Watch Your Assets: 3 Ways to Reduce Costs and Improve Consistency in Localization
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Watch Your Assets: 3 Ways to Reduce Costs and Improve Consistency in Localization

Watch Your Assets: 3 Ways to Reduce Costs and Improve Consistency in Localization

It’s a disaster: your documentation and web use different terms for the same things. Your translators do not really understand your brand, so it’s getting diluted and is now indistinct from competitors. Adding insult to injury, you pay for every word to be translated each time. All this is slowing product adoption in your new market, and understandably, your boss is wondering why he pays you the big bucks.

It doesn’t have to be this way! If you want translated materials that are clear, consistent, and effective – and I’m sure you do – then you need to use “assets.” Let’s take a look at the three essential assets that are at your disposal, and how they can make your life a whole lot easier.

Didn’t I Just Translate This?

A translation memory (TM) is a byproduct of the last translation job you completed. It is a database linking a source phrase, or segment, with its translation. That database is then used to “pre-translate” a new text. You translate it once, you leverage it over and over to reduce translation costs and increase consistency. It’s pre-paid translation! This works even when the segment isn’t an exact match between texts.

There are various categories of leverage:

A “100% match” is a new source segment that is exactly the same as a source segment translated earlier. (Note: “repetition” is the term applied to matching segments that appear within the same text.) The TM tool will use this old translation, and the translator will review it to make sure the original translation makes sense when used in the new text.

Sometimes you have an uber-match, known as an “in-context exact,” where the context before and after the 100% match is exactly the same as in the original text. A translator doesn’t need more than one glance at these before he/she can move on.

A “fuzzy match” matches the original segment partially. Fuzzy matches come in two categories, high and low, both of which cost you less than a new word.

Let me demonstrate these categories, using the following sentence as the original segment:

“The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.”

  • High Fuzzies: “The only normal people are the ones you do not know well.”This is a “high fuzzy match because only 2 words (5 characters) are different, either gone or changed. You still get a reduced price for this segment, though a little work is still required: a translator will review the prepopulated text, make sure the translation is appropriate in the context, and then translate the parts of that segment that are different.
  • Low Fuzzies: “The strangest people are the ones you know very well.”A “low fuzzy” match is still content you can reuse, but it is a little less like the source material. It needs a bit more attention to figure out whether it’s appropriate in the new context, and to translate what’s different.

Lastly, you have

  • New Words: “The most normal person I know is myself.”Any segment below a “low fuzzy” is considered a “new word.” A new word typically has less than 75% in common with the original segment. A translator translates this from scratch.

Leverage gives you quite a big bang for your buck: marketing materials may leverage as much as 40% of a translation memory, and that figure can jump to 90% for technical documentation of a product with small feature changes.

Think about Your Vibe

Your brand – your vibe, your look/feel – is who you are as a company. You want that to be replicated appropriately and accurately in each market where you sell your product. You can take care of this with a style guide, which is a reference document – under 20 pages, please – customized for each client and target market. The guide will train and guide linguists in choosing language and grammar so their work will match your brand.

This guide should cover things specific to the target market and company brand such as:

  • Date and time formats, numbers, phone numbers, currency, percentages. Is January 3, 2013 expressed as 1/3/13 or 03/01/13?
  • Grammar, syntax and spelling. For example, American English “color” versus British English “colour.”
  • Audience/ target demographic. Is your audience young, middle-aged, senior? Male or female? Many languages have different ways of addressing different types of audiences.
  • Style and tone. What is your company’s personality – formal and conservative because your audience is corporate finance, or hip and edgy because you’re targeting youth retail consumers?
  • Acronyms (localized or non-localized). “ASAP” (“as soon as possible” in English) doesn’t mean anything in another language unless that is a known acronym; you have to make sure linguists know how to convey that concept accurately.
  • Web pages, products and services. The style guide should provide an overview for background knowledge and future reference.
  • Key terminology. Highlight the product names and major industry buzzwords or phrases that are essential to your brand. The rest should be in a glossary.
  • Logo usage and colors. No green text in China please!
  • Localized and non-localized UI elements. If you don’t plan to translate some parts of the UI for this project, then it’s best to call that out clearly.

There are a number of good tools that can automatically check much of this, but a tool can’t understand “vibe.” In the end, you have to rely on informed translators, editors, desktop publishers and QA people to do what’s right for your brand.

Maintaining your brand has huge value: count on increased loyalty, increased name recognition and better market adoption.

Synonyms, Antonyms and Product Names

Last but not least, it’s important to control the jargon specific to your product. You don’t want random synonyms running about confusing people! Nor do you want the meaning to be misunderstood in any language. To keep it all straight, you should create a glossary, which would contain any product specific terms and their translations.

We are not talking about industry-standard phrases and terms that would be well-known by translators and users, such as “web application” or “user interface.” A glossary term is a concept specific to your company and product, and is usually a clump of nouns all in a row. Think “tri-purpose wonder-widget” or “solar-powered plastic appendage.”

A specialized translator would translate your terms, your in-country people would review it and then those terms would be used everywhere – in both the source and translated versions For even broader benefit, you would use the terms in all your corporate materials such as marketing materials and web content.

There are tools used to help with all phases of glossary management: tools can extract terms from source and target content, manage a terminology database, and automate the use of those terms in any new translation.

Managing your terminology can prevent misunderstanding, errors, and customer service issues.  It can also help people to find your product, when searching for it by name: branded keywords can account for a significant amount of searches and website traffic.

Justifying the Upfront Investment

All together, these three assets will work to give you higher quality, lower cost, and more consistency – the trio of measures that will make your boss happy.

These resources are called “assets” because their value grows over time and because you can leverage them to improve your localization program’s ROI. How? Assets will:

  • Reduce localization costs. Assets help linguists work more quickly by reducing the time spent researching and translating terms.
  • Prevent misunderstandings and errors. Misunderstanding is frustrating and can be damaging to a brand. It can slow in-country product adoption. Everyone from in-country employees to partners and customers are better able to talk apples to apples when you communicate consistently and clearly.
  • Maintain your brand in-country. You rely on brand recognition. Further, your brand has been developed to most effectively reach your target market. Retaining your brand in-country can be key to your success in the new market.
  • Reduce customer service issues. When your web and marketing terminology aligns with the product documentation, it’s easier for customers to find the help they need on their own, without generating a trouble ticket.
  • Improve lead generation. Consistent use of branded keywords will help your ranking in online searches and will drive quality website traffic.

Do you rely on assets to manage your localization program? What have they done for you?