Localizing for the National Steinbeck Center

Over the last few months, second-year Translation and Localization students have been busily managing localization projects for non-profits around the world, notably including the Steinbeck Center based in Salinas, California.

Seth Timpke, the lead project manager on the Steinbeck project, sat down with us to talk about his experience.

Susan: Tell us about your role – what you have been doing to coordinate this project?

Seth: I am the point of contact for our client. I relay information back and forth from between the client and our team. I also schedule client meetings and give the client regular updates on our work. I also scheduled a meeting with the web developer, so that we could coordinate on how to migrate the website. I think it is really cool that there is a museum dedicated to John Steinbeck. I grew up reading the classics like Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, and now I feel like I can reconnect with those stories by helping the Steinbeck Center localize their website.

Seth with team members John Sokol and Lilian Gao

Susan: What were the initial steps to get the ball rolling on this project?

Seth: To be honest, I just sent out a lot of cold emails. I emailed the director of the Steinbeck Center and she got back to me within a few days. Since then, we have had a couple in-person meetings and a couple Zoom conference calls.

Susan: Could you elaborate on some of the challenges your team is facing with this project?

Seth: The current challenge we are facing is a scope issue. The initial project was to localize the entire website, but due to time constraints, we have had to change the scope. Now we are working on a continuous localization workflow, so that students in next year’s practicum can start where we left off. Our goal is to create a long-term partnership between the Steinbeck Center and MIIS.

Susan: Why the Steinbeck Center? Why is it important to provide localization for them?

Seth: The National Steinbeck Center is located in Salinas, California, which has a large population of Spanish speakers. The museum doesn’t have very many museum materials in Spanish and as a result, it only caters to English-speakers. We believe that by localizing the website and, down the road, other museum materials, we can facilitate more communication with the museum and the local community.

Susan: Anything interesting pop on your radar during your involvement in the project?

Seth: Our client mentioned that she has a bunch of KGB files about John Steinbeck. Apparently, he spent some time in Georgia and during his time there, the KGB was keeping tabs on him. We haven’t had a chance to look at the source files, but it would make for a really interesting translation project for a Russian T & I [Translation and Interpretation] student.

Susan: Final thoughts or words of wisdom for the rising second-year students at MIIS?

Seth: My advice would be to agree on a workflow and means of team communication early on in the project. Designate someone as the point of contact and define team member roles. When picking content to translate, don’t bite off more than you can chew. One of the hardest parts of providing free localization services is finding translators to work for free.

For inquiries or questions about the Steinbeck project, please contact Seth Timpke at stimpke@miis.edu

About the project manager: Seth Timpke is a second-year student studying German to English translation at the Middlebury Institute in Monterey. He is a Washington native, voracious reader, and expert gardener.

About the author: Susan Wang is also a second-year student, studying Chinese to English translation with a focus on localization management. A Colorado native and budding writer, Susan enjoys shining the spotlight on interesting stories that come across her radar. Follow her on Twitter at @oh_susieq89.

Featured photo by Thomas Rohlfs on Unsplash

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