How To Create an Effective Translation Strategy For Localization

How To Create an Effective Translation Strategy For Localization

To thrive in today’s global economy, businesses must interact with consumers who live in different countries, speak various languages, and have different cultural backgrounds.

In fact,  72.4% of global consumers prefer to use their native or local languages when they shop—even though English is the dominant language online.

As such, localizing your website, product, app, game, or software is essential for expanding your reach and growing your market share.

global audience statistics

However, managing a localization project isn’t a walk in the park. Among the many moving parts, a well-orchestrated translation process using an approach that’s right for your project can help set the foundation for success and meet your business objectives.

5 Key Translation Methods You Should Know

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to creating a translation strategy. You must first understand the different translation methods, then choose one appropriate for the source text, stylistic requirements, target language, timeline, budget, and business constraints.

5 Key Translation Methods You Should Know

Here are the most commonly used translation methods in business, their applications, and pros and cons:

Human Translation

This translation method involves professional translators who use translation memories, glossaries, and reference materials to aid the process. They often have subject matter expertise on the content they’re translating.

Human translation is best for projects where a high level of precision is required. These include formal legal documents, financial reports, scientific publications, intellectual property (IP), patent applications, medical records, and other texts with specific requirements.

Pros and Cons of Human Translation

Human translation yields (mostly) error-free and accurate translation that captures the essence of the source text. Linguists and professional translators who are also subject matter experts can help ensure that the appropriate terms and phrases are used for the locales you’re targeting.

High-quality human translation is a labor-intensive process with a high price tag to match. Human translation also requires a longer turnaround time, making it more challenging to respond to fast-changing market conditions.

Large localization projects using this method involve managing sizable teams of professional translators. Failure to develop a comprehensive translation strategy or manage complex workflows can lead to costly errors and delays.

Machine Translation (MT)

Machine translation is a computer-aided translation (CAT) method that involves translation engines and statistical models to translate texts with minimal human intervention. It uses algorithms to analyze the source text, then applies translation memories and translation rules to identify translation possibilities.

MT is best suited for translating non-complex texts with clear and consistent requirements. It also helps you get the “gist” of a document almost instantaneously. For instance, it can help process a large volume of legal documents for informational purposes only (IFPO.)

Pros and Cons of Machine Translation

MT software extracts content from various sources and delivers translated text within minutes or hours instead of days or weeks so you can create and update localized content quickly at minimal costs.

Automation also helps streamline workflows. You can integrate MT applications with various localization management platforms to minimize the risk of your projects being held up by human errors, oversight, or bottlenecks.

Machine translation lacks fluency and context, which is key to producing high-quality translations that address the different cultural backgrounds of various target audiences to evoke a similar emotional response as the source content.

Translation engines have limited linguistic knowledge and translation logic. They can’t effectively detect translation errors, especially for complex texts. To increase the quality of MT, you need to invest in creating and maintaining translation memory, which can increase the cost of your localization projects.

Machine Translation with Human Editing

This translation method starts with automatic machine translation. Then, human translators will review and proofread the machine-translated text to ensure the consistency of terminology, tone, voice, structure, style, and accuracy.

Also called PEMT (Post Editing Machine Translation), this method offers better translation than MT and is faster than professional human translation. It’s best for translation-critical texts, such as legal documents, financial reports, internal communications, and digital content.

Pros and Cons of Machine Translation with Human Editing

This translation method helps you achieve quality translation at scale. You can turn large volumes of content into multiple languages within a short time frame. Translation memory and translation style guides can further help reduce errors.

You can expect higher quality outcomes than using machine translation alone at a lower cost than human translation. A well-orchestrated PEMT process can help you get the best of both worlds.

This method requires human translation expertise to manage the workflow, edit the translation, and review the final content. This adds costs to the time needed to create and maintain the translation memory required to support the MT process.

Some businesses fail to allocate enough time and resources to hire professional translators to edit and review the machine-translated content. The resulting content may be less accurate because of the volume and speed of the process. This can lead to errors and missed opportunities.

Predictive Machine Translation (PMT)

This translation method leverages big data and machine learning to enable a translation engine to self-learn the translation of previously unseen source texts. It can predict translation problems, automatically detect patterns, and improve translation quality in real-time.

PMT is best for handling high volumes of short texts or phrases. It can help you achieve quality translation at scale and manage translation workflow efficiently.

Pros and Cons of Predictive Machine Translation

PMT uses human knowledge and experience in the development of machine learning models. It delivers higher translation quality than MT and addresses translation errors at scale.

It uses translation memories and translation style guides to further support the process. You can expect high-quality translation results without using expensive human resources for translation memory management and translation review.

However, machine learning isn’t a magic bullet. The learning process depends on the availability of large amounts of high-quality data to train the algorithm. The translation quality may be lower than expected if the translation engine hasn’t developed full linguistic knowledge and translation logic to correctly predict translation problems.

For now, PMT may not be equipped to handle long and complex source texts. To ensure high-quality outcomes, you still need professional translators to review and edit the translated text, which can add to project costs.

Human Translation Plus Revision

The method involves an initial translation by a human translator. Then, another translator or linguist will review the translated text to correct errors, confirm the accuracy of the translation, and polish the final content.

This approach is useful for documents and content of any kind in which translation accuracy is paramount (e.g., legal documents, medical records.) It’s especially appropriate for creative or literary writing, which needs to preserve the context, nuances, and emotional appeal of the original content.

Pros and Cons of Human Translation Plus Revision

This translation method delivers the highest level of translation quality and accuracy. It’s best for supporting translation processes that require transcreation or transposition to preserve the meaning of the source text and ensure that the final content is appropriate for the target audience and locale.

However, this translation process is time-consuming and labor-intensive. It requires a high level of translation expertise, and the cost is much higher than other methods.

It’s also hard to manage such a process within a large-scale localization project because of the many translators involved. Poor coordination, lack of version control, and miscommunications can often create bottlenecks that delay the translation procedures.

Creating a Translation Strategy For Your Localization Project

For most businesses launching a product or service in foreign markets, word-for-word translations from MT won’t cut it.

Your translation strategy must give you the ability to address the nuances of the source language, such as tone of voice, slang, idioms, and cultural references. Otherwise, you could risk confusing users, alienating potential customers, and hurting your brand image with inappropriate references.

Whether you’re using human translators, machine translation, or a combination of both methods, you should have a translation strategy that supports your business objectives.

Creating a Translation Strategy For Your Localization Project

For most localization projects, using human translators at some point during the translation process is key to ensuring the quality and accuracy of the target text.

While some businesses may build an in-house translation team, others choose to work with a language service provider (LSP) that offers you access to linguists proficient in various languages and have expertise in different subject matters.

A professional translation service can recommend a translation method best suited to the needs of your project. It can also help ensure that you comply with local laws and regulations in your target market and improve the cost-efficiency of your localization projects.

Whether you’re handling the translation process in-house or hiring an LSP, you can leverage a robust localization management platform to get the most of working with professional translators without the potential pitfalls of coordinating a large team.

OneSky gives you access to over 1000 translators in 50+ languages. You can store all your localization assets (e.g., translation style guides and glossaries,) automate workflows, and communicate with your team on a centralized platform to achieve the best outcomes.

Try OneSky for free and see how we can help you create the translated content you need to localize your website, app, game, software, and more.

Greg Sung

Co-founder & CEO, OneSky

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