Best Practices

How to Localize Content for Foreign Markets

Many organizations reach a point in their development when they are ready to expand internationally but hesitant to plunge.
Gabriel Fairman
2 min
Table of Contents

Many organizations reach a point in their development when they are ready to expand internationally but hesitant to plunge.

They may have little grasp of localizing content for foreign markets and no idea where to start. Localization takes a lot of time, money, and effort, and you’re right to proceed cautiously. Expert guidance can be lucrative as you become an international business, especially to tackle the intricacies of localization.

A Closer Look at How to Localize Content: The Planning Stage

Localization can seem like a juggling act. With so many jugglers and so many balls in the air, it can be intimidating. But let’s take it one step at a time. With organization and the right resources, it becomes manageable. Here are five important steps to help you understand how to localize content efficiently, in no particular order.

1. Align the content and the localization team with your markets

Localization is a team effort. In one way or another, everyone in the organization has a stake in it. You need to harness everyone’s strengths to work in a shared direction from the start. This process involves getting acquainted with your target markets, identifying best practices in each of those language directions, and aligning everyone to do their part along the content pipeline. This step is crucial in any guideline for strategizing how to localize content.

Consider how even the earliest steps in content generation can have a bearing on the later translated results. Writing localizable content is a skill of its own. The idiomatic expressions, plays on words, clever references—all the things writers love—could end up being translation nightmares. An awareness of the content’s broader lifecycle will help content writers develop text that is well suited for localization. This news is not necessarily bad for writers.

The creative challenge is just different. It’s vital for people early in the pipeline to know how consistent phrases can maximize translation memory use and save the company money in the long run.

2. Choose a CMS that supports multilingual content

Your CMS has to be built for multilingual content. This step may seem like a given, but not every company has localization squarely in mind when they’re choosing a CMS. It must, at a minimum, have the concept of multilingual content from the start. Next, you can adapt it for localization at the appropriate time. This step may seem like a given, but not every company has localization squarely in mind when they’re choosing a CMS.

Not every CMS has even that, and some are monolingual by design. Building your CMS with an architecture that doesn’t easily support multilingual content presents costly delays due to excessive file engineering to find a way to integrate newly translated material back into the site.

Making retroactive changes to enable localization is expensive, time-consuming, and potentially chaotic. That’s why the entire team has to be on board from the start. Building the CMS with architecture conducive to localization makes it easier to adapt your content for multiple markets.

3. Anticipate file structures, import and export capabilities, and integrations

Localization has a lot of moving parts. It’s not just the art of content but also the nitty-gritty of how strings and files will be stored and transferred between people and systems. You want your CMS set up for smooth operation, automatability, and integrability. There is more to accommodate than multiple languages. Third-party stakeholders, such as linguists and in-country marketing partners, have to use the system effectively.

A centralized platform should be ready to handle all the details of the localization process, including the complications of multimedia, support, learning, and other types of content. A successful platform knows all the ins and outs of how to localize content. The right partner will be interested in setting up all of the integrations you need to make localization happen smoothly and consistently in the background, with minimal management on your part. Your team will be free to focus on the art and the impact of your product without stressing about the logistics.

4. Plan for translation memories and terminology management

Don’t underestimate the power of translation memories and termbases to sustain your localization engine in the long run. The use of translation memories and glossaries allows your company to scale content more freely and efficiently.

They provide linguists with a very beneficial tool for quicker translation time and greater translation consistency across content. These benefits allow companies to enter new markets quicker with a shorter translation duration and increase brand integrity by showcasing consistency.  Align your team with this idea of a single source of truth, and train them in the best practices. When the original content is primed for these centralized tools, you save significant time and money. They make any strategy for optimizing how you localize content a more productive one.

5. Make sure you partner with the right localization expert and linguists

Of course, you’ll be better equipped to handle these four steps above with an experienced localization partner at your side. You’ll need them to keep all of your markets straight even as you dive into them, to fortify the best tech for long-term localization, develop end-to-end integrations, and build your single source of truth. Additionally, have them help you vet translators and loop them into the rest of these processes.If you were to manage everything, it would become your new full-time job (and then some).

But you already have a job. Localization experts know how to automate the basic administrative tasks like imports and exports, end-to-end integrations, and even matching your projects to the best-qualified linguists. Automation makes quality management easier, too, because every step can be traced in real-time.

Reinforce Your Localization Engine as You Approach Translation

Those five steps must happen before you ever dive into the translation. It’s like you’re building a great big boat that is ready for an efficient round-the-world journey—versus just jumping into the water and figuring out how to swim along the way. You want to be the one on the boat.We’re not kidding about the boat. A sophisticated localization platform would hold all of your stakeholders, content files, linguistic assets, and technology.

The boat would prevent sinking into the depths of poor translations, delays, and brand blunders. An automated localization platform preserves your intentions for your content, no matter how many languages you want to stretch into, now or in the future. It manages what you don’t have the time to manage and don’t know how to do. Finally, it opens up pathways your company has never faced before, successfully guiding you on how to localize content.

Gabriel Fairman
Founder and CEO of Bureau Works, Gabriel Fairman is the father of three and a technologist at heart. Raised in a family that spoke three languages and having picked up another three over the course of his life, he has always been fascinated with the role language plays in identity and the creation of meaning. Gabriel loves to cook, play the guitar, tennis, soccer, and ski. As far as work goes, he enjoys being at the forefront of innovation and mobilizing people and teams together toward a mission. In recognition of his outstanding contributions, Gabriel was honored with the 2023 Innovator of the Year Award at LocWorld Silicon Valley.
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