive. Our staff are always happy to run things down for you, but here is a reference that you can use to understand how we work and what happens to your content during a normal project.

Scoping Icon With Bubbles
The scoping phase is fundamentally about determining what materials need to be localized to achieve your goals. In many ways, this is the most important phase of a project. Because computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools import text strings and process them in a proprietary format, the scope of a project is very hard to change once production has begun. At the same time, you don't want to receive completed translations, only to realize that there were more materials to translate, or that you actually wanted to use a different word in paragraph 2. For this reason, it is important to ensure that all of the content you need for your project is ready and finalized prior to start of the project. Our staff can help you figure out what needs to be included.
Analysis Graphic Part of the Localization Process
The analysis phase focuses on determining how much work the project will take. This primarily consists of using CAT tools to get a precise word count that is weighted to factor in repetitions as well as previous translations. When CAT tools identify phrases that appear to match other phrases, either in the same document or in a client's Translation Memory (database of previous translations), they are flagged as repetitions that do not need to be translated (though they sometimes do still need to be confirmed by the linguist). In turn, repetitious phrases also cost the client less because they represent less work for us. Analyzing for repetitions is the reason that we can only give rough estimates before we receive the actual source files. The analysis phase also includes assessing timelines and ancillary services like desktop publishing, in-context review, and engineering.
Preparation Icon With Bubbles
During the preparation stage, our support staff pull the text strings out of the source files and import them into our CAT tool before we send them out to linguists. If we run into any issues, we will bring them up right then and make sure the final product is right from the start.
Translation Icon With Bubbles
Our translation stage is performed by an experienced native linguist, translating exclusively into their native tongue, and usually with some subject matter expertise in the content. In addition, we strive to use the same linguist/editor team for all work for a client.
Editing Icon With Bubbles
During the editing stage, a separate linguist with native proficiency checks the output for consistency, accuracy, proper grammar and mechanics, and idiomatic eloquence. These checks also reference glossaries and style guides when possible, to ensure that the ideal output term is used precisely and consistently.
Review Icon With Bubbles
In the event that our clients have staff in the target market for this project, we can also deliver content in an intermediate, review-friendly form, so that they can gather feedback from native speakers who are familiar with both the goals of the client organization and the locale. Once the review comes back to us, we examine the feedback and implement as necessary.
Desktop Publishing Icon With Bubbles
Desktop publishing (DTP) is an optional stage in which our staff perform all of the layout and formatting work to match the source materials in the target language. We recommend DTP whenever the output is intended for consumption by our clients' customers. Although this step and its cost may seem unnecessary at first glance, formatting in a foreign language is more challenging than it appears. Some languagues use many more characters to convey the same information, or longer words that make line breaks difficult. This is known as text expansion, and it can require significant design work to replicate the design of the original. Many clients who elect to do the layouts themselves end up bringing the DTP work back to us in the end because it proved trickier than it seemed.
Packaging icon with bubbles, represeting a stage in the translation and localization projects
During the packaging stage, our engineers initiate a round of automated checks for terminological consistency across projects. Then, they update the client's Translation Memory, package the files, and deliver in the original file format.
Illustration of a package, represeting a stage in the translation and localization projects


Occasionally, we undertake projects that go beyond straightforward translation/localization projects. This can take many forms, including market research, in-market focus groups, marketing campaign adaptation, and technical consultation. Let us know if you have a complex global business problem, and we’ll see how we can help!


Native Speakers

All Glyph linguists are native speakers and only translate into their native language. We strive to work with proven, experienced and professional linguists and have multiple dedicated translator/editor teams in all of our core languages.


We often get asked about our linguists, and whether they are 'in-house.' All of our linguists are freelance due to the elastic nature of demand for specific languages, even common ones like Chinese and Spanish. With the exception of localization companies that only offer one or two languages, all language service providers use freelance linguists. What distinguishes our pool of linguists is the vetting to which we subject them before we start assigning them projects, and the feedback mechanisms we use to make sure they grow along with us.

Subject Matter Expertise

Many of our linguists have subject matter expertise in specific fields, such as medicine, mechanical engineering, business, etc. With prior notice, we can source linguists in almost any language with almost any kind of specific experience. Just let us know, and we'll start hunting!

Core Languages

Glyph has active projects going in more than 100 languages, but a small subset of those represents most of our work. Here are our core languages, which we work in every day. If you need something you don’t see here, just ask and we’ll source it for you! 

Chinese [Simplified]
Chinese [Traditional]
French (Canada)
French (France)
Norwegian (Bokmål)
Portuguese (Brazil)
Portuguese (Portugal)
Spanish (Latin America)
Spanish (Spain)
Spanish (USA)

Translation Memories

Like all professional translation services operations, Glyph uses translation memories to streamline the translation process and ensure consistency. CAT tools store translated output in a database that divides text strings into sections known as 'segments,' which can vary in length but are usually about the same as a clause in grammatical terms. A translation memory is a client-specific database that contains all of the segments that Glyph has translated for that client in both source and target languages. If later projects contain segments that match existing ones in the translation memory, the CAT tool has the option of automatically populating the output text with existing output from the translation memory. Our linguists review the context of the new project to ensure that the existing segment in the memory actually applies, but generally translation memories increase both the speed and quality of a localization project.

Because translation memories are updated with new strings after each project, the more localization projects a client completes, the more data that translation memory will have, and the more valuable it becomes. Many language service providers will export translation memories and give them to clients upon request so if you are considering changing providers, find out if you can bring your translation memory with you.

File Formats We Accept

We accept the following file formats as a matter of course. If your content is in another format, get in touch with us and let us know - we can almost certainly handle it.
  • .NET resource files (.RESX)
  • Adobe InDesign™ (.INDD, .IMDL)
  • Adobe Illustrator™ (.AI)
  • Adobe PhotoShop™ (.PSD)
  • HTML (.HTML, .HMT, .SHT), including HTML5
  • Java properties
  • JSON
  • Microsoft Excel™ 2003 (.XLS, .XML, .XLT)
  • Microsoft Excel™ 2007-2013 (.XLSX, .XLSM)
  • Microsoft PowerPoint™ 2003 (.PPT, .PPS, .POT)
  • Microsoft PowerPoint™ 2007-2013 (.PPTX, .PPSX, .POTX, .SLDX)
  • Microsoft Word™ 2003 (.DOC, .RTF, .BAK, .DOT)
  • Microsoft Word™ 2007-2013 (.DOCX)
  • Multilingual Excel/CSV formats (CSV, TSV, XLS, XLSX)
  • Plain text (.TXT)
  • PO Gettext files (.PO)
  • Rich Text Format™ (.RTF, two-column .RTF)
  • Subtitle files (.SRT, .VTT, etc.) XML (.XML)

Machine Translation

Many of our clients ask us about machine translation (MT), whether we use it, and how it is different from using CAT tools with translation memories. While CAT tools use technology to streamline the translation workflow at many stages, the output is ultimately generated by human linguists who can analyze content for diction, syntax, context, tone, and dialect. In contrast, machine translation uses computers to analyze and translate text automatically.

Glyph does not currently employ machine translation in production. However, we have been investigating and researching the possibility since 2013. Moreover, in 2015, we designed and ran a study in conjunction with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), providing quality assessments on machine translation output using human linguists as judges. We have found that at the current state of the art, MT output still requires significant human editing to produce the level of quality that we consider requisite for the kind of projects we undertake.

Machine translation technology is advancing quickly, and for high-volume, low-impact applications such as eCommerce platforms with millions of products, current MT capabilities already make sense. Thus, there are language service providers who use machine translation effectively in the right context. And that’s really the crux of the MT question – it all depends on the context. There are already applications for which MT makes good business sense, and there will always be some creative applications for which human linguists will be the gold standard. For the moment at least, Glyph remains committed to professional human linguists.


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To our valued community,

With the inevitable measures that all businesses need to undertake to support staff and clients, I would like to provide you with an update on our operations. For over 5 years 100% of our staff have been trained and able to work remotely while still maintaining weekly office days for collaboration and team building. We have cultivated business platforms and operations that run digitally without sacrificing security, service quality or capabilities during the better part of the last decade. As of March 9th, all company operations were transferred to work-from-home with no expected change in services, capacity or staff availability.

We understand that many of our partners have experienced challenges due to having a large international presence and multilingual employees. As a result, we are extending our help by monitoring requests after business hours and on weekends for projects associated with the coronavirus. This is to ensure we provide you with the best possible support and the fastest turnaround possible.

If you do have time-sensitive requests associated with the coronavirus, please send them to newrequests@glyphservices.com and include a clear subject line or title so we can act accordingly “COVID-19 Translation”.

We encourage you to reach out if there’s anything we can do to help you and your team during this difficult time. We sincerely hope you, your family, and colleagues remain safe and healthy.

Best wishes,


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