Many organizations reach a point in their development when they are ready to expand internationally but are hesitant to take the plunge. They may have little grasp of how to localize content for foreign markets—no idea where to start. Localization takes great time, money, and effort, and you’re right to proceed cautiously. Expert guidance can be a huge benefit 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 quite manageable. Here are five important steps to preparing for the localization process (in no very clear-cut 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 means getting acquainted with your target markets, identifying best practices in each of those language directions, and getting everyone on board to do their part along the content pipeline.
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 wider lifecycle will help content writers develop text that is well suited for localization. This is not necessarily bad news for writers. The creative challenge is just different. It’s important for people early in the pipeline to know how consistent use of 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 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; then you can adapt it for localization when the time comes. Not every CMS has even that. Some of them are monolingual by design.
That’s why the entire team has to be on board from the start. Making retroactive changes to enable localization is expensive, time-consuming, and potentially chaotic.
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 moved around between people and systems. You want your CMS to be set up for smooth operation, automatability, and integratability. There is more to accommodate than multiple languages. Third-party stakeholders, such as linguists and in-country marketing partners, have to be able to use the system too.
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. 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 term bases to sustain your localization engine in the long run. 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 major time and money.
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. And you need them to help you vet translators and loop them into the rest of these processes.
If you were to try to manage this whole mess, 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 you’ll learn how to swim along the way. You definitely want to be the one on the boat.
We’re not really kidding about the boat. A sophisticated localization platform would hold all of your stakeholders, your content files, your linguistic assets, your technology. The boat would prevent you all from 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 may want to stretch into, now or in the future. It does what you don’t know how to do. It manages what you don’t have the time to manage. And it opens up pathways your company has never faced before.
Bureau Works is a content localization service that uses the latest technology to automate the content lifecycle and quality assurance services. We help you produce better localized content faster and with less human management. Contact our team to find out what we can do for your organization.
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.