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Lost in Translation

Too many choices can cause paralysis when expanding across borders. Multiply that by

markets and languages and you may not know how to start with translation and

localization. We simplify your options.

It’s a no-brainer that reaching out to foreign markets requires both translation and localization, the former referring to a linguistic conversion and the latter to a broader set of cultural and conventional adaptions. You need to “speak the language” of the target audience in the broadest sense of this phrase. The problems begin when you get down to the nitty-gritty of achieving this goal in a sustainable and cost-effective manner.

Luxury Route: Hire In-House or Set Up a Local Office

The easiest path, of course, is to have or hire a knowledgeable and excellent communicator on staff who is a mother-tongue native of the target market. If so, then you have an in-house translator and localizer already in place. Another option, for those who can afford it, is to have a bespoke office in the target country to handle all the marketing and sales issues. There are also companies in most countries providing basic translation services as part of a virtual office arrangement. Translation and localization are just part of the overall package and a core deliverable on an ongoing basis.

One-Stop Shop: A Multinational, Multilingual Translation Agency

Alas, a full-time translator or a local office for each target market is a luxury that not every company can afford, especially if the marketing strategy entails multiple regions and multiple languages. Then the logical and most cost-effective strategy is to search for and engage professional translation services. Some agencies, like multinational Tomedes, not only provides translations in dozens of languages but also extensive localization services which cover cultural conventions as well.

This approach has several advantages. A professional translation and localization company ensures standards in quality, speed, process, and transactional standards. They deal directly with the translator and ensure prompt delivery, without excuses. Serious agencies usually have a “stable” of capable staff or freelancers in each region or language on call for quick turnaround and reduced dependency on the health and well-being of individuals. But you will pay a premium for this management function, though usually this increment is easily justified by the time you save in not needing to micromanage freelancers. But do get a service level agreement from the agency so you know turnaround expectations and can ensure on-time delivery of work product.

On a Budget and Have Time? Go through a freelancing network platform.

In recent years, freelancing networks like Upwork and Freelancer have become viable alternatives for all kinds of location-independent professional services. There are tens of thousands of freelancers performing specialized tasks. So there’s an excellent chance that you will find dozens of choices for translation in each language. You have access to CVs and profiles as well as their ratings and reviews. These platforms provide very specific keywords and key phrases for specific specializations, from website localization and website translation to various types of news categories, from real-time economy news, digital currency news, economic research, economy commentaries, breaking news, and more. Translators may be skilled and experience in some but not others, so be sure to ask specific questions about expertise before you agree on a contract.

Going through a freelancing platform can be cost-effective. You work on a per-project basis, by the word, or at an hourly rate. These often can be negotiated with the freelancer. Be sure to specify, in the case of per-word costing, if the wordcount is measured by the original language source or the translated document. The former allows you to know exactly what you will pay up front, while the latter enables you to conform to strict word-length requirements typical when submitting business translations, or to publishers of financial and economic news, blogs, or world news websites. Typically freelancing platforms do not charge clients (you) a surcharge. Their commission (typically 10-20%) comes out of the fee you negotiate with the freelancer.

One drawback of working through a platform is the management overhead. Finding a translation resource is all on you, as is vetting and negotiation with each freelancer in each market. Not each freelancer will be suitable for every task, so you may need to find several per market if you have a diverse set of localization tasks. And then you also face the human-all-too-human risk that a freelancer will get lazy, busy, sick, drunk, or take off for the weekend without meeting your Friday delivery expectation. Deadlines, unfortunately, often get lost in translation.

A third downside of working directly with a freelancer is your inability to evaluate quality. Unless you or a colleague is fluent in the target language or country, you will have no assured method of assessing the quality of the translation you receive, a problem you don’t usually need to worry about when working with a multilingual, multinational agency which already has these quality controls in place.

Welcome to the Machine: Software Tools to Translate and Localize

Automation and artificial intelligence have entered the translation and localization space in a big way. Machine translation options like Google Translate have vastly improved from their early days, and you may be tempted to paste in your original text to one of these services and see what comes out. Usually, the result will be roughly comprehensible but not likely to impress or fool mother-tongue consumers.

A middle route is to opt for machine-assisted translation, although the primary end-users are likely to be translation agencies or dedicated localization teams in larger company. In a recent G2 survey, Transifex and MemoQ stand out as top-rated solutions in this group.

There’s also a whole category of software localization products designed to rapidly convert structured phrase lists into to multiple languages in a single go. These can give you a head-start on localizing your application, but you should engage professionals – freelancers or agencies – to approve the machine-generated translations. That will help you avoid humiliating mistakes with a good balance of cost, quality, and efficiency.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes.

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