Are Translation Project Managers the Same as Localization Project Managers?

The functions Translation and Localization Project Managers (TPMs and LPMs) perform daily are the foundation of any Language Service Provider (LSP) workflow. They oversee the entire project cycle by executing a set of organized and planned actions. This may include analyzing requirements, preparing files, putting teams together and allocating resources, time, and budget. 

But in job descriptions, academic work, articles or media posts, these two job titles—TPM and LPM—are sometimes used interchangeably. Since “localization” and “translation” don’t exactly refer to the same thing, we couldn’t help but wonder: are TPMs the same as LPMs? Is it possible to find any nuance of meaning between them? Below we’ll outline some potential answers to these questions.

L10N and T9N

Defining the differences between localization (L10N) and translation (T9N) can be a helpful place to start. Basically, in the industry “translation” refers to the process of changing text from one language into another to achieve an equivalent meaning. Localization, on the other hand, implies making content, products or services linguistically and culturally accurate to a certain region.

Bearing this distinction in mind, it would be safe to assume that the difference between TPMs or LPMs relies on the kind of services LSPs offer. If an LSP specializes in localization, such as video game localization or transcreation for marketing services, their PMs manage localization workflows, so technically they are LPMs. Now, let’s look at  LSPs which offer mostly translation services for specific domain subjects, like medical, legal or technical. In that case, their PMs are most likely TPMs.

Products vs. Documents

Translation and localization are different services that work towards different goals, so they require different kinds of processes. In localization, PMs manage projects that sometimes involve adaptation or transcreation of globalized products. For this reason, they sometimes work alongside developers, designers or UX writers to localize websites, mobile apps, ad campaigns, etc. In contrast, TPMs are more commonly involved in projects that require the translation of diverse types of documents.

This distinction between the translation of documents and localization of content/products results in different workflows for TPMs and LPMs to manage. For example, it’s common for a large and complex localization project to involve multiple steps and services (e.g., file preparation, DTP, implementation). Sometimes, translation, editing or proofreading, or any other service, are part of a wider localization project. On the other side, TPMs tend to tackle projects with a narrower scope, mostly involving the translation of documents, and all the services related to this task.

Common Factors

Given that “localization” and “translation” don’t exactly mean the same, we can conclude that TPMs and LPMs have different roles and functions. Yet, both terms—TPM and LPM—are sometimes used without making any explicit distinction. Furthermore, in some cases, even the contrast between localization and translation is ambiguous, which supports the ambivalent use of the terms.

The overlapping of TPMs and LPMs also comes from the fact that, regardless of the nuances, these roles have a lot in common. Their responsibilities and skills are very much alike. An expertise in technology solutions for localization, an analytical approach, and organizational and communication skills are mandatory for both TPMs and LPMs.

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