Contributed by Ofer Tirosh, founder and CEO of Tomedes,
As entrepreneurs, we tend to be focused on our products, services and regional growth. We don’t often pay enough attention to the business potential of secondary, foreign markets. But the fact is that foreign markets may end up being a substantial or even majority source of growth and revenue.
An essential part of foreign growth is foreign languages. And the relative cost of translating and localizing content is far less than the cost of creating original content. Therefore it is logical, and imperative, that entrepreneurs think early, and often, about globalizing their products and services. Translate and adapt your valuable content into additional languages and set up multilingual marketing, sales and support infrastructure.
Best Practices for Going Global Cost-Effectively
As the founder of a translation company back in 2007, I am an entrepreneur. I freely admit that I underestimated the need for translation and its offshoot, localization, early on. My initial focus was on the low-hanging fruit of translating from Hebrew to English for the many startups in Israel. These organizations weren’t thinking of Spanish or French, let alone Arabic, Hindi and Chinese. They just wanted business translation of their marketing and technical documentation into the lingua franca of the business world. Since that time, however, my company and I have seen an explosion of interest in translation and localization services.
Globalization, Internationalization, Localization and Translation: Getting the Terms Straight
This initiative is part of a megatrend called globalization. Localization and globalization. You globalize by creating multiple local versions of your website, your software, your social media, your marketing and technical materials. A global website or app is one that lets visitors get your content in the language, formatting and standards to which they are most comfortable. It does not impose on them.
Internationalization is another term bandied about. It’s really an intermediate process of preparing software and websites to be localized, mostly by inserting variables in all places where numbers and words need to be adapted according to locale and language.
The terms translation and localization are sometimes used interchangeably, and it’s important to know the difference. Translation is a subset of localization. Localization includes not just converting the language but also number and date formats, measurement and currency units. It also takes into account cultural preferences and cultural no-nos.
Finding Help in Translation and Localization Services: Companies, Freelancers or Machines?
A localization company takes care of all these aspects of your localization project, usually in the context of website localization services and software localization services. Translation services are an important part of the package—but just one part of the whole.
Localizing your website is probably your priority. Naturally, if you are a company in France, you will want to translate French to English first. But startups should also think in the other direction. For example, there are 275 million French speakers, so a French translation could reach a population almost equal in size to the United States.
How do you go about getting a language translator? A webpage translator? It’s not rocket science to translate a web page. Website translators are offered as software packages as well, some of them free resources. These days, there are several ways to get your website and software globalized.
If you just translate a few languages, you can also find resources in freelance marketplaces like Upwork, Freelancer.com or Fiverr. The advantage with these is cost: You will be able to pick your translator or solicit bids for your project, then select from the bidders. You can compare ratings, rates and reviews, as well as view portfolios and resumes.
Typically, freelance translators cost from one-half to one-third of translation companies. Both typically charge by the number of words in the source document. Freelance translators in “cheap” regions like India or southeast Asia can be had for cents per word, whereas global agencies will start at US$0.10 or even US$0.20 and up for certain language pairs.
However, you’ll get what you pay for. Working with freelancers also requires significant time in management.
Working with a translation or localization company is less demanding: Most will provide a free quote upfront along with a timetable. These companies also offer a single point of contact for your projects, even if they span multiple languages. But you will pay a premium for that convenience.
The One-Stop-Shop Advantage of Working with a Localization Company
A translation company may suffice just for a website with a few languages and a few locations. If you are just going after a handful of target markets, then you could make do with translation, using templates or plug-ins (especially if you have a WordPress site) to manage language switches and format changes.
If you need more than a handful of languages and you plan to build out your website, go with a company that provides full localization services. This usually entails adding a substantial technical component to the translation process. Your localization strategy should include incorporating localization and/or translation management software. This is something that your localization agency can do, but if your own company develops software, then your development team may be able to go it alone.
Is Free Online Translation Software a Viable Option?
Among entrepreneurs comfortable with technology and especially software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, there’s a temptation to rely on translation algorithms such as Google Translate, DeepL or Microsoft Translator. There has been a dramatic improvement in translation quality of such services in recent years, but don’t be mislead. Machines still can’t match the quality of a skilled human linguist.
Machine translation may be useful for social media conversations and brief email correspondence. Just don’t rely on machines to do anything exposed to the public in a language that has not been reviewed by a human. The risk for error and embarrassment does not justify the cost savings.
Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a translation company and language service provider that offers translation in more than 100 languages and 1,000 language pairs for more than 50,000 business clients.