Your multilingual product, website or software may put you ahead of your competition, or leave you behind.
Going global is a serious challenge that requires the best possible translation resources and tools. At first glance, all the translation services options that you can choose from may look alike.
In over 15 years of working with our international clients, we've been asked multiple times to clarify differences between various language services options offered by translation companies.
We understand that the different terms mean very little to someone who is not deeply rooted in the localization industry. In order for you to successfully choose the right translation service, you need to know at least some of the basic options.
This article will deliver a detailed comparison of different professional translation services that you can choose.
Translation communicates the meaning of a source-language text by using equivalent target-language text. It's as simple as that. Translation is never a word for word switch of terms from one language into another.
It involves an experienced translator, a professional, native speaker of the target language. The qualified translator is also proficient in the subject-matter and uses translation tools.
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Translation itself is a powerful ability that enables us – humans, to share information, concepts, and ideas despite the various languages we use. This is a great ability.
However, translation on its own will not guarantee a successful launch of your marketing campaign in a new market. In order to successfully enter the new market with your product or concept, you need localization.
Localization is the process of making your content or concept local in character, or restricting it to a particular locale or market.
Translation is included in the localization process.
Localization serves wider needs. There are many aspects of localization, but it mainly focuses on:
Adapting graphics and visuals to target markets;
Adapting formatting, layout, and design in general, to properly display translated content;
Converting units of measure or currencies to local requirements;
Using appropriate local formats for dates, addresses, or phone numbers;
Taking into consideration local regulations and legal requirements;
Using appropriate punctuation and writing directions.
Translation will be perfect for any situation that deals with simply finding out the meaning of a text in another language. Whenever the aim is to provide translation that will be used by your customers – you need localization.
Localization is extremely important with regard to user interface (UI), user experience (UX), marketing, or technical translations.
In order to get ready for localization, you need to think about designing your software or website in a way that it allows translation. This is where internationalization (i18n) comes in.
Internationalization is a concept that includes making sure that your product, website of software design is free of localization obstacles. It focuses on data encoding, the use of variables, message box sizes, writing direction, etc.
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The idea behind the internationalization concept is to create a product that can be easily modified to suit the needs of any local audience, no matter which part of the world you dream of conquering.
Regardless of the industry, should it be pro-audio, automotive, medical, construction, e-learning, or any other, worldwide sales begins with internationalization.
A lack of proper design may be a real blocker with regard to the UI localization or translation of help documentation. Internationalization is not limited to content and formatting. Bear in mind that the design of the product itself needs to have characteristics of a global product.
For example, a charger used in the United States will need a different connector than the same product designed for the British market. Similar differences need to be taken into consideration while designing products for worldwide sales in the automotive industry.
It is crucial to know the difference between translation and localization. However, when speaking about translation, it is never just translation as the concept described above.
It often happens that by translation, both parties will actually mean localization, and the actual difference will lie in the steps included in the localization process.
Translation only, as a part of the localization process, does not lack localization characteristics. Again, as a step in the localization process, translation includes all the cultural and market-specific attributes.
What is the difference?
Translation only is one step carried out by a professional and experienced linguist. It may be enough for some purposes, but this will never be a top-quality localization product.
The translation and revision steps include what is referred to as “two pairs of eyes” in the localization process. The revision step deals with the source (text in the original language) and target (translated) text. It enables the text to be corrected in case any issues are spotted in the files.
During the revision step, accuracy, completeness, style, logic, and sometimes even the layout are checked and corrected, if needed.
In case the final product needs additional verifications in the context, more steps should be included in the localization process.
For example, the review step. Review consists of checking the text in the target language without referring to the original.
You can also go for linguistic testing, which is often used for software localization or translations of training materials, surveys, or e-learning platforms. This step involves testing the final product with the local user experience in mind.
In order to be ready for this process, make sure to find a reliable localization partner. It is important to clearly state what the purpose of the translation is. It is very often the case that localization companies want to apply the full process to every project they are facing.
If you need help with translating an email from a satisfied customer, just for your own use, the full localization process may be too much.
Conducting all the steps will cost you too much compared to translation only. It would be enough to just translate the text and skip the revision stage.
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The most important thing is to know what the purpose of translation is, and what needs to be done. The rest is a matter of professional decisions made by translation agency that supports international campaigns and product launches on a daily basis.
Technical translation will be a perfect match for content such as software UI and help documentation, engineering documentation, patents, medical data sheets, and more. Marketing translation will be best for websites, blog posts, leaflets, marketing campaigns, articles, etc.
Technical translation requires a totally different approach with regard to the translation process. Localization of technical documentation needs to be very precise. The terminology is crucial in order to convey exactly the same meaning as in the source language.
The translator needs to not only know the source and target languages and be an excellent English, Spanish, or Chinese speaker, but most of all, be an expert in the field of interest, should it be science, gaming, finance, or any other. Another characteristic aspect of technical translation is file format.
The files prepared for technical translations are often complex with regard to localization engineering. There might be software strings containing error messages for translation, hidden between the lines of code in a .csv or .xlsx file. It could be a patent translation, where strict rules need to be followed in order for the specifications to meet the demands of patent applications.
Marketing translation, on the other hand, requires more creativity. Localizing marketing campaigns needs to take into account the desires and preferences of the local audience. The professional marketing translation agency will recognize cultural differences and find the most appropriate ways to accelerate your worldwide success.
Marketing translation needs to excel in putting the message, hidden between the lines, into the right words in the target language. Product information translation is not limited to words. Graphics, visuals, symbols, and concepts should also meet the needs and preferences of the local audience.
Sometimes the whole marketing message needs to be recreated in order to successfully support product launch in a new market. In order to localize slogans or jingles, transcreation is often the service which is actually needed. Transcreation is based on translating the notion and the idea, not necessarily the sense of a source content.
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For example, the use of cultural references with regard to folklore characters. The localized marketing campaign needs to meet the same requirements as it does in the original language, rather than tell exactly the same story.
What are the characteristics of a good transcreation?
The highest level of creativity, as well as the complete understanding of the contemporary trends surrounding the local audience.
Creating the most original international slogan without understanding what sells in a particular market may lead to misunderstanding, or even a bad first impression.
Technical translation and marketing translation also differ a bit with regard to the reference material that is needed for the localization team to properly do their job.
In both cases, it is advised to provide as much context as possible. That can be done by providing the context yourself. The most common reference materials for technical translation include software screenshots, photos of the product, or sometimes even the product itself is provided to explore its options.
With regard to marketing translation, especially transcreation, the source text is often accompanied by a brief explanation of the message that should be purveyed. For example, the text may require translation of a metaphor, which is meant to convey a particular meaning.
It may happen that in the target language, the metaphor would make no sense. It is very important to be on the same page with the marketing team and the author of the original text or slogan in order to translate the voice of the company in the target language, without using unfamiliar or culturally odd concepts.
Successful software localization is quite dependent on internationalization. This concept has already been mentioned, but it is worth mentioning again. It is crucial to develop a product or create content which can be easily localized worldwide. Unicode is the best choice with regard to the standards.
What is very important is the ability to adapt to cultural preferences, as well as grammatical rules, such as for example, special characters or writing direction. While designing code for global products, the ability to change the format of date and time is crucial.
The full names of months and days of the week vary in different languages. What some clients may not be aware of, is the fact that what is referred to as "short dates" must also be localized when translating software into different languages.
Below you can see how the date 06/02/11 can be read differently:
United States: June 2nd, 2011
Mexico: February 6th, 2011
Japan: February 11th, 2006
Make sure the design supports all of the different formats. With regard to time, the first difference worth mentioning is the 24-hour vs the12-hour time format. Another item that varies globally is the character separating hours, minutes, and seconds.
Software localization is a specific type of translation, also from the translator’s perspective. It is very often a matter of translating a list of options. The list may consist of single words or short phrases deprived of context.
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Localizing UI requires an expert localization team including engineers, translators, reviewers, and project managers, and a lot of research, or an excellent reference material, to successfully manage such demanding content.
A close companion of software localization is documentation translation. This can also be referred to as help documentation localization. Translating manuals or instructions containing longer sentences allows faster progress with regard to translated word count. It is easier to work with documentation when the software has already been translated.
Translating documentation is based on explanations, bullet points, instructions, warnings, etc. These are highly repetitive phrases used in almost every help documentation or IFU.
Therefore, it is crucial to use Computer Assisted Translation tools (CAT), that help to maintain consistency and generate a lot of savings when the text is very similar or full of repetitions.
It is very easy to get lost in the vast number of options available in professional translation services. Make sure to always choose the tools and processes that will lead you to success.
Ask your translation company about the different options, the tools and the ways to save money, instead of wasting it on the wrong translation service.