What language is your content in? Are you thinking about translating your website into different languages? Or, are you considering introducing a new language in the app that you have developed?
Perhaps you've only just started researching how to properly localize videos or legal documents, because clients from all over the world visit your local e-commerce online store.
As the wise Alexander Graham Bell once said: Before anything else, preparation is the key to success. And you are in the right place to prepare and get started with localizing content into different languages.
Throughout the years of collaborating with countless companies worldwide, we've noticed that the most frequent questions (apart from the ones about the translation price, of course), were about making the translation process as smooth and fast as possible.
What things should we consider before translating our website to different languages?
How should we prepare?
How do we choose which languages we need for our content translation?
These and other similar questions come up in almost every discussion before the collaboration with our clients begins.
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Based on that, and also on our experience in numerous translation projects that we have carried out, we have prepared a handy list of translation best practices that will help speed up your international expansion.
A localization strategy is where it all begins. There are several important questions to ask yourself before starting with translation of any of your content.
Here are some of them to get you started:
Why are these questions so important?
Answering them will help you get a clear understanding and vision behind the decision to translate content or a website into different languages. You will gain knowledge about your expectations and will be able to put it into the context of your business. With this insight, it is possible to choose the right languages, the right budget, and the right method.
Because localization is not just translation.
It is not hard to make a wrong decision and start a costly and time-consuming project.
There are different angles of approach when choosing languages for translation. What are some examples?
If your analytics tools start showing more and more traffic coming from certain markets, it is worth exploring if you need to localize the content. The same goes for an increasing number of questions from international customers.
Check which pages and keywords are bringing you visits from abroad. Ask your customer service or social media team what the most frequent questions from foreigners are. After calculating your options, you may decide to localize all content or just parts of it, in order to answer the most urgent needs.
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After all, the cost of translating your product website into different languages or creating localized FAQ pdf files may bring a quick return on investment. When potential customers see information in their own language, they tend to take less time on deciding to buy a product.
Do you know what the most popular languages around the globe are?
Let’s take China for example: there are 1.3 billion people who are your potential customers. Yet only a small number of European websites are translated into Simplified Chinese.
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Spanish is another popular one. This language is spoken in a number of countries around the world. Spain, Mexico, USA, Chile, Peru, and Colombia are just a couple of examples. There are 450 million native speakers. Not too shabby, right?
A thorough market research combined with in-depth risk assessment - done. You’ve decided to enter a market like Switzerland where there are 4 native languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh.
Does this mean that you need to translate your website into all four languages to succeed in this country? Not necessarily.
When looking at the language structure of Switzerland, it’s instantly visible that there are more English-speaking immigrants in this country than Romansh-speaking natives. You may want to cover only the three main native languages.
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Another strategy would be to translate your business website into four languages, including English, which has a bigger potential to reach the immigrant population.
If your competition is present on a certain market using a particular language, this means there may be potential for your services as well.
If your competition is not present on a certain market using a particular language, this means that there may be room for your company to take the lead, or that market may be a dead end.
Monitoring competitors is a fairly easy way to check the potential within the language version. Of course, this should not be the main point of consideration. You have your strategy, and your competitors have theirs.
But it is never a waste of time to check what others are doing and analyze if their move was right or not. It is fair game to use these findings to support your business decisions about localizing content.
This is something that people often forget when translating content into different languages. It is crucial to avoid this pitfall at all cost: languages have versions.
For someone unfamiliar with how the localization process works it is easy to fall into this trap.
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Let’s say you want to translate your software or website into English. Easy, right?
But, which version of English? Here is the part where the process gets more interesting. You have U.S. English, British English, Australian English, South African English, and if you look even further there are other versions that you can stumble upon.
Now the question about which version is needed makes more sense. Each of these versions have slightly different rules when it comes to grammar, spelling, sentence construction, vocabulary, and so on.
Let’s take spelling as an example.
Imagine you develop and monetize mobile applications with different quizzes, like: "What color suits your eyes best?" or "What animal represents your sense of humor?"
If the application users come from the UK, they might start sending suggestions about spelling errors in your content. American spelling was used above, not British: colour and humour.
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This is just an example of a simple entertaining mobile application. But if your business is in the legal sector, or real estate, this could get serious, making your company look unprofessional.
Another example would be a difference in vocabulary.
Let’s use the words “trainers” (UK) and “sneakers” (USA). If your company sells this type of shoes and your marketing message is sent to American customers, the word “trainers” would sound a tad odd. Especially if the message “Get yourself a new, shiny pair of trainers!” was sent to a fitness professional who happens to be a personal trainer.
There are more languages with versions and dialects. Spanish or French are on that list too. This is why local market context provided by a professional linguist is a must when translating and proofreading the content.
Localization is a process. It is not a sprint, but more a well-balanced long distance run where the runner uses his or her strengths to get to the finish line.
What are some of the time-consuming tasks?
It starts with preparing a proper strategy, based on questions included in the first point (or even more of them). And then more tasks that take time:
It is not possible to get great quality content translated and uploaded in a few days. But with proper planning and time management it can be done in a reasonable amount of time.
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The sooner we realize that time is one of the most important factors, the better. It’s better to underpromise, estimate more time for completing the project and deliver the content earlier.
One of the main questions that we get asked on a daily basis is: “How much will this translation cost?” The answer you may hear is “That depends”. Mainly, it depends on what savings will your translation company be able to generate for you with the use of translation software. It also depends on your content type, the number of words for translation and the language you choose.
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When translating your content into different languages it is important to know that the localization process is about:
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Now, it is up to you to decide which cost is higher: doing all of the above internally with an in-house team, or hiring professional translation services. If you have a smart team that can deliver your localized content and take care of the proper allocation of time and money, you may not need a translation agency.
When it comes to money, take a look at a few examples of time and cost savings, considering that the localization process is outsourced:
Translate your content.
No matter what content you needs translated into different languages, it is the right decision for any business. There are many benefits of localizing marketing materials, a website, user interface or documents.
Whether you have been through this process before or you are only just getting started in educating yourself about translation, use these tips to speed up the localization process and meet your time-to-market with your multilingual website, translated marketing content, localized software, or training materials in different languages.