Ten questions to ask about translation technology

Because of the inefficiency and expense of traditional translation, it’s no wonder companies are looking for options that are faster and more cost efficient. The good news: there is a better way. There are now many types of translation technology in the marketplace that can help automate the process. But finding the best technology can be complicated if you aren’t familiar with some of the basic features and functions that are available. There are a lot of translation companies that offer widely divergent technology so, to find the best fit for your organization, you need to know what to look for.

Companies that use traditional, offline processes for translating content know how time-consuming it can be. Using an old school approach to globalizing your corporate website or marketing materials requires a series of labor-intensive steps. When you take that process, multiply it by the number of items you need translated, and the number of languages, you end up with hundreds of simultaneous projects and a nightmare translation workflow.

1: Is it on-premise, proxy or cloud-based?

The first question to ask when considering translation technology is whether it is an on-premise, proxy or cloud-based system.

On-premise systems

On-premise systems require businesses to purchase equipment or to work with an outsourced provider. They have IT architectures that need routine maintenance. They may use a lot of electricity, which can add to the expense of maintenance as well. On-premise systems can require expensive service contracts, so make sure to consider that expense when making your decision.

Proxy-based systems

Translation proxy refers to a vendor computer system acting as a proxy for your website URL. When a user wants to see your content in a different language, that translated version is displayed as a separate web page, which is acting as a proxy for the original page. The server goes to the original source language, extracts the content, translates it and displays it on a separate, localized web page.

Proxy translation has traditionally been preferred by companies that don’t have dedicated staff to handle translation or that may not have the most current technology. Proxy can be a solution for those types of companies and may be faster to implement, but there are downsides to a proxy-based translation system for other types of companies. Most enterprises that start with proxy run into problems with scalability; adding users or more file space can lead to additional costs. It often lacks direct integration and thus it can be hard to make updates and changes. You may not be able to translate dynamic content such as drop-down menus, forms, logins and so on. It may also affect your ability to be detected by search engines and could negatively affect your SEO, as mentioned later.

Cloud-based technology stores, tracks and manages multilingual content across different enterprise applications allowing continuous, integrated translation in real time. For large, complex translation projects — assuming there are no internet connectivity problems — the best way to handle the volume, continuity and synchronization between several different departments and locations is by managing translation in the cloud.

Cloud-based translation is continuous translation with no down time — unless, again, the internet goes down. Content that is constantly changing needs a dynamic and agile tool to keep up with the increasing demand for round-the-clock translation and distribution.

A cloud-based translation platform may give companies more control over their content, and keeps corporate information in a single native environment.

2: How well will it integrate with existing software?

A single marketing department might have several enterprise applications to manage their email marketing, website, knowledge bases and so on. The problem with maintaining several disparate systems is that it leads to working in silos with no easy way to integrate translation between them. That means you’re probably paying to translate the same content over and over again. Retranslation of content often leads to inconsistent translations resulting in brand drift with brand and messaging inconsistencies.

Look for translation technology that can directly integrate into your existing systems. This will help save on the cost of translation, users can work on a familiar interface without additional training, and you get added control when your information resides in your system. You don’t have to go through the slow, inefficient, and unsecured process of sending files out to be downloaded onto a separate server used by the translator or translation services company.

Your company might need to customize your content management system (CMS) integrations. Not all systems can be used right out of the box. When it comes to customizing — adding apps, integrations, and connectors — make sure that your translation solution has the ability to work well with your applications so it integrates nicely with your existing systems.

Pre-built API calls that are ready made can drastically shorten development time. It’s also important to find out if the back end is using industry standard practices. Those make it easier to create a custom solution, whether it’s done by a translation technology service provider or your own development team. Bottom line: be aware of non-standard solutions that can lead to excessive custom coding, which can be expensive and time consuming.

A multilingual API provides an easy way to integrate enterprise applications with a translation management system (TMS). With a multilingual API, you can easily upload source content for translation, have the content automatically translated, and download the translated content back into the original application. You can access useful computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools within the TMS like translation workflows, centralized cloud-based translation memory (TM), and machine translation (MT).

The APIs that many translation companies use to integrate are either open or private. Open API interfaces are free and publicly available. They allow a community of developers to create and collaborate on innovations and improvements. An open API is also available to any developer to use free of charge. APIs that are using RESTful technology represent the latest technology and the industry standard. These APIs are easier and less expensive to develop and customize.

A private API is closed and proprietary, meaning developers outside of the company cannot access them. Developing integrations with open multilingual APIs is easier and less expensive than integrations offered by companies that only offer private, non-standard APIs. Closed APIs require using and paying for in-house developers to make the integrations work for you. If the translation provider uses older, non-standard conventions, it can lead to expensive coding requirements.

When researching translation services, consider how important integration is to your efficiency, visibility and control.

3: How many file types can be supported?

Enterprises use several different types of content across multiple media channels — web, video, audio or print, including social media. Not all translation systems can handle every type of media. Proxy is best for simple web content, but most proxy solutions don’t offer support for content like visual content or product brochures.

Whether you need to translate web content, desktop publishing, or need software localization, your translation system should be able to support several file types. Your translation solution should also support rich-text translation of the most common document types like the Microsoft Office Suite, industry standard exchange formats, such as XLIFF, TMX and TBX; web languages such as HTML and XML; and Adobe InDesign files.

Ask how many file types can be translated. Make sure they support the most commonly used file types for each of your media channels. Best-in-class translation solutions should be able to seamlessly and easily integrate translation with your multimedia content.

4: What’s the process for creating, updating or changing information?

Agile enterprises can’t afford to get bogged down waiting on translations. Entering new markets requires global-ready translation solutions that are easy to manage. You’ll also need a translation system that can keep up with the dynamic, 24-hour need for localized content.

Depending on your needs, you may want to look for technology that can offer an industry-leading TMS. A TMS combines project management, workflows, translation memory and CAT tools to centralize translation of multilingual content and simplify project management.

Proxy translation can be problematic when it comes to changing or adding original content. It doesn’t offer continuous publishing. There can be downtime and constant redirects from the hosting entity. You have to grant the proxy access to your information. It’s then manually exported and imported — back and forth — between your site and the proxy site.

This can get expensive. When you don’t have access to the site, you can’t add new sections or make structural changes without help from a developer. Each update or change will lead to additional costs.

Translating in the cloud means your content is stored, tracked and managed in one place. Round-the-clock translation makes it easier and faster to manage changes between time zones. Cloud-based technology can potentially automate translation with automated workflows, automatic email notifications, and pre-set triggers to keep projects moving. The ability of translators and reviewers to see each other’s edits and communicate in real-time increases collaboration and improves translation quality.

5: How much file storage is available?

Translation needs are constantly evolving. If you’re planning on growing, it’s important to have a translation technology that can scale as your need for additional file storage grows. Many on-premise or proxy solutions can’t offer much scalability. They charge for extra file storage and additional users. This doesn’t give your enterprise the tools you need to expand as the demand for localized content increases.

Cloud-based translation technology can easily meet your increasing need for more content, storage, and translation management. It can store all of your translated content so it can be reused and recycled across your different enterprise applications. Sharing content across the enterprise lets you update your content in real time, leverage your linguistic assets, increase quality and messaging consistency all while driving down costs. Cloud-based technology can extract large amounts of data and scale to any project size on the fly.

6: Are there customizable workflows?

Workflows are key to your operational efficiency. They are the engine that moves your translations forward. If done correctly, customizable workflows can put your translation processes on autopilot.

Most translation systems only offer a single workflow. Some companies offer workflow engines, but they can be too complex for the average user, which requires engaging professional services to update or create a new workflow.

If you need TMS, look for one that lets you customize your translation workflow. Customizing workflows lets you choose the type of translation and a review process that closely matches the content that is being translated. Not all translation may need professional translation with several rounds of review. Simple translations may only require machine translation with a single professional review.

Customizing workflows can save your localization groups a lot of money by automating processes and setting triggers to keep projects moving forward. It also helps streamline project management and reduce deployment time, improving your ability to enter new markets quickly.

7: Who controls translation memory and glossaries?

Translation memory, glossaries and style guides are powerful translation tools. When used correctly, they increase consistency, speed and accuracy through reuse by your professional and community translations, to ensure quality and to reduce cost.

Not all translation providers give you access and control over these linguistic assets. Proxy translation requires putting those assets on a separate server, which means paying extra fees to host your international content or having difficulty exporting those assets if you decide to switch your translation provider. When researching your translation options, ask who will have control over your TM and glossaries.

You may want more ownership and control over your linguistic assets. Depending on your business model, your translation teams may need immediate, 24-hour access to multiple translation memory vaults, glossaries, and TM in the TMS workbench. When TM is automatically stored in the cloud, it can be immediately leveraged by other translators; no more emailing TM databases back and forth or merging disparate TM files after the project has finished.

If it’s used correctly, centralized storage and perhaps particularly cloud-based centralized storage can improve brand consistency, lower translation costs and increase translator throughput. Centralized storage improves access to all of your linguistic assets and allows you to reuse multilingual content across all of your enterprise applications.

8: How will translation affect SEO?

SEO drives business. That’s why translating keywords related to your products and services is critical. Recent research confirmed why translation of keywords is so important. More than half of all Google searches are made in a language other than English. SEO localization can lead to increased site visits, which in turn will drive more leads and sales.

Some proxy servers may be penalized by Google’s spider search engine and may show up lower in the rankings as a result. Other proxy solutions may have pages without keyword-rich translated URLs. As a result, if you use translation proxy, your customers may not be able to find you. Make sure your translation solution, proxy or otherwise, is SEO-compatible and that it will not interfere with or disable your SEO.

9: How secure is the system?

Traditional offline translation processes usually involve several steps that transfer your content and information to an unknown number of linguists and their servers. Your information is at risk every time you send files via email to these outside servers that are out of your control.

Enterprises that want to increase the security of their data should ask, for example, about the unsecured practice of sending confidential content offline to a freelance linguist’s desktop where data theft and security risks are high. For anything online, they should ask about the potential for hacking. In the case of a natural disaster such as flooding or fire, data maintained solely on-premise server can be lost if damaged.

Translation technology companies also ensure security with a virtual private cloud (VPC) model that can be multi-tenant or single tenant. Subscriptions are available for a multi-tenant or single-tenant hosting model. With the multi-tenant model, several private customer communities are hosted on a single VPC. Each community is completely partitioned and password protected. Companies with heightened security requirements, such as financial institutions, may prefer a single-tenant VPC.

A top TMS can also provide role-based authorization to give project managers the power to control levels of access to information. This type of authorization ensures users only see the information to which they’ve been given access.

10: How hard is it to switch if it isn’t working?

It is possible to switch translation systems with good planning and a dependable translation system provider. If you find the right partner, the benefits can be well worth the effort.

Upgrading to a better solution for you can synchronize time-consuming, offline, manual tasks with continuous, real-time automation that will streamline your processes, decrease costs and improve your efficiency.

Rob Vandenberg
Rob Vandenberg is the president and CEO of Lingotek, a cloud-based translation technology and services company. Prior to being named CEO, he served as the company's vice president of sales and marketing.


Weekly Digest

Subscribe to stay updated

MultiLingual Media LLC