How to Achieve Successful Content Translation

Article ImageSucceeding in content translation puts you in a position to create compelling experiences among consumers across the globe. However, it is sometimes misunderstood and diluted within globalizing organizations, which leads some content creators and owners to misuse it and make it less effective than it should be.

Initially, translation may be defined as transcribing words into a different language and therefore may be seen as a low-level activity. While it requires adapting content into another language, the idea that it’s only about translating words is a half-truth. Linguistically speaking, words are contextually dependent, and sentences cannot be considered merely as strings of words. In short, translating words means translating creative ideas and innovative concepts. They mean different things to different people in different locations. Moreover, some words can be fairly specific by conveying a particular meaning to a particular audience or industry and become very sensitive—such as abbreviations, acronyms, or jargon. Words and terms may not have actual equivalents in other languages and may have to remain untranslated or be changed to be translatable. In short, be aware of what content translation really entails to ensure your company is effective.

As a result of misconceptions, content translation may be done in a vacuum or in a silo with little visibility and recognition. The reality is that it is a business process that belongs in the global content value chain. As such, it must be put in perspective to gauge its effectiveness. The quality of source content must be ensured for translation feasibility. If source content is not readable, accurate, and consistent, translation will not help—garbage in, garbage out. Translation does not improve the source content it depends on.

Similarly, if source content is not encoded and formatted to be truly viewable in other languages, translation cannot be blamed. Finally, content translation goals must be tied to what needs to be achieved—such as crafting immersive experiences for local customers, increasing productivity for international customers, or making products easier to learn and remember. Positioning translation in the overall content supply and management chain is paramount to making it successful and to capturing its value in a fair and balanced way.

Here are a few steps you should bear in mind when setting the stage for scalable and sustainable translation management. Leading it within a localization or, ideally, globalization framework takes it to the highest level of performance and satisfaction.


Step 1: Understand Requirements to Engage With Local Customers

Prior to starting any translation effort, you should clearly understand what local customers want from content and walk in their shoes. Identifying where translation comes to play in the customer journeys sets expectations properly and is crucial to determine the impact of content translation on local experiences in a tangible manner. More often than not, you will end up going beyond content translation and addressing  actual localization to accommodate all linguistic, cultural, and functional needs in a granular and holistic fashion. Understanding all customer facets is a must to bring translation to a good end. Content translation must be an experience-driving process.


Step 2: Plan and Budget

As content translation has to be completed quickly and accelerated whenever safely possible, it also has to be planned and incorporated without compromising quality in content or product road maps. It should be considered an investment in content operations and experience delivery rather than just a cost. Translation budgets should be all-inclusive to avoid unexpected issues and iterations at later stages. In the digital world, translating content requires formatting and testing it for all the ecosystems to which it is delivered. As with many things, the lowest cost, in theory, may become a higher cost in practice. And not translating content may have a hidden cost too. Content translation must be a time-saving and cost-effective process.


Step 3: Select Professional Resources to Maintain Quality

Whether you intend to work with internal or external resources, you must ensure you choose people who are seasoned experts in translation practices and standards. You should bring aboard linguists, language analysts, terminologists, graphical specialists, or information engineers according to the scope and category of content. Do not assume that any multilingual person is a professional linguist just because all professional translators are multilingual people. Their ability is tied to their real expertise and experience of professional translation more than to their academic background. Also, make sure your translation resources have a seat at the content and product management table, together with stakeholders, so that they can stand out and develop their role. Content translation must be an inclusive process.


Step 4: Streamline Workflows to Optimize Roles and Responsibilities

Content translation should not be based on dozens of workflows. It is much better to define a few workflows that cover major types of content and involve the same type of resources. For example, translating video content does not follow the same path as translating product documentation. Allocating roles, responsibilities, and permissions matters a lot in order to keep translation flowing between all parties. Critical steps such as quality control, stakeholder review, or content signoff should not be split between too many people who may have different views and conflicting opinions.


Step 5: Leverage Technology and Assets to Boost Performance

Technology and assets should be used for the benefits they bring to translation management (i.e., increased productivity, quality, and speed in the short and long run). The key to ROI here is assembling the winning combination between technology and human intelligence. Typical robust tools include management platforms connecting all involved parties to submit, manage, track, and deliver content within a unified environment. It is also worth considering and using computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools that enable translation resources to work more quickly and consistently across projects. Machine translation deserves more attention than ever before in light of recent progress in the field, and it can make a real difference in handling large amounts of repetitive and highly structured content. Along the same lines, creating and updating assets (such as glossaries or translation memories) drive costs down while moving consistency and accuracy up. Content translation must be a technology-enabled process.


Step 6: Capture Value and Measure Performance to Drive Growth

Normal key performance indicators allow you to measure major effectiveness milestones and factors such as timely delivery, cost containment or reduction, individual productivity, or amounts of translated content per project. You should add some content-related metrics to dive deeper into translation management efficiency and highlight its value to the business globally and customer experiences locally—for instance, the actual cost per word (word is a currency in translation management and analysis), the percentage of reused or repurposed translated content, the number of content changes needed after stakeholder review(s), the level of memorability, and relevance for local customers. Content translation must be a profit-driving process.  

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