translation services

Translation services: 6 tips for effective collaboration

Great translation can fuel your business growth. It’s the master key that unlocks your ability to promote your product, provide customer service, or make your app more accessible to a limitless number of people. 

But when done poorly, translation can delay international launches, introduce expensive defects, and increase the risk of confusing, misinforming, or outright offending your customers.

So how do you ensure that translation creates connection instead of confusion? The first thing you’ll need is translation services. Here, we’ll show you how to collaborate better with translation agencies to successfully create your brand’s content in a new language.

Note: This post does not cover finding and evaluating translation agencies to work with. If you want a framework for vendor selection and a list of reliable companies, take a look at this post.

What are translation services and why do you need them? 

Language service providers (LSPs), aka translation agencies, offer varying degrees of translation, localization, transcreation, copywriting, audiovisual services, and consulting solutions. 

It wasn’t that long ago that the only businesses that needed translation services were global companies. Multinationals like Microsoft had enough of a presence in different regions to justify the need for multilingual content. But that’s no longer the case.

Rapid tech development and accelerated globalization have created a huge need for translation in companies both big and small. They need to adapt to new markets faster and find a way to efficiently translate their products and services for customers who live in different countries and speak different languages. 

Machine translation doesn’t cut it for the majority of content, which is why translation services are in such high demand

What are translation services used for?

Translation services are used to translate a plethora of content types for people writing for marketing, sales, support, and product purposes. Many customer experiences require adaptation for users who speak other languages or live in other countries.

Examples include software products, web apps or mobile apps, games, marketing assets, customer service, and more.

Companies serious about international growth need more than translation, they need ‘localization.’ Here’s the fundamental distinction:

With translation, you’re adapting a message. With localization, you’re adapting an experience.

Note: For a comprehensive overview of the differences between translation and localization, take a look at this post.

The translation services you’ll need will depend on your product and the level of adaptation you require, but let’s take a look at the three core services.

The three core services to look for:

Professional translation: This should be provided by native language specialists who you actually know and with whom you can communicate on a regular basis.

Transcreation: Unlike translation, where the source words are translated into different languages, transcreation focuses more on the underlying idea of your message. You end up with a piece of content that is, effectively, written in the desired language based on a creative brief, similar to how you create a piece of content in your native language.

Machine translation with post-editing: Post-editing is a mix of human and AI translation. A text is first run through a machine for the initial translation, and then it’s edited by a human to make sure that everything is accurate within the context of your experience. This process allows you to create high-quality translations quickly and at a lower total cost.

Is the process flawless?

We often ask companies: “What is your biggest translation-based challenge?”

Some common challenges often crop up, such as:

  • Structuring communication with external teams
  • Ensuring speed of delivery while maintaining a consistent multilingual experience 
  • Managing the time-cost-quality triple constraint

Spend some time talking to companies that hire translation service providers, and you’ll quickly see the source of these problems.

Many companies see translation as something that just “has to be done.” As a result, translation is often treated as an afterthought. It’s rarely centralized and seen as a strategic investment.

So even though translation should be a core component of any international expansion strategy, its implementation often suffers from outdated technology and a lack of consistent systems and processes. William Spalding, Localization Senior Project Manager at Spotify, perfectly sums up how these problems cascade:

“The buyer lacks understanding, oversight and control of their quality while the seller struggles to meet quality expectations because the buyer is too hands-off, and the linguists don’t have the support or feedback they need.”

The result is a deep disconnect between the translation provider and the buyer’s business objectives

How our relationship with translation services is evolving

The gap between translation vendors and buyers is a decades-long problem with a new solution. Translation and Innovation Consultant, Anouk Perquin, shares her thoughts on the present translation landscape:

“Our current ecosystem reinforces translation to be treated as separate from content creation, leading to a lack of innovation in the translation industry. It is still slowing down the time to market, leads to numerous quality issues, and is too expensive to guarantee a proper ROI.”

Martina Russo from Moving Words agrees that the status quo isn’t cut out to handle the specific needs of modern, global companies

She shares what the main problem is and how businesses and Language service providers can better approach localization

“Traditional LSPs that send files back and forth while preventing communication between all parties are not suitable for evolving business needs in 2021. Businesses and LSPs should work together and aim toward seamless localization by eliminating manual tasks, automating processes, and fostering a collaborative environment between all parties,” says Martina.

So, how do we improve communication and fine-tune processes to allow for successful collaboration? The short answer: technology. And more specifically, utilizing it the right way.

The chart below distinguishes between the current ecosystem and the new way of working.

The present-day versus the new way

The present-dayThe new way
Translation treated as an afterthoughtInvolvement of LSP from early stages
Unknown translatorsConnection between the team on the client side & translators
Disconnect between translator and user of content/product/clientFull visibility & context for translator + direct access
Different agencies by content typeDifferent workflows by content type
Siloed teams & processesCollaborative workflows between all parties
Translations offlineTranslations in cloud
Communication by emailCommunication by Slack or built-in chat via translation management system (TMS) 

How to collaborate better

Here are six key things that any modern, tech-driven business wanting to truly maximize its global growth can do to collaborate effectively with LSPs. 

1. Take ownership

While an LSP will steer part of your translation efforts, building a global customer experience requires company-wide commitment. 

Even if your company is a smaller organization, translation needs to have a seat at the table for it to be approached strategically. The key is to centralize translation to ensure that as your organization grows, it can happen at scale, and as efficiently as possible.

So, how do you do that? You need two things:

a) A comprehensive plan that gets everyone on the same page

b) A proper home for translation within your organization 

2. Encourage a partnership mindset

Just like your TMS vendor, your language service provider should be a true partner that helps you along your localization journey. 

To establish a solid partnership with an LSP, you have to detail your expectations upfront. Involve them early on in the process and clarify that you’d like to see proactivity, innovation, and regular communication via clearly defined channels. 

With an open dialogue, translators can ask the questions they need to understand your business, customers, and solution. This will help them feel more connected to the project and enable them to create content that resonates with your end user. 

3. Align your business objectives

The two pillars of a long-term partnership are transparency and alignment. To put you on the path to achieving these, ask yourself three questions: 

  1. Can you clearly define what you  consider “good” quality?
  2. Are you willing to consider the LSP as an extension of your internal team?
  3. How are you and your partner going to deal with the cost-time-quality triple constraint? 

Make sure to define your tolerance for mistakes and ask as many questions as you feel is necessary to assess the LSP as an external partner. Watch out for any red flags such as vague answers or unclear information about how responsibilities and ownership are distributed.

4. Use technology that enables collaborative workflows 

Adopting TMS technology that allows for centralized collaboration between your in-house stakeholders and an outsourced linguistic team ensures everyone is working from the same set of information and stays focused on the same priorities. 

The Lokalise-LSP integration is how Withings continuously releases localized products in 11 languages and how Notion centralized their codebase, marketing materials, and help documents to quickly translate 251,000 words.

Romain Dahan, Project Manager at Withings, shares that with their new workflow over 50 people – including designers, developers, product people, linguists, and marketing teams can now collaborate with context and overall coherence. 

The result? 

“We have improved the quality of the localized UI, ensured higher quality translations, and consistency of the overall product experience,” says Romain. 

If you aren’t using a translation management system, ensure you work with an LSP that can recommend the right tools to you or that uses tools internally.

5. Automate processes

Eliminate any work for which cost exceeds value. Here are some examples of opportunities to reduce manual work with a TMS:

a) Translators using different files to consult for visual context or to email questions trying to identify what text element refers to what screen and keeping track of all incoming answers

b) Copywriters, technical writers, and content teams struggling with updates/version control when the translation process has started by using a spreadsheet with little visual context or storing different file versions locally

c) Project managers crunching numbers and manually putting together reports in spreadsheets, using different disconnected environments to communicate translation project related questions with teammates

To automate and streamline workflows, an LSP should be capable of working with your existing tech ecosystem and tailoring solutions based on your needs instead of taking a generic approach.

6. Work with flexible LSPs

Vendors adapt to fit the needs of their clients. That means your LSP partner should be flexible and willing to adjust the way they work to deliver localized products with accuracy and speed. 

The LSP should be able to advise on a TMS that seamlessly integrates with your current tech stack, or work in the TMS you already have.

For example, Revolut has partnered with RWS to perform translations. “When we started to work with RWS, they already had their own internal workflow,” says Edward Cooper, Head of Crypto at Revolut.

“Lokalise was flexible enough to allow them to simply plug their workflow into it, and we were able to plug our workflow into Lokalise and organize the translation processes really well, not only with internal Revolut people but an external company as well.”

The bottom line? Work with LSPs that offer flexible workflows. 

Actively collaborate with translation services to grow in new languages

Both your business and translation agencies have the same goal: to create delightful, multilingual customer experiences. 

Effective collaboration starts with taking a more hands-on approach and planning for translation-friendly systems from day one. While building new processes is hard in the short term, and your team might be reluctant to change, the results can be game-changing in the long run for you, your team, your customers, and your business.

Further reading:

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