Adding a New Language to Your Website. Can it be as Easy as a Click of a Button?
By: Alessandra Binazzi - Alessandra Binazzi Consulting
31 January 2018
Organizations can decide to add a new language to their site for several reasons. Most commonly this decision is based on real opportunities and potential in new markets, but it can also be driven by acquisitions, the need to level with the competition, or organizational pressures from local stakeholders. Consequently, they may be faced with the challenge of adapting their product and marketing offering to new markets very quickly.
One of the main requirements of servicing a local market is language. While there are many factors an organization needs to consider when entering a new market, e.g. payment methods, customer service, local SEO, etc. at the most basic level the first hurdle that must be overcome is adding the market’s local language to the company’s products and digital assets, be those websites, mobile sites, apps or digital marketing assets. Based on Common Sense Advisory research “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy: 2014″, 55% of buyers only buy from websites where information is presented in their language. For those with limited English, the preference for mother-tongue purchases increases to 80% or more.
New language – time and process considerations
When faced with the need to enter a new market quickly, can adding a new language be as fast as the click of a button?
The short answer: No. However, there are ways an organization can prepare operationally to be able to switch on new languages efficiently, thus reducing the time to market considerably. A strong localization program will ensure that processes to adapt the content into any language are streamlined and automated. This will not only shrink the time needed to launch a new language, but also greatly increase quality of the target content, ensure consistency in language, and create a strong base for the organization to build brand awareness in the local market.
Localization of any digital product or asset demands prerequisite conditions that are independent of any specific target language an organization is looking to add. Known as internationalization, this technical process ensures that products and assets are designed and able to adapt to any locale and enable seamless localization of content. Internationalization requirements vary depending on type of product and assets. Some of the factors that need to be implemented at the source include:
- Appropriate encoding of characters (Unicode) in order to display accented characters as well as non-Latin characters (Asian, Cyrillic, etc.) correctly
- Support of local number, currency, and date formats etc.
- Externalization of all content for easy localization export and import
- Good source quality to ensure that content doesn’t include split sentences and concatenation that will force incorrect grammar and spelling in target languages.
Failure to follow appropriate engineering best practices for internationalization in the source product and content assets will result in longer time to market and expensive re-engineering to achieve compatibility for multiple locales. It also introduces a dependency on engineering and development that is difficult to control and affect, when localization is being pressured to launch a new language in a short time.
Assuming that proper internationalization is in place, let’s focus on linguistic adaptation to the specific language(s) slated to be added to the existing portfolio. Process optimization is an important factor in streamlining localization. What does this mean in practical terms? In terms of time to market, the biggest chunk of time is generally taken up by translation. The exact amount of time needed for translation will vary greatly depending on many factors, starting with the volume of content that needs adaptation. In cases in which a content tier structure is in place, this already represents a blueprint of processes to be applied to each tier. The level of quality expected per type of content will more or less dictate the time it will take to turn around the adaptation. In general terms, high quality content that requires full human translation will take the longest, pure MT will take the shortest, and the variations in-between provide the balance! Many organizations continue to work with a flat content structure and largely use dedicated linguists for all content. Other factors that influence turn-around time of human translation include number of translation teams working on the task and review cycles to ensure quality. When working with the human component (be it translations, post-editing or review), there isn’t much a company can do to reduce the time to complete a good quality translation.
Let’s focus on the factors that can be affected.
- Available resources. Whether an organization outsources the translation or decides to use internal resources, linguists should be vetted for quality and knowledge of the sector. Briefing external resources on the company’s voice and style is essential to ensure that they adhere to branding guidelines and to ensure that the message resonates with the local users. It is advisable to use internal reviewers if at all possible. Reviewers also need to be briefed on style and process. Additionally, setting guidelines for what is expected will help reviewers focus in their task and limit personal stylistic preferences. It’s easy to try to rush though resource selection and on-boarding, given the time pressure of launching in a new market. Resist the urge! This is vital ground work to ensure that resources are set up for success and are scheduled to start churning out localized content! There are several other activities that can be executed while recruitment and on-boarding is taking place.
- Terminology. An approved terminology/glossary should already exist in the source language. Start from translating the terminology into the new language. This will prevent hiccups and delays along the adaptation process and guarantee quality translation and consistency of key terms. This step can be done while preparing the content for adaptation, thus saving time.
- Style guide. As with the terminology, a style guide should already exist for the source content. Use this to set the most appropriate style and voice for the organization in the new target language. Clarity on target style and voice will facilitate recruiting and training the most appropriate resources to communicate to the new market. A style guide will also outline guidelines for local formatting of numbers, currencies, and dates, as well as other grammar conventions like capitalization, punctuation, etc.
- Translation tools. It is essential that the translation resources (internal or external) are using solid Computer-Aided Translation (CAT) tools that will capture and store translation memories in the new language(s). Translation memories will reduce time spent on translation of repetitive content, reduce cost, and ensure consistency in the translated content.
- Source content (usually English) and systems. Make an inventory of all the content that needs to be adapted and in which systems it resides (CMS, marketing automation system, internal systems, etc.). This will enable quick and easy gathering and organization of the source content for fast transmission to translation teams. It will also ensure that nothing is left behind. Document the inventory for future reference when adding additional languages.
- Systems and file formats. Don’t make the mistake of copy/pasting the content in Word or Excel files, as this will take FOREVER and greatly increase the possibility of human error. The capability of extracting content for translation guarantees speed and automatically safeguards the original formatting in the adapted version. The same is true for importing target content to its new residences in the organization’s content repositories. The adapted content will automatically be ready for deployment to various media. Analyze the export/import options available in each system identified in the content inventory. Many content repositories have localization functionality that allow for exporting content into XLIFF (industry standard localization format of xml files), XML, or other standard format. Translation tools can manage a wide variety of formats, so simply ensure compatibility ahead of time. Smoke testing the various file formats involved through the translation tool is recommended.
- API integration (Ultimate automation). To achieve the highest level of automation for content adaptation to various languages, connect content repositories with the translation tools through APIs. Through their use, translation systems can transfer files back and forth, to and from the linguists and reviewers, requiring minimal intervention from an operator. Optimally, APIs can automatically detect and transfer newly created or updated content through the adaptation process.
The same basic plan can be applied to any language the organization decides to add, making the process repeatable and empowering the localization department with greater control over cost, turn-around times, and quality. Once the above prerequisites and processes are in place, adding a new language will be predictable and straightforward. As close as one can get to the click of a button.
The rest is just translation!