Translation Automation Within the Multilingual Content Ecosystem

Article ImageAutomation is on the minds of many people and not just those in manufacturing. It has been suggested that automation will have a profound impact on many industries in the coming years, including healthcare, finance, and transportation. Typically, the conversation turns to job loss, which is certainly a weighty subject. But there are advantages to automation that are worth remembering. Automation takes routine, repetitive tasks (i.e., drudgery) and eliminates the human from the equation. Arguably, this frees the human for more creative, strategic, and hopefully satisfying endeavors.

While many of us don’t fully understand the computer science behind automation technology, we do understand the impact of automation on the industries we work in. In the world of content, automation is having an effect on things such as image, speech, and text processing—and even the creation of written content. In the translation and localization sector, we’re seeing automation driven by AI (such as neural machine translation) and by old-fashioned human ingenuity. Automation is used as a competitive advantage by translation companies since in most cases, it results in cost-savings and time-savings for their clients.

While the computational linguists work on the cutting edge, creating multilingual chatbots and perfecting speech synthesis, many more practitioners keep themselves busy with the comparatively humdrum challenge of process automation. The multilingual content delivery cycle—and specifically the translation processes within it—are ripe for automation owing to the plethora of repetitive tasks. Just ask any localization project manager about extracting, preparing, and transferring files, and she’ll tell you how appreciated automation is in this arena.

For those handling multilingual content, the translation round-trip is an important factor in managing it. The process has several steps and crosses several platforms—it can be complex, but it is ultimately repetitive, making it a candidate for automation. There are a number of commercial solutions that address translation process automation within the multilingual content ecosystem. One approach is to use a customized portal developed by your translation agency; all-in-one platforms from monolithic enterprises are another option, and custom-developed connectors (APIs) between CMSs and translation management systems (TMSs) are another. All these approaches require commitment to a particular vendor or tech stack. They’re not easily adapted if translation vendors change or if vendors change their technologies. And all of them require a great deal of resources in terms of IT, development, time, and budget. Ask a translation vendor, and he or she will tell you it can feel like an API jungle out there.

Many translation service providers are tired of reinventing the wheel every time they need to integrate their systems with a new client’s technologies; they are looking not to proprietary solutions, but to open standards as a solution. My organization, the Globalization and Localization Association, advocates for such a standardized approach.

Motivated by the efficiencies of interoperability and the time-savings and cost-savings of reusable assets, a community-driven, open source initiative to advance API standards for multilingual content delivery is underway. So far, the work has centered on the drudgery that our previously mentioned localization project manager would love to jettison from her workload. Use cases, business metadata central to a translation project, and extraction best practices have all been cataloged and defined, and a RESTful API prototype has been drafted. The goal is to streamline the translation round-trip, saving time and money, while avoiding headaches. This allows localization project managers and content managers to focus on what’s important: reaching international audiences and delighting users and customers no matter their language or culture.

So why use a standardized approach? For content owners and managers, it allows freedom of choice for tools and vendors, reduces the investments required in R&D and integration efforts, and breaks down content silos within organizations. And while this article has addressed the integrations between CMS and TMS, the standardized approach provides interoperability guidelines for all industry actors collaborating in all types of workflows.

The need for this type of automation is clear. With its implementation, all stakeholders in the multilingual content ecosystem stand to benefit in a variety of ways. As an association, we’d like to see those benefits extend to all parties involved and include interoperability, openness, choice, and flexibility.

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