Localization strategy

What Is Translation Software, and What Makes the Best One?

Learn what makes modern translation software, what benefits it offers, and how to choose the right translation software for your business needs.
Localization strategy blog category featured image | Phrase

The invention of the printing press in the 15th century changed the relationship between humans, technology, and the distribution of information forever. A couple of centuries later, computers started to facilitate translation from one language to another and spurred the development of machine translation technology.

Fast-forward to today, and you’ll see how far translation software has advanced in the globalized world. Keep reading to learn what makes modern translation software, what benefits it offers, and how to choose the right one for your global business strategy.

Definition of translation software

Translation software refers to any application that supports human translators throughout the process of transferring text from one language to another. It’s designed to improve speed and quality through automation and terminology management.

Translation software comes in both desktop and cloud versions. Tools for translation in the cloud have become more widespread over time—they’re easier to access via a web browser anytime and from any device as long as an internet connection is available.

How does translation software work?

The aim of any translation software is to improve the speed and quality of translation, so there are some standard, off-the-shelf features you should be looking out for. Let’s assume you have chosen a cloud-based version, and you’re now ready to start your first translation project. What could you expect from the tool?

First, you would open your tool in your preferred browser and import the content that needs to be translated. Then, you can select the language pairs and upload any complementary documentation to be used for that project, like additional guidelines or a specific term base. While setting up the project, you can assign a translation manager as well as translators, editors, and proofreaders to work on specific components of the project.

With the help of translation memory, the tool will highlight any terms or phrases that might have already been translated and suggest a target-language translation. The translator can immediately go into the suggested text and either accept it or make any necessary edits. The more translations go through the software, the better your translation memory will work, and the faster your future translations will be.

Once the translation is done, your team should be able to download it in the same format as the original copy. If the translation software has existing connectors or integrations available, you can export the translation directly to your content management system (CMS) or other tools you may be using.

Standard features of modern translation software

Translation programs have evolved to become more sophisticated and incorporate more features. These can include anything from machine translation, where text is translated automatically without any human input, to expansive translation memories and real-time collaboration tools that help translators work consistently and deliver projects faster. Here are some key features you should pay attention to when looking for translation software:

Translation memory

Translation memory is an essential component of any translation software that removes the need to translate text that has already been translated. When you work on the same or similar segment of text, the tool will recommend an existing translation for that piece of text, which you can decide whether or not to use.

Likewise, if you are making minor updates to your manuals or user guides, you can save both time and money by translating only the new text instead of the whole document. This is particularly useful for highly regulated industries like finance or law, where consistency and accuracy in terminology are paramount.

Term base (translation glossary)

A term base is an enhanced version of a dictionary where your translation software houses a database of single or multi-word terms along with their definition, use cases, and translation in one or several languages.

You can use your existing termbase or upload a new one, especially if a customer has specific terminology they’d like you to use throughout the project. Term bases are important as they help your translators keep the text consistent across the board and avoid any misspellings or inaccurate use of terminology.

Real-time collaborative teamwork

If you’re a business looking to expand into new markets, it’s very unlikely that you’d be working with a single translator. More often, a team of translation managers, translators, proofreaders, and editors will be assigned to different parts of the project. To make sure they’re on the same page and deliver quality results on schedule, they need to collaborate across time and space.

The best translation software comes with a collaborative function where project members (e.g., translator, proofreader, project manager, etc.) can log in to the platform, see the latest status of the project, share comments, and assign tasks without needing to copy and paste any text or send attachments outside the platform. Since all project-related content is kept within the tool, all stakeholders enjoy effective collaboration, fast communication, and maximum data security.

Quality assurance functionality

Remember the legendary Mitt Romney gaffe of misspelling America in his presidential election campaign slogan “A Better Amercia”? It’s uncertain whether that had anything to do with him not winning the elections, but it certainly didn’t help.

Proper spelling and formatting of your branded content are the bare minimum customers expect before they engage with your products. The best translation tool will have quality assurance as second nature to the overall translation process and protect you from any mishaps.

While translators can rely on their attention to detail to make sure the text is accurately translated, errors might happen in formatting, punctuation, or simply spelling of the text. Quality assurance systems will flag up any such mistakes and recommend solutions to ensure the text between the source and target text is consistent both in message and format.

Machine translation

Machine translation is increasingly becoming a standard component of modern translation tools. It allows for the automated translation of content without any human intervention—with speed and cost efficiency as its core benefits. Nevertheless, professional translation always relies on post-editors to verify the final version of a text and avoid literal or poor translation results. You don’t want to show yourself in a bad light like the UK government did when communicating “democratic exercise” in German as “demokratische Übung” (where “Übung” means physical exercise).

Machine translation works very well as a stepping stone to a translation project. It’s particularly useful for large quantities of content that may be repetitive or don’t require precision or creativity, e.g. technical documentation or user-generated content that can be translated automatically and post-edited by human translators for accuracy and consistency. This can help you deliver projects faster and maintain quality at a fraction of the cost you would have to pay if the project was translated manually.

What are the benefits of language translation software?

Any business that is looking to expand beyond their local market needs to think about how they would position their products in other countries or regions. Frequently, a single country can have multiple official languages, and you need to translate your content in all of them to serve the different communities living there.

When you need to handle several languages and scores of translators, things can easily get out of hand. Using language translation software can streamline the process by keeping all translation files centralized and helping you easily oversee the progress of your translation projects to ensure timely delivery.

Translation software fosters consistency

Translation projects are rarely done in isolation, and it’s likely that you’ll have several in-house and freelance translators (usually across different regions and time zones) writing and editing translations. Still, despite your utmost efforts to hire the best talent and give them clear instructions, it’s almost guaranteed that translators will use slightly different terminology to describe the same thing unless there is a system that keeps them in check.

Employing a translation program can remove this risk by giving translators the same translation memory and term base to work from. So, next time they come across a technical phrase or a term specific to your brand, you can rest assured that they’ll all be translated consistently.

Translation software increases productivity

Have you ever been typing up an email only to realize that you wrote something very similar only a few days ago? You probably wished the system prompted you to reuse the same text instead of typing it anew? Something very similar happens with translation projects where similar content reappears in contracts, website copies, or product descriptions.

Instead of having to translate it all over again—wasting time and risking inconsistency—a translation program can recall the existing translation of the same text, thus saving you time and money. Translators can review the existing translation and only spend time on edits and fine-tuning the content. They can use the rest of the time to work on other projects or translations, thus increasing their productivity.

Translation software provides flexibility

Do you have several translation projects that run slightly differently? Or do you use different file formats for different projects? A good translation software comes with standard and customizable workflows that you can tweak based on your needs and make sure all team members work off the same “playbook.”

Not to mention that cloud-based translation software tools are accessible from any device without the need to install licenses or to work from a single device. This allows your staff flexibility to work wherever and whenever they want without the risk of losing or misplacing files.

Translation software caters to quality

When uploading and sharing translation files, it’s very easy to encounter errors with formatting or the rendering of the design of the final translation. This can cause inconsistencies in the look and feel between the original and translated product, which, in turn, can undermine your brand reputation.

In this context, a translation program serves as a one-stop shop for all steps in the translation process. A file can be uploaded, translated, and downloaded from the same tool while keeping the format and design of the document intact.

Finally, your translation needs to leave the translation software to be either further worked on or published on your website. You’d ideally like to find a translation tool that offers out-of-the-box integrations or comes with a REST API that allows you to connect the tool to your CMS, design software, or any other tool you may have in your tech stack. This can save you time and help avoid formatting and conversion issues down the line.

Translation software is less costly

It might be counterintuitive to think that buying translation software can save you money, but it’s all to do with the scale of your operations. If you’re going to translate only a handful of documents in the existence of your business, then a translation program might not be necessary.

However, the likelihood is that you’ll have many applications, websites, manuals, and product descriptions to translate in one or several languages. Managing the logistics of such an enormous project can easily cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars if you don’t invest upfront in streamlining your translation operations.

Say, for example, you’ve launched a product update and you want your instruction manuals and user guides to reflect that. Instead of having to do the work all over again, a translation program can highlight which parts of the guides have been updated, telling the translator exactly what they need to work on. This single capability in itself can save you hundreds by removing the need to pay for the translation of the whole document.

Why is using translation management software online important for global business?

The world of business is filled with stories about companies with great potential that eventually failed due to their fear to adapt and change. Just take a look at Blockbuster in the US. From a video-rental store giant in the 2000s, they went out of business ten years later because they failed to listen to the changing consumer needs.

Timing is everything

Any business that aims towards global expansion faces fierce competition and needs to act fast to stay ahead. When you launch the product is just as important as where. If your go-to-market strategy suffers because of delays in your translation efforts, you can rest assured that a valuable market share will go to your competition.

In this scenario, an online translation management program will speed up the translation process and help you launch your products on time and in a language that resonates with your new market.

Customers expect brand consistency

Once your business has expanded into several countries, it’s essential to maintain your global brand identity that your customers recognize and love. This can be a true challenge for companies that have to keep consistency while continuously adjusting to local market trends and expectations.

A translation management software can help you not only with the translation but also the localization of your projects. Translators and localization experts can collaborate to make sure you avoid localization blunders that won’t sit well with your new customer base.

What is the best translation software?

Whichever translation software you decide to use, you need to make sure that the tool is secure and has all the necessary features to support fast and accurate translations.

The best translation software is cloud-based and reduces ownership cost

Gone are the days when you needed to buy a CD and install software on individual computers. Today, using cloud-based translation software is both more flexible and safer. Your team can log in from any device without worrying about using an old version of the software and start collaborating with others immediately. You can scale up or down the usage of the software depending on your needs, remaining fully in control of your translation costs.

The best translation platform enables higher revenue

Another key thing to look for are its automation capabilities. Running a translation project goes beyond the mere translation of text and involves things like setting up the project, assigning tasks and jobs to individual team members, sending out email notifications at different stages of the project, etc. All of these things can take up valuable time from you and your team if done manually, significantly increasing the cost of your translation project.

Instead, you can rely on a translation software tool to take care of all of these low-value, repetitive tasks leaving you and your team time to work on more strategic, high-value projects that generate more revenue for your business.

The best translation tool keeps your content safe and secure

You might be translating the content of a highly sensitive product launch or handling some personal data that can make you liable if leaked to the outside world. That’s why you should look for a tool that observes the latest data security protocols on the market. Looking for an ISO-certified tool that complies with ISO/IEC 27001 is a good benchmark as a guarantee that your data is safe. This safety applies not only to the translated text but also to any internal communication between the project team members.