December 20, 2022

Beyond Translation - Beyond Technology: What's So Cool about Software Localization & Why Should I Learn about It?

The MS in Translation and Interpreting program invited Cornelia Sittel, Director of Commerce Cloud Localization at Salesforce, to speak to NYU SPS students about the intersection of her two passions: software development and foreign languages.

With a Master's in Translation and having learned seven foreign languages in addition to her first language of German, Cornelia began her professional career as a staff translator and gained over two decades of experience in international software development: “I enjoy how dynamic and complex things are" [in the world of software localization].

Introducing the concept of "localization" as an adaptation of a software to the linguistic and cultural expectations of a “locale” (e.g. French for France as opposed to French for Quebec), Cornelia described how the skills of a professional translator are needed just as much as those of software engineers to build software and websites for global audiences. She emphasized how communicating mutal requirements⁠—those of the software engineers and those of the linguists for each to accomplish their goals⁠—is a critical part of problem solving and managing her projects in the workplace: “I have to be able to tell my team of software engineers why something is important. I serve as the direct line of communication between them and our translators.” 

Cornelia stressed how being an effective liaison between the two disciplines of software engineering and translation requires an understanding of how each side actually “ticks”. She reinforced her excitement for working in "dynamic and complex" environments by describing her work as iterative, following modern agile software development methods: “The work of engineers gets integrated continuously. The product constantly changes." Understanding the methods and tools of modern software engineering, she argues, is a prerequisite for ultimately tying in also "continuous localization".

The talk culminated with Cornelia sharing a promising vision for the intersection of her two passions: “Software is not going away and localization is a very rewarding field. Software engineers really respect linguists and there is much opportunity in the software industry for translators.” Her advice to students was to not be intimidated by software localization but rather to gain a basic understanding of what international software development entails. Leveraging a solid education as culturally aware and technically savvy linguists, translators are well equipped to help build software products that allow users a successful experience in their preferred language. Skills, Cornelia concluded, that are in high demand as the digital revolution is in full swing around the world!

Cornelia Sittel will be teaching TRAN1-GC3010: Software & Website Localization this spring. And word on the street is: she can’t wait!  


A translation and interpreting degree can help you to take charge of your career, whether you are new to the field or already working in the language professions. Apply for PALA’s MS in Translation & Interpreting, a fully online, 36-credit graduate program.

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