Translation, Localization and Automation – a Snapshot for the Business Community

If you’re thinking of releasing your product into a market that speaks another language, you might hear many different terms thrown around, including translation, localization and automation. Below we’ll cover in detail what each means and how they relate to the overall process of working in a market that speaks another tongue. We’ll also cover how to work with translation services in order to maximise your product’s chances of success.

What is a translation service?

Conventionally, translation is a service that simply translates text from one language to another, though these days it also covers things like audio and video translation as well. If you’re translating documents to support your product accessing a new market, you might be translating documents such as contracts, marketing materials (like ads, websites and sales letters), internal communications (letters, presentations, emails and suchlike), technical documentation, packaging and more.

Where it gets confusing is that sometimes you’ll see translation used interchangeably with other parts of the translation process, like localization or even interpretation.  We’re going to look at each of these in turn, so that you can decide which it is that your business needs.

What is the difference between translation and localization?

If you have never converted business messages into a different language for a new market, localization is the area that is most likely to trip you up during the process.

Localization is the process of converting a message in one language into another in a way that fits organically into the new culture while also keeping the message intact. Essentially, it’s the part of the process that makes sure the messaging is taking the new culture into account.

Localization can handle a number of different aspects of marketing messages (as well as other forms of translated content). It can change content to fit the consumption habits and overall preferences of the new market and adjust the visual parts of the message, such as graphics, layout and design.

Even smaller details are wrapped up in the localization website, such as that an e-commerce site will need to change its currency symbols and payment provider when reaching out to a new country.

Localization also ensures that messages and products meet local regulations and standards, from consumer labelling to privacy laws.

As you can see, localization is an important part of the translation process. It goes far beyond the conversion of words from one language to another. It’s not enough to simply translate a website and call it a day. You have to make sure your message fully integrates with the new culture. Given that 72.4% of global consumers prefer to use their native language when shopping online, so localization is a must for multinational e-commerce companies in particular.

How does automation fit into translation and localization?

You may have also heard the terms translation automation, automatic translation or even machine learning in translation. These all refer to using software to help with the translation process. As of 2016, Google Translate had a 60% boost in accuracy, so machine translation is becoming more popular, though it’s not yet up to the standard of human translation, meaning that businesses need to think very carefully about whether or not to rely on it.

Is there a better online translator than Google? There’s certainly some decent competition. Some of the other popular machine translation software programs include Microsoft Translator, Yandex.Translate, Amazon Translate, IBM Watson Language Translator, Babylon and Bing Translator.

Interestingly, automation is helping to speed up the human translation process. It’s helping with early translation stages and not-for-publication translations at the moment. If the message has regular and predictable vocabulary and grammar, automation can help with getting the tedious mechanics of typing something out in a new language out of the way for human translators who choose to use it wisely.

Some human translators or translation services also use automation to double-check a message. Human translators might essentially use it as a glorified spell checker to check for translation errors.

Automation can also refer to the increased use of technology to help speed along translation services themselves. A proficient translator is likely to use software such as translation management systems to help organize translated text.

However, machine translation and automation are a long way off from replacing human translators. The fact is, they still only excel when the text is very predictable. A very long procedural manual might be up a software program’s alley, but human translators need to clean up what the program misses.

A machine still can’t tell when the context is off, or the message just isn’t fitting in with a local culture. And when messages start to get more literary and playful, like during an advert, that’s when a human translator absolutely must step in. That’s why localized translation by human translators is still so important to businesses.

What is the role of an interpreter?

You might also see the term interpretation, sometimes used interchangeably with translation. But interpretation actually handles the real-time conversation between two people who speak different languages. If you ever see someone relaying a speech in real-time as the speech is made, that’s interpretation.

Interpretation only typically factors into a business setting if two parties from different cultures want to meet and they don’t share a common language.

How do you find the right language services provider?

Since all these factors are so tightly woven together, it pays to find a language services provider that can handle all of the aspects of translation and localization that you need. You can do some digging online or ask around your network for a proficient company.

Once you find a service you might want to work with, ask a few easy questions to vet the service:

  • What is your experience working in my industry? A proficient translation and localization service should know all the terminology and context for your specific sector. You might look for marketing, legal or medical translation services, for example.
  • What is your background with the language you are working in? Ideally, the translator should be native in the target language that you need, and have plentiful experience.
  • What does your translation process look like? A proficient translator or service will have some type of system for staying organized and on top of projects. These days, that could include using automation like content management systems or even help from machine translators. As long as they are not relying on that machine translator to deliver their end product!

Finding a translation agency doesn’t need to be intimidating. By finding the right agency – one that handles all aspects of translation and localization – you can get comprehensive service that enables you to focus on what you do best and meet the needs of a new market faster.

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