In today’s economy, companies that expand internationally aren’t just targeting their neighbors—they’re targeting the world. You don’t just need translation for one language. You need multiple languages. And the more languages you target, the less likely it is that you’ll be able to handle that volume of content in-house with your primary team and tools.
If you’re looking to translate into multiple languages within the next year, the following 7 steps will be crucial to achieving successful and timely localization so you can succeed in the global marketplace.
7 Steps to Successfully Translate Multiple Languages
Step 1: Strategize
Start by answering the number one question: how many languages do you target? We recommend starting with one or two languages, max, especially if you already have a large body of existing content. It’s always better to start small so you can establish functional workflows and figure out exactly what’s broken with your system.
If you get too ambitious up front, you’re likely to experience what we call “multiplier pain.” It’s the idea that a small mistake can proliferate throughout your localization ecosystem and compound even further across a large number of languages. Starting with a pilot mentality will help contain the anticipated damage. With a strong foundation in place, you’ll be well situated to introduce an additional 30 languages in time.
Step 2: Choose Your Languages
Identifying which languages to target is difficult, yet it can also be fun to identify pockets of opportunity in the international marketplace. When choosing your markets, consider the following elements:
Demographics. How many speakers of a particular language are in your target market? Or in markets where that’s not the native language? Use this and other data to estimate how relevant your product will be in each of your target markets.
Internal data. Where is your product already succeeding? Consider website traffic, app store data, and existing international revenue to determine where your company already has a foot in the door.
In-country presence. Where is your company able to provide sales and support staff? German might be the best language to target according to your research, but Italian would be a smarter first choice if you have a large local sales force in Milan.
When adding on additional languages later, consider expanding based on geographical proximity or language similarity. Targeting additional variants of Spanish, for example, can be uber powerful if your goal is to target hyperlocal regions of Latin America. We’ve also seen the benefit of adding on languages in the same family.
Step 3: Hire Your Team
Companies who translate into multiple languages have basically two paths to follow: they either contract with a translation service, or they hire freelance translators in each of their targets. Regardless of which path you choose, you should endeavor to know your translators and communicate directly with them throughout the localization process. Don’t fall into the trap of isolating or losing touch with your translators. Transparency is the key. If you pay your team well and set them up for success, you’ll see even more benefits from having open lines of communication.
The ultimate goal is for you to build a sense of community and commitment among your translation team. By encouraging them to ask questions and work with your content long-term, you allow them to develop a sense of commitment to your product, your company, and your brand. The more excited translators are about their work, the better the translations are going to be.
Finally, if you’re translating multiple languages all at one time, you may want to consider adding a project manager to your localization team. This person can help field translator questions, provide style feedback, and oversee workflows for each type of content you choose to localize. Of course, if you’re outsourcing your localization services to a comprehensive service partner, they’ll put editors in charge of the translation pipeline so you don’t have to worry about managing it.
Step 4: Integrate and Automate
If you plan to translate multiple languages, you need to invest in technology that can handle the volume and complexity of your content. A localization platform is the first tool we would recommend. A platform like Bureau Works can integrate with each of your content streams so there’s no need to email or upload files back and forth. All languages and all content types flow through the same centralized localization platform. With this caliber of tool, you save an unbelievable amount of time and administrative overhead compared to companies that do this work manually.
When evaluating localization platforms, be sure to prioritize those that offer advanced features for efficiency and workflow automation. These tools will be crucial for meeting timelines in a multi-language localization ecosystem.
For instance, BWX offers an autopilot feature that automatically assigns strings to translators based on their demonstrated expertise with your industry or your brand. It also automatically sets deadlines and creates invoices based on the predetermined rates of each translator. When you make the shift from 8 translators to 80 (which would happen quickly with a multi-language project), you’ll appreciate the scalability such a tool brings to your process.
Step 5: Establish Terminology Assets
Terminology assets are crucial to any localization effort, but especially if your project requires multiple languages. You’ll want to create a one-time build of a comprehensive glossary (aka term base) before localization begins so you can reap the benefits with every new language.
Be really smart about choosing key terms in the English version of your content. If you get the glossary established in English first, you can then translate those key terms into each consecutive language with relatively little effort. It’s much easier than having each linguist perform their own research and define their own terms.
Finally, be sure to establish some kind of review process for your terminology assets. Who will approve these terms in-market? You need to get those people on board now so they can approve your terms and prevent retranslation. Some localization platforms include built-in tools for term bases and in-market review, which makes this task more efficient. And assign collaborators to keep these terminology assets up to date.
Step 6: Translate
Now the real work begins. One of the keys to success with multiple-language localization is having open communication during the translation process. Ideally, you’d want to provide a safe space where all translators can communicate with each other and with you (or your project manager). Here there really are no silly questions. If one translator asks for clarification, chances are 10 others have decided to go with their gut instead of asking. It’s better to answer their questions openly and get clear on the details with the whole team.
You’ll also want to have a plan in place for evaluating translation progress, monitoring workflows, and tracking expenses across all of your languages. Some localization platforms do this administrative work for you and allow you to check in on workflows or see expenses itemized at a glance. In a multi-language ecosystem, that’s exactly what you want.
Step 7: QA and Launch
Finally, once translations are complete, you’ll need to allow time to run test builds of your product in each target language. Because of the multiplier effect of multiple languages, having a really well-written test script is more important than ever.
If something goes wrong in your app, for instance, every tester in each of your target markets is going to meet the same challenge. You’ll get a flood of emails all stating the same conundrum: “This link doesn’t work!” The project manager would need to respond to each of these emails individually, the dev team will need to fix the bugs on each individual build, and depending on the severity of the problem, you might need to go back to the translators to create additional strings. If you don’t have your system figured out up front, you’re going to experience multiplier pain.
The hope is that through pursuing all of the previous steps and investing in high-quality internationalization, you will experience very few (if any) glitches like this—and fewer still that relate directly to language. With forethought and careful strategy, you can get all the way to launch with fewer problems and big savings of time and effort.
Investing in the Right Localization Partnership
As you can see, the process of translating multiple languages is complex and comes with a high margin of error. It’s no wonder that most companies choose to outsource this work to a qualified localization partner. Not all LSPs are created equal, however. If you are looking to outsource, get yourself a localization partner that has:
- Cutting-edge integration technology
- Built-in tools for terminology, in-country review, and budget
- Automated workflow capabilities
- High-quality translators
- The necessary experience to guide you through the process
Some localization agencies just hand you the technology and let you figure out the rest. But at Bureau Works, we don’t just hand you the drill; we teach you how a great drill works, how to choose the proper bit for your needs, and where to make your first holes. With a comprehensive partnership like this, you’ll be well on your way to succeeding with multiple languages.
Bureau Works is a full-scale localization expert with back-end services that make going global more efficient. Our in-house translation team and industry-leading technology combine human innovation with AI in an innovative and exciting way. To translate your product into multiple languages, contact our team today.
Written by Aaron Schliem
Aaron is the chief marketing officer for Bureau Works. He also loves to tickle the ivories and is a wiz at designing cocktails.