A Guide to Translation Approach by Content Type
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A Guide to Translation Approach by Content Type

A Guide to Translation Approach by Content Type

Translation Approach by Content Type

Your organization develops a variety of content types to drive your business: web content, technical documents, blogs, knowledge base articles or FAQs, marketing materials, software/UI, and legal content. Add ever-increasing amounts of customer-generated content like reviews, and the sheer volume of content—and the velocity with which it’s created—can be overwhelming.

And you simply can’t translate it all due to cost and time restrictions. Yet your target markets deserve and demand localized content, and since it boosts sales and increases brand awareness and customer loyalty, it’s your goal to localize as much as possible.

There are ways to tackle this problem. One of these is mapping your translation process to your content type. Not all content types require the same process; there are characteristics of each that lend themselves better to certain translation approaches.

Major translation approaches

First, let’s define the most common translation approaches.

  1. Professional ‘human’ translation: a professional bilingual linguist translates materials into another language, typically using Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) tools, such as a Translation Memory (TM). This is a sentence-by-sentence faithful representation of the source.
  2. Subject matter expert translation: a specialist in the certain topic performs the translation. This is also a sentence-by-sentence representation of the original, but the resource is not a linguist.
  3. Marketing localization: a professional marketing linguist adapts the source content for the target market. He/she has creative license to change images and text to best fit the demographics of the locale.
  4. Transcreation: a professional marketing translator with experience in transcreation recreates or reinvents highly branded content for the target market. The linguist will work with concepts and refer to the source documentation, but not translate it word-for-word (more here). This is the most meticulous, time-consuming method of translation—but worth it for the right type of content.
  5. Machine translation (MT): a trained MT engine provides ‘raw’ translations automatically. This is a great way to increase productivity. MT also can have significant cost benefits, yet quality may not be optimal without a human touch.
  6. Machine translation and post-editing (MTPE): a trained MT engine provides ‘raw’ translations, which are then edited by a professional editor to an agreed quality level.

And the seventh is a powerful way of creating customized in-language content for your target market, but is not translation:

  1. In-country copywriting: materials are created from scratch in the target market. In this case, the creator is an in-country ad copy writing professional, not a translator. Writing ad copy, a highly creative process, can take time and many iterations, but it’s worth it in some cases. (See this blog post for more info on transcreation versus copywriting.)

Mapping the content to the process

The next step is to take a close look at your content and determine its characteristics. Is it technical or creative? Highly visible or barely used? Does it have a short shelf-life or is it permanently available? Based on those characteristics, and with the help of your LSP, there are one or more approaches to translation that you can consider.

Content Type


Possible Translation Methods

Technical materials (user guides, service manuals)

This content is straightforward language, and neither creative nor highly visible. It can be highly repetitive.

If utmost accuracy is required, you’ll want to look at professional human translation. However, if there are huge volumes, you might consider MTPE.

Marketing materials

This content is highly visible, fully branded, and creative.

Transcreation is the best way to go with marketing materials. If it has to be extremely local, then you might look at in-country copywriting.

Web content

Your web content is arguably marketing material—but not all of it. Home pages and navigation features are highly visible, and much is creative and fully branded.

Marketing localization is the most common approach to web content. However, consider transcreating content that’s highly visible.


Software is your product and as such is highly visible. Yet it is probably not highly-branded or creative. Still, it must be precise.

The most typical approach to software/UI content is professional human translation. There are translators with software translation expertise.

User-generated materials like reviews

This content is casual, may be poorly written, has a short shelf-life, and is not branded.

This may be a good candidate for MT—with some level of PE for highly viewed content.

FAQs, knowledge bases

This is oft-used content, but not highly branded or creative. It is written in a straightforward style.

The sheer volume may warrant looking at Machine Translation, with or without PE. Top topics might be a good candidate for professional human translation or MTPE.

Legal content

While legal content is neither branded nor highly creative, it does require precision quality.

Most often, professional human translation is required. There are linguists specialized in legal translation.

As you can see, varying approaches can be successful for the different content types. The list is suggestive only; for example, MT could be used for marketing materials under certain circumstances.  It takes critical analysis through a look at the whole program—tools, TAT, quality requirements—to decide.

Choosing the best possible translation approach can help you get more translation done, with the right quality level, at the right price. But a solid translation strategy must be customized based on your target markets, specific content types and their purposes, and turnaround time and quality requirements—in collaboration with your LSP.