Translation: The Baseline of Local Experiences

Article ImageTranslating content means adapting and delivering it in one or multiple target languages. This basic definition reflects a high-level operational view and explains why translation may seem as if it’s a straightforward task, part of any integrated content or product workflow. But we need to redefine translation as a first step to create and enhance experiences for local customers buying your products or services in their marketplace. In other words, it is the baseline of local content and experience effectiveness.

Think about how you would react if you had to use a product or install your favorite application in a language you do not understand. You’d be confused, right? So it is essential to position and root translation in global content value chains rather than isolating or diluting it in product roadmaps. It is also a sensible approach to transform translation into a key enabler of digital content globalization.

Sadly, translation is often seen as a nice option, or even as an afterthought, leading some people to overlook it due to ignorance, skepticism, or reluctance. These two assumptions—“English is the universal language of business” and “Translating is just about changing the language”—have plagued global content for years. It is about time to end these myths.

Articulate translation around what a language really is. Much more than lines of text or sets of words, it is actually the local vehicle conveying your messages and a centerpiece of your local product deployment. The level of translation effectiveness makes the first impression—good or bad—on your local customers and therefore requires more than an online dictionary or a spellchecker to resonate with local audiences. Language performance drivers and criteria include terminology, vocabulary, syntax, tone of voice, standard rules, and conventions. As a result, you should invest in translation with professional linguists, language analysts, and terminologists who combine native knowledge, expertise, and experience to meet expectations and standards in local markets. Such resources are key because they are more than multilingual people, and they can best collaborate with content owners or local reviewers for that matter. They master the art of integrating the right language with the right message at the right time to ensure the highest levels of speed and productivity. Moreover, practicing the most appropriate and relevant language enables them to work easily with the latest translation technology while navigating through agile and complex workflows. 

Innovate in translation management by leveraging the most recent progress in artificial intelligence (AI) in general—and machine learning in particular—to enhance both cost-effectiveness and time-effectiveness. On the one hand, the amount of global content to translate is growing incrementally. On the other hand, stakeholders need room and time to focus on accuracy and creativity while dealing with these large volumes. This is where using machine translation in a smart way comes into play. Similar to discriminating smart data from Big Data, you can make a difference when you combine the best of human resources with cutting-edge automation. Forget that achievement if you intend to replace human linguists immediately and blindly. Specifically, the latest generation of neural (AI-driven) machine translation engines may seem like the answer to your prayers, but it has to be put in perspective with your business objectives, your type(s) of content, and your target audiences, in order to get the innovation balance right. You should also innovate by improving and accelerating existing components of translation management (such as terminology enforcement, source content consistency, or safe content reuse and repurpose). This offers more opportunities to single-source content and reuse translated content over time.

Educate your colleagues and stakeholders on what translation means in the global business reality. In most cases, evangelizing to leaders and their teams helps stop incorrect assumptions and set expectations right. It is also a great way of positioning translation in a broader localization and collaborative globalization framework, as well as highlighting the funding that is often a roadblock in many planning and budgeting discussions. Most critically, education paves the way to the organizational alignment that is necessary to deliver on the benefits of centrally managed translation and avoid pitfalls of full decentralization or centralization. You should always bear in mind that people come first, since they drive the success of translation processes and the use of translation technology. They create value through translation processes and tools. Education also requires involving and embedding translation teams in the business so that they feel comfortable, aware, and skilled enough to make your content and products shine linguistically, whether these people are in-house or external.

Differentiate translation with timely relevance and greater granularity. Since translation is the linguistic block of the localization foundation, you should not only take it seriously but also prioritize it in line with your localization objectives and dependencies. Translating too much may be just as counterproductive as translating too little. The scope and depth of translation depend on the type of content, as well as local markets. For example, translating content in Latin American Spanish for the whole of Latin America is not going to cut it in marketing campaigns or content-intensive applications due to variances among Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and other countries in that region. When it comes to user interfaces or technical manuals, translated content might be leveraged among several countries—specific terminology and vocabulary aside. So it is up to you to gauge how you can stand out from the crowd and beat competition without viewing translation as a black or white type of activity. Translation effectiveness is somewhere in the gray area.

Whenever you get stuck with the limits of translation and cannot make your content as customer-centric as needed, you must find a solution that takes you much further and builds immersive and memorable experiences. That solution is called localization.

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