Understanding Language Services for Content Globalization

Jul 26, 2017

Article ImageDuring recent discussions with global product and content leaders, and language service suppliers, I noticed that a recurring topic still made relationships between these suppliers and their clients less productive than expected. They can’t seem to agree on the answers to a couple of questions. What are language services and how do these services contribute to global business in general and digital experiences in particular? It is a broad topic that has surfaced and been subject to scrutiny for the last couple of decades. One thing has not changed over the years. Most conversations about it are tied to the overall value of language services, and how it makes a tangible impact on deployment cycle times and delivery performance that are essential to delight customers around the world.

As a matter of fact, a lot of difficulties associated with this ongoing debate around language services are rooted in mutual misunderstanding between a number of suppliers and their clients or leads. On the one hand, some providers do not do enough due diligence to understand what clients really need and offer services that will really help them solve their problems and achieve their goals. It is mostly a marketing and sales issue for them. On the other hand some buyers of language services do not have a clear and full picture of what these services entail and how they power much of the globalization of their content and products. They often view it as a conceptual and rational issue. For example, the ambiguous status or the wrong positioning of translation lead to unfruitful collaboration and missed opportunities over time. As a result language services may be seen as a mere commodity, and a low-level activity by some buyers, most of all if providers adopt a low profile by failing to highlight translation as a business process and a value-generating asset.

Existing or potential buyers of language services should keep an eye on the following checklist before and when talking to providers.

  • Language services are more than just translation. This is fairly easy to consider and remember as languages convey ideas, messages, and goals instead of more than just words. Therefore translation should not be used as a mixed bag – or even worse – as some sort of umbrella that would encompass all about language services. These services should rather be detailed to cover major areas of expertise like:
    • Source content creation for content authoring, design, and development
    • Source and target language analysis for content reuse and repurpose
    • Terminology management for contextual sensitivity and consistency
    • Translation for accurate linguistic adaptation
    • Localization for relevant market adaptation
    • Quality check and assurance for increased content quality
    • Graphical and publishing tasks for content formatting
    • Engineering for content transaction and conversion
    • Testing and certification for content effectiveness across ecosystems
    • Project and program management for the coordination and optimization of content workflows
  • Language services are driven by specialized resources. As there is a chain of tasks associated with these services a number of experienced resources and skilled experts are involved. In other words, neither everyone nor anyone can perform these tasks regardless of how easy they might appear at the first sight – at first sight only. Selecting, leveraging, and organizing the right resources for the right job are crucial to make the most of language services. Obviously it is the provider’s call but buyers should demand and get clarity about how proper and professional resourcing plays out in their own interest. It also helps separate providers with scalable capacity and proven professionalism from providers acting as mailboxes splitting and dispatching work anyhow and anywhere
  • Language services include technology. In the digital age, the ability to tame speed and large amounts of content simultaneously and globally is a given. More often than not international audiences and clients take it for granted. Therefore effective and holistic language services cannot deliver on any promise without the needed levels of automation and acceleration that technology enables. At the very least providers have to tailor their tools to streamline work flows, synchronize contributing resources and handle volumes of content in various formats and for various markets. As a next step they should be able to take technology further in order to connect and integrate with the environment(s) of their clients. It is a technical challenge but it goes way beyond implementing an automatic translation feature or setting up a shared content drive. It must fit in information management systems to incorporate and globalize content linguistically, culturally, and functionally.

These few basic considerations show that language services are neither to be oversimplified nor to be kept in a business vacuum. It is the key to unlock and increase their value for any content, any function, and any global business objective.

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