Why limit yourself to one language for your valuable content? The most cost-effective way to expand your audience and reach new markets is to translate and localize your content for additional languages and countries. A combination of automation tools for machine translation and professional services can expedite your journey to content and marketing globalization. We provide a road map — best practices, tips, and tricks — that can pave the way for you to become a multilingual media magnate.
Getting Started Down the Multilingual Road
Before getting started, a word of warning to the wise. If you want to look like a professional, don’t settle for the default solutions offered by your software or social media platforms. If you’re like most bloggers, you’re using Wordpress or another blog platform that offers plug-ins or a marketplace featuring a translation app. Just say no, even if the temptation seems irresistible to “plug it in”. As a rule, the quality of auto-translations offered by add-ons and plug-ins is substandard and does not compare with products offered by professional or top tech firms.
Ofer Tirosh, CEO of Tomedes, an international professional language services agency, points out some of the dangers that lie in wait: “Relying on sites like Facebook to automatically translate on behalf of your company is a bad idea. If you’ve spent time and money on developing a social media campaign in one language, relying on imperfect translation tools to deliver it in another language just doesn’t make sense. “He cites the example of the ADA’s famous “Got Milk?” campaign, which – at least according to urban legend, was rendered in some countries as the local equivalent of: “Are you lactating?” The internet is awash with stories of similar stories of intended meanings getting “lost in translation”. In the same category is the story of how the campaign of the Chevrolet Nova sputtered in Latin America till someone in Detroit was finally told that “No va” in Spanish means “Doesn’t Go”.
If you want to know whether or not your business’s multilingual social media content is being translated right, then read here to find out more.
Working with Professional Translation and Localization Agencies
Tomedes is one of a multitude of agencies offering not just language translation services but what is called “localization services”. They are typically a one-stop-shop for ensuring that your marketing, media, and messages cross-linguistic and cultural borders safely and soundly. The bulk of every marketing and media campaign is invested in the original concept and messaging. The incremental cost of translating this correctly and sensitively to foreign customers in their mother tongues is the professional responsibility of such agencies.
Translation and localization agencies typically take responsibility for the correctness of their work –agreeing to fix mistakes at no charge – but you will pay a premium for this commitment and service level guarantee. As a rule, agencies charge per-word of the source document or media, but the rate will vary by language, media type, and subject matter, so make sure to get a clear budget and timetable in advance.
Agencies are also often able to provide marketing and media consultancy adapted to specific target markets. They or their “feet on the ground” can propose social media campaign ideas or a social media market plan that fined-tunes your source content for the local culture and language. The best marketing campaigns are often the most localized. They will not teach you how to do social media marketing, but chances are they can spin your marketing campaign to optimize results in a specific market. But check their familiarity and experience with your target markets before engaging with an agency.
Another advantage of working with a larger localization agency is time-to-market(s). Such agencies have “stables” of hundreds or even thousands of in-house linguists and freelance mother-tongue translators on call. They are well equipped to handle “globalization” projects, in which a website, an app, or a set of documentation is “globalized” by integrating a set of local translated versions of the content. On the other hand, if you merely need to translate a webpage or set of pages, then working with a heavy-hitter agency may be overkill. In that case, or if your budget is tight, consider lower-cost, lighter-weight options.
Pros and Cons of Translating with Freelancers
These days, it’s easier than ever to get a quick translation in any language pair. Just do a search for “how to translate a website” or “translate a page” – adding to the query your desired language pair, and you’ll instantly find lower-cost options. There’s a webpage translator waiting for you, someone ready to do a simple job in an hour or two at a nominal cost. This kind of one-off engagement may work for a page or ten, but it’s hit-or-miss for professional results on larger or high-profile projects where you need to look your very best.
A more secure and structured approach to engaging freelancers is to work with one of the many freelance platforms that have arisen in the last decade. These include Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr. All offer well-organized pools of freelancers, each with a profile, rating, reviews, and portfolios of work. Post your job, and within hours you’ll have dozens of candidates bidding for your approval. Some will be more qualified than others, and the better ones may charge rates at agency levels. But these platforms make it easy to engage and manage freelancers. They provide a buffer in the working relationship, improving the chances that you’ll get a good result.
Still, this approach is fraught with risks that you won’t encounter when working with an agency. What happens if the freelancer comes down sick, or flies of to Vegas for a lost weekend? What if the freelancer does not deliver at the quality you expect? Indeed, if you are working in an unfamiliar language, how will you even evaluate the quality of the output? Read more about potential pitfalls here.
One tip is to hire not one but two translators, a primary to do the lion’s share of the work, and a translation editor or proofreader to check the work of the first. As a rule, you can expect to pay the “proofer” a small fraction of what you pay the “translator”, but you will gain the security of having a second pair of eyes to confirm or correct the translation. And the proofer will also provide a backup in case the translator delays or fails to perform at the expected service level.
Do It Yourself: Going the Cheap (or Free) Route with Machine Translation
The quality of machine translation has increased dramatically in the last 5 years of so as the result of Artificial Intelligence. “Neural networks” take a wholistic approach to source documents. Instead of looking at texts in a linear way, word by word, they ingest whole documents and use AI to compare with millions of other similar documents to make sense of full sentences, paragraphs, and documents as a whole, applying contextual semiotics to make sure, to cite the previously quoted faux-pas, that when an ad campaign is to promoting consumption of dairy products, it is not trying to optimize or encourage lactation.
Leading SaaS (software as a service) apps and websites like Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, or Facebook’s auto-translation all apply AI-driven neural machine translation at levels that are starting to approach human capabilities for highly structured documents like weather reports, financial reports, and government publications, although they will fail miserably and sometimes ridiculously when they try to process more creative or poetic works.
That said, machine translation can still prove – and proof — useful in the initial phases of localization to provide an additional benchmark and to cost-effectively produce placeholders when planning and preparing a multilingual marketing campaign. We suggest, however, that if you are using a machine translator to generate rough drafts, you still should engage human experts – either senior freelancers or professional agencies, to oversee the final phases of any translation project. This will prevent embarrassing errors while limiting costs.
The Bottom Line on Going Global and Multilingual
The golden rule for globalizing your blog and social media is this: if you have a generous budget to roll out a multilingual marketing campaign, save yourself headaches and rely on an expert localization or translation agency. Otherwise, DIY with machine translation and good-value-for-money freelancers in the early project phases, keeping your powder dry and conserving resources so you can afford senior professionals to provide the quality checks and proofing in the final stages where they matter most. You don’t want to be caught with a “milk mustache.”