Eight steps to successful localization
For every launched product or service, thousands of words are written, technical manuals, product guides, marketing materials, software help, websites, blogs, articles, health and safety warnings and more. Following a few steps to incorporate the localization early in the documentation process can save time, resources, and money. Here you find eight steps to successful localization that we consider the most important.
Many global brands and organizations embark on a journey of globalization with the intention of creating value, equity, and ultimately revenue. The content is developed in several stages throughout this journey. Starting sometimes by protecting intellectual property, registering an innovative patent in multiple locations, continuing with the creation of user manuals and marketing materials.
In a global organization, everyone is affected by content and localization. Whether you’re working in the areas of legal services, finance, engineering, technical writing, marketing, sales, customer service, human resources or product development, you’re dealing with content that needs to be written, designed and translated to reach varied audiences.
Translation of technical communication
When it comes to translating and locating technical content, there are specific priorities to follow. Translations of technical documents, or any other complex or regulated content, should be as precise, relevant and concise as the original content. Technical documents have high impact content that requires both linguistic and culturally accurate translations. Other information, such as user-generated content (UGC), has a minor impact: its translation may reflect the message or concept, but don’t need to remain linguistically accurate to the source.
Here are the eight best practices and techniques to ensure a successful localization of technical documents in today’s world:
Use consistent style and tone
Localized technical documents need not only to achieve a high level of quality and accuracy, but also maintain a consistent style and tone of voice across multiple languages, content types, file formats, and platforms. You should not treat each translation project separately, but consider it strategically as part of a whole. The style of technical manuals, marketing and training materials and their terminology should be consistent. This is possible through the use of tools such as translation memory (TM) and terminology management. They ensure the consistency of global brands across all branches and across markets.
Providing linguists and translators with specialized knowledge also ensure consistency. A consistent team dedicated to the localization of the company’s content generates multiple benefits: teams are familiar with the operation of a product and what it offers. They understand the buyer’s experience with the product and guarantee the delivery of what it offers in each location.
Bad content, poor translation
Poor, meaningless content will result in unwanted results, regardless of the target language or the quality of the translation. However, if the original content meets the required quality levels and the company’s goals, any translations or transcriptions made of it will meet the established standards. A common complaint from translation reviewers is that, due to mistakes and incorrect writing in the original content, a translation project may not generate a localized, high-quality version, even though it is “accurate”. The same applies to graphics, technical diagrams, audio, and video.
To avoid significant, costly and time-consuming changes during localization, keep content and graphics as neutral as possible. Each culture has a different value system: different beliefs and interpretations of non-verbal communication. Even when it comes to complex technical communication, culture still needs to be taken into consideration.
Help localization teams get to know the product
Many global organizations send teams of translators to training sessions so they can try the product or service. As the global business evolves, providing information to localization teams is crucial to building a brand commitment. Information about context also helps. When the illustrations or user interfaces of the software are translated, a linguist can provide a more accurate translation when he understands the context and localization where the content will be used. Investing in well-informed and permanent translation teams ensures a global technical content of high-quality.
Be open to transcreation
The translation of technical documents requires high quality and precision. However, the development of linguistically and culturally appropriate content may require some transcreation. That is, adjust the translation but keep key concepts, messages, and facts. Transcreated content and illustrations may not represent 100% of the original content in linguistic terms, however, they are better received by the user, which is the real purpose of the translation.
Prepare your graphics well
Technical manuals and documents contain many complex graphics that may require the insertion of translated text. To include original graphics in translated documents is important, but not always possible. Graphics such as flowcharts and diagrams may have been obtained from various sources. Over time, it is common for the original files to become untraceable. Graphics files may have been converted to formats that can’t be edited, such as JPG or TIFF. This can cause problems in the localization process.
Giving access to the text files of the original graphics will increase cost savings and reduce the time required for translation. For example, to localize a GIF or JPG file, the Photoshop source file (.psd) or the original Adobe Illustrator file is needed along with the style guides that were used to create the original graphic: color information, fonts, project specifications, and exported or saved settings. The more target languages the more problems with the graphics will come up.
Whenever possible, also provide a list of all graphics, along with their respective formats and information. Inform which graphics have or don’t have text to be translated and where the files are located.
Consider the expansion of the text
When you translate from English to another language, such as Portuguese, the translated text will take up more space. Most languages are about 15% larger than English. Languages such as Russian can be up to 40% larger than the English version. When the text of the graphic is translated, the expansion of the text may cause problems with the original layout of the graphic, see Figure 1.
Figure 1: English to French translations cause text expansion.
You can reduce problems by using numbered captions instead of including a copy in the original diagram, see Figure 2. This allows the text to expand.
Figure 2: Use numbered captions in diagrams to allow text expansion.
Consider using CAT tools
Graphics are usually located with the use of computer-aided translation (CAT) tools. There is software available that allows translators and DTP engineers to automate the extraction and insertion of text from graphics created in programs such as Illustrator or CorelDraw in RTF files.
If the text is adjacent to the graphics, try positioning it in order to leave a horizontal space for text expansion, ensuring that the text is inside a text box and that there is no text wrapping within the paragraph. When the TM tools analyze a text, it is usually divided into logical segments. Inserting a text break into a paragraph – for example, so that a long phrase description can fit into a narrow text box – can deny the benefits of using CAT tools or slow down the file preparation.
Consider multimedia content
As content volumes increase, content types tend to evolve. Multimedia content, especially in the video format, continues to lead communication. According to YouTube statistics, 3.25 billion hours of video are watched monthly on YouTube. Consumers around the world, using a variety of devices, spend hours watching multimedia content. Including those of technical information. Instruction and training videos are often used to pass complex data and information. The localization of multimedia content involves a wide range of formats: text, graphics, audio, video, digital, presentations, software, animation, dubbing, and subtitling. And information regarding the quality of the source, the context, the original files and the possibility of transcreation should also be provided.
As the amount of multimedia content of technical communication increases, the use of techniques such as text transcription of the original soundtrack (OST) on the screen and speech translation synthesizer (TTS: Text-to-speech) also increase.
For TTS solutions, scripts are loaded into a synthetic speech program and transformed into phonetic text. Technological advancements make TTS techniques a feasible option, making video a key communication tool for organizations and production areas.
Videos and product ads usually include images and illustrations of user instructions – user interface photos and textual examples that highlight features and product functionalities. OST is often more cost-effective and faster than dubbing. As is the case with most original content, base files are not always available, and techniques like OST and transcription can overcome this problem and provide powerful video content.
Technical communication requires high levels of quality and accuracy, both in the original content and in its translation. With the increase of the digitalization, the evolution of the types of content and the habits of consumption, new practices and techniques arose to be applied in the preparation and the translation of technical content. A strategic approach to localization enables the growth of global business and ensures that products and services are distributed safely around the world, generating profits and adding value to the globalization journey.