Sim Ship - Is It Attainable?

October 28th, 2013

Simultaneous shipment of products in a range of languages is an increasing priority for companies with foreign markets.

If you are in any way, shape, or form familiar with the term ‘Sim Ship,’ you are very likely in the translation business.

In fact, it could be a sort of secret handshake between translation professionals in the same way the Masons and other secret societies have codewords for chance meetings between members: I’d spot you in a pub, walk over and say ‘Sim Ship’ and you would smile and nod and say ‘Sim Ship is impossible.’ And we’d chuckle, and know what we each did for a living.

What is Sim Ship

Sim Ship is simultaneous shipping, in the context of a product that is being sold to a large number of markets in a large number of languages. It’s usually a software term: A company is developing a game, for example, and wants to Sim Ship the game to 100 markets in 100 languages. In other words, it wants to release all language versions of the software on the same day.

This is a relatively new concept. In the past, the English version was worked on first. Once it was perfected, deemed ‘Gold’ and shipped to the domestic market, an anemic and understaffed translation group would tackle creating the translation versions. In the modern market, however, many organisations are seeing the advantages of ‘sim shipping’ their products.

Sim Ship Advantages

First and foremost, the markets have changed. If you release an English-only product, especially in software, it will find its way to foreign markets, usually by less-than legal means. Pirated software is the most obvious example: If you don’t want, say, French kids to play pirated versions of your game, your best strategy is to ship the French version simultaneously.

The other clear advantage of sim shipping is a far superior translated product. In the older model, the product ended up designed totally for the English market. Everything from text layout to details in the product would be labelled and oriented towards English, and translating all of these aspects often required some creative thought – the easiest example is places where text would be heavily formatted, and translating the English to a language that resulted in much longer strings of characters broke all the formatting.

Doing this work simultaneously means the design and layout aspects take this into account, and the final translated product looks much better. Instead of broken formatting and kludgey translations designed more to fit the space than to make sense, you wind up with a product that looks and feels like it was developed in the target language in the first place.

Finally, with sim shipping you get the advantage of localisation from the get-go. If I’m on a team working on a simultaneous translated version of something, I can speak up when I see something that isn’t going to work well in the target culture. Maybe it can be addressed in the product design or maybe not – but the company is aware of it ahead of time, unlike in the past.

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