Best Practices

How to Translate into Multiple Languages for International Markets

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.
Gabriel Fairman
2 min
Table of Contents

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.Suppose you’re looking to translate into multiple languages within the next year. In that case, the following seven steps will be crucial to achieving successful and timely localization so you can succeed in the global marketplace.

Seven 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 increase 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 for translating multiple languages, you’ll be well situated to introduce an additional 30 languages in time. Strategizing for success helps you be better prepared to tackle whatever size your localization project may be. It can range from just translating one document into multiple languages, to translating multiple pages and projects into multiple languages and even needing to localize pages to maintain consistency with new updates continuously.

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? According to your research, German might be the best language to target, 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 multiple languages have two paths to follow: they either contract with a translation service or hire freelance translators for 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. Suppose you’re outsourcing your localization services to a comprehensive service partner. In that case, 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 a tool, you save an unbelievable amount of time and administrative overhead compared to companies that do this 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 termbase) before localization begins so you can reap the benefits of every new language. Be 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 individual research and define their 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 termbases 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 translating multiple languages 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 are no silly questions. If one translator asks for clarification, chances are ten 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 costs 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 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 problem: “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 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 exponential problems.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 to translate 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.

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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