Localization Technology in Your Workflows: Is It Ready for Primetime?

Development and publishing workflows are becoming seamless, with APIs and connectivity creating fully automated processes. Translation and localization technology is rapidly becoming an integral part of those workflows.

Machine translation. Neural machine translation. Natural language processing. Do all these innovations add up to a simplified way to manage multiple languages across your software and digital products? It’s a legitimate question.

We’ve all experienced the rapid changes in our ability, via readily available tools like Google Translate, to quickly grasp the meaning of content in other languages, even if that content isn’t always elegantly rendered. And we all remember the hilariously bad translations. But that is not the current state of localization technology. The way you utilize the full spectrum of these tools can change the way you do business – and how successfully you are able to enter global markets.

Human Translation Is Still Integral

Translation is not simply replacing the words in one language with their equivalents in other languages. The machine translation tools mentioned above can do so that to some degree. And they constantly improve (that’s the ‘neural’ part!). However, meaning in the context of a software user or tech consumer is personal. That is where localization comes in. It brings a local perspective to your translated content and that typically requires a human translator and/or a translation reviewer, preferably a native speaker of the language you are targeting. But we can’t automate the human element. Or can we?

The answer is not really, but we can give them a set of tools that streamlines their piece of your workflow. The simple goal is to select content for translation, define languages, and click Send. In an ideal world your content enters a process where it is sent to translators, translated, those translations saved for future use, and then reviewed for accuracy. Then returned, ready for delivery to your customers and users. This is where localization technology comes in.

Plugging Localization Into Your Workflows

The ideal automated workflow described above is not science fiction. In science fiction, you’d probably have super-intelligent machines that did all of that in a flash. We can dream. But we are getting there. The biggest development in technology workflows in the last ten years is the widespread use of application programming interfaces (APIs). They are the plugs we use to connect all the pieces in those workflows. One platform or tool connects with another and they exchange information. Sounds a lot like translation, doesn’t it?

Just as APIs connect data in ways different systems can understand it, localization platforms manage data that requires accurate and useful translation into multiple languages. It could be a software interface, a website, technical documentation, or a knowledge base. The platform organizes and saves that information in a structured way that streamlines the human aspect of the process. On your end, you select your desired content and languages, and on the translator’s end they receive a job, complete it and the platform delivers it back into your development and publishing workflows.

Language Is the Human Version of APIs

This is, fortunately, not science fiction. But let’s take a look at what it means to your business right now. Leaving tech aside for a moment, consider what a global marketplace looks like. It is loud, busy, confusing, and dynamic. Vendors and products vie for attention. Huge sums of money exchange hands in milliseconds, constantly. Lots of opportunity, if you can cut through the chaos of information. Language is the human equivalent of the APIs discussed above.

Like the data those interfaces process, localization helps your business cut through the confusion created in a marketplace where literally hundreds of language variants may be spoken. It turns your product information into something a buyer can understand, on their own terms. Fantastic, right? That is until you are a product manager tasked with getting that information translated into ten, twenty, or even just two languages. Not just translated but translated well.

When you consider that a project involving twelve languages, for example, may include twelve translators who are native speakers and subject matter experts (SMEs), and twelve of their peers to review their work for accuracy, this gets complex. It can be a project management nightmare. And in the not too distant past, it was exactly that.

For software and product developers, problems represent challenges and business opportunities. The challenge of managing translation and localization in an increasingly global marketplace has driven innovation in localization technology. Platforms, like Phrase, integrate evolving technologies like neural machine translation and fit them into your workflows seamlessly. Phrase creates a translation workflow connecting your processes to translators and reviewers. You can manage projects, track progress, assign costs, and report progress daily.

Integrating the Human Factor Into Technology Is Critical

Technology and digital information are only useful if they are easy to use and understand. Whether you are solving a complex manufacturing problem or delivering sales information on a web site, the language used during the experience must feel natural and intuitive to the person on the receiving end. If we struggle to understand a process or read a product description, we are unlikely to come back for more. That’s human nature.

The challenge is to provide that level of usability across a wide range of languages and cultures, while maintaining quality and customer satisfaction. The current state of translation and localization technology has evolved based on those needs. They are not specific to a niche business or single culture. The challenge is complex and it has taken years to get to solutions that are truly integrated, and human. We are getting there.

The availability of platforms like Phrase, which readily integrate with your business processes, is a game-changer for global businesses. We’d argue that there are no businesses that are not global these days, whether you’re a small app developer or an enterprise software company. Access to information is universal, via the Internet, but that universal access can be limited by language. Fortunately, your ability to transcend those limitations is available today, for both the growing business and industry leaders. Localization technologies level the playing field.

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