While innovation tends to dominate the headlines, our experience tells us it’s the ugly stuff that greatly impacts a localization system. Here, we make a case for a consistent and disciplined approach to content production, a case for maintenance.
Let’s look at Singapore, for instance. Singapore’s clean, organized, and ‘new’ feel – in a population of 5.61 million people over 277 square miles (source: SingStat) – didn’t come about naturally. It comes from its government’s heavy investment in maintenance.
Similarly, we advocate for an investment in maintenance, as opposed to solely relying on innovation to solve problems. Maintenance focuses on enhancing what content you already have, which will help prevent issues from occurring in the first place. In fact, we’ve put together some recommendations to help you better maintain content creation and localization processes.
TOOLS & TIPS
In order to build and maintain an efficient, cost-effective localization strategy, you need good tools.
A translation memory, or TM, is a translation database that automatically stores text as translation units in source and target language pairs. These segments can include sentences, paragraphs, headings, titles or elements in a list and will be re-used during the next piece of relevant translation work. This means the same sentence is never translated (or paid for fully) more than once.
TMs are widely used to boost terminological consistency, reduce costs and speed up the translation process. However, their usefulness is depends on how well they are maintained. Here are some tips for good TM upkeep.
- TM structure – We separate approved and unapproved segments in our TM library. This distinction informs linguists to apply approved segments and gives them the freedom to adapt unapproved segments based on context or intuition. It also allows us to quickly amend and apply any changes to unapproved segments based on client feedback at any point in the future.
- Regular updates – Update the TM at the end of every project to ensure it is as up-to-date and effective as possible.
Local reviewers should provide feedback that guides updates, so that content can be changed as needed, or left unapproved. In the long term, this feedback helps avoid problems caused by outdated and/or incorrect terminology.
Receiving feedback can be challenging when there are multiple stakeholders with differing opinions about terminology. The simple solution is to assign a single contact to approve all terminology.
We are fervent believers in checklists and following guides based on the project scope. This will help you keep track of the context of all unapproved segments that could, otherwise, be easily forgotten.
Write for Localization
Try to minimize content volume and changes to the source copy. This encourages writing in precise terminology, plain language and active voice in order to be as concise and clear as possible.
Building a Glossary
Build a glossary based on approved copy, if you don’t already have one. A glossary is a database that contains selected terms specific to your company, brand or industry. A multilingual glossary contains the master language along with an approved translation or localization of the terms, enabling your translators to consistently use the approved target language terminology when creating or localizing global content. When building multilingual glossaries, using the same source text is preferred.
A Winning Combination
Because a TM captures segments, not specific words/terms, a glossary is essential for you to spot, correct and enforce brand-specific terminology. Therefore, having a translation memory AND a glossary is one of the wisest investments an international company can make for its marketing and communication efforts.
While software helps reduce inefficiencies and provides consistent, on-message global content, it cannot provide the strategy, skill and success that comes with cultivating a maintenance mindset in your people.
Although our content team shoulders most of the responsibility for maintenance, we strongly encourage our clients to also have this maintenance mindset. Organizing the review process (and providing regular, gathered feedback) may take time upfront, but is an essential first step to building healthy maintenance.
To sum up, here are the key things to bear in mind for your next localization project:
- Set up a TM
- Update the TM at the end of every project based on feedback from the local reviewer
- Assign a single point of contact to organize the copy review process and collectcc feedback
- Create a review checklist
- Build a glossary for brand-critical terms
- Keep source content consistent and create copy with localization in mind
Investing in maintenance will ultimately lead to lower costs, greater brand consistency and better quality translations. Rather than always focusing on speed and automation, make sure to think about what content already exists and how to better maintain it. Because a little maintenance goes a long way.