Multilingual Content Management: Found in Translation

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Whether by acquisition, merger, or the expanding global marketplace, more and more companies find themselves handling content in multiple languages. Managing multilingual content adds (at least) a layer of complexity to the overall content management process. Organizations with a large content repository face a daunting task of keeping content current even when dealing with a single language. But when you have to update the same content across multiple languages, the difficulty compounds exponentially whether you are managing internal content on a company intranet or external customer-facing content.

Fortunately, there are systems available that involve both CMS vendors and translation service providers to bring the process under control. Ultimately, translation becomes another part of the process that must be managed as content moves through its lifecycle—an essential cog in the overall content management solution, which integrates with the main CMS at different checkpoints in the process. Like all systems inside large organizations, however, it takes planning and strategic thinking to put a process in place that won't devolve into chaos, and that will keep your content current no matter what language it is in. 

Growing Global 
Clearly a large translation market has developed in response to the growing globalization of businesses, large and small, and that market is still growing, says Don DePalma, president at Common Sense Advisory, Inc., a market research, analysis, and consulting firm specializing in global issues. His firm reports that the translation and localization market was worth $8.8B last year and they are projecting this to increase to $9.6B this year.

Most companies outsource their translation work to third-party companies such as Lionbridge, SDL Trados, Welocalize, and countless others, rather than try to make it work in-house, a method, according to DePalma, that would be grossly inefficient. "Most companies can't afford to keep translators [for multiple languages] sitting there productively employed on a regular basis. Content volatility is such that having that as a fixed cost inside the company would be really expensive. A lot of times, translators would be sitting there with nothing to do, and other times they would be frantically overloaded." DePalma points out that the translation service vendors are better equipped to deal with translation issues as they arise and to manage resources in order for clients to keep their in-house translation resources to a minimum. 

DePalma recommends that companies interested in translating content start with a general assessment of their overall content management polices. He says that often, the knee-jerk reaction is to automate the translation process, and that you need to understand your content and your audience's requirements before you make a decision on how to approach translation and localization. "A valuable exercise is to review the process of how content moves from author to ultimate consumer," says DePalma. "Companies typically tend to pave the cow paths of the inefficient processes." Instead, he believes you should carefully analyze the existing system and look for areas where you can improve it (as with the implementation of any new system or process).

Another thing to think about, says Kevin Bolen, CMO of Lionbridge, a translation services firm, is how you manage your businesses on the ground in the country in which you are doing business and get them to accept the translation you are providing. "If you are a large enterprise and you have divisions in the country, you need to get their buy-in. Getting distributors or divisions within those markets to agree that the translation is acceptable can be a challenge," according to Bolen. 

Going Local
Whatever system you decide upon, it will likely be integrated into an existing content management system. Terry Lawlor, VP of worldwide marketing at SDL Trados, a company that provides both translation services and enterprise software solutions to manage the translation process, says there are fairly complex barriers to cross when you translate a piece of content for a global audience, and a company like his can help manage that process. He cites a simple article rewrite for a website as an example.

"We would detect that a change had been made to the website, and we would initiate workflow that would pick up the changed content and extract the translatable text from that content automatically," says Lawlor. "The system creates a package of a job and routes it through a workflow process." Once approved, the system distributes the package to the appropriate translator along with links to a corporate terminology database for the given content. 

Typically, the translation engine makes use of a database of material that has been previously translated. This concept of reusing translated content, according to Bolen, is known as translation memory. "In every customer, we will have translation memory running against the client's files, and they can leverage any previous translations they have done." Bolen says the translator translates the remaining text, and adds this new text to the translation memory so it is available moving forward. He points out that the system can detect an exact match in the translation memory, or what he calls a fuzzy match—one that is close, but not exact. 

For new clients without the luxury of translation memory, Bolen says they start by analyzing the content. "You have to start somewhere. We take the content and assess it. If we notice that their authors are using certain phrases that would be difficult to translate, we may do some training for them to teach them to write for a global audience." In addition, Bolen says they will work with the customers to begin translating legacy documents and to start the process of building this translation memory and building a glossary of key company or industry terms that will likely be repeated throughout their content.    

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