10 Things We’ve Learned in 40+ Years in the Technology and Software Translation Industry

Language Service Provider (LSP)

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Living in the digital age means the stakes are high when it comes to businesses expanding to worldwide markets. The technology and software must work seamlessly regardless of what language end users speak or where in the world they access the technology.

Unfortunately, many software translation and localization attempts are met with frustration. Once the software is built, text can be garbled, fonts may not be exact, encoding of some languages doesn’t look right, sentences are broken, and in general, the software does not work as designed.

During the past 40+ years of providing technology and software translation services, we have developed the tools to make this process work. Along the way, we’ve learned some vital lessons that we will continue to pass on to our clients and other industry experts. Let’s look at the following 10 lessons:

1. In the technology world, time-to-market is key.

One could argue that speed is of the essence in nearly every major industry. However, in the technology industry, speed can absolutely make or break a new product, service offering, or start up. Almost as soon as your team develops something new, the race is on to get to market ahead of the competition.

This situation is great for innovation and for keeping you on your game, but if you underestimate the time it takes to hit even one important milestone, you risk throwing off your entire launch calendar. That’s why you need a translation partner that gets the fast-paced world of technology and that has systems in place to ensure on-time delivery of your translation projects.

2. Plan ahead or get left behind.

For too many companies, software translation is an after-thought. A product is about to be released and all of a sudden someone raises a question in a meeting about translating the website and user manuals. Then the mad-rush is on to get these translation and localization projects done on time. 

We can often accommodate last-minute requests, within reason, but it always makes more sense to think and plan ahead. Ideally, localization scheduling and project scope determinations should take into account all translation, testing, and re-coding that must occur before producing a quality product. If you aren’t sure how much time you’ll need for software translation services, contact us and we can give you a good estimate. 

Are you wondering if DTS Language Services, Inc. can help with your technology, software, and website translation needs? Take a look at the below list of services we provide.

How We Can Help:

  • Website Translation
  • Online Help Content
  • User Manuals
  • GUI and Instructions
  • Marketing Content
  • Systems Engineering
  • Product Data Management
  • Legal Documentation
  • Software Testing (Agile Development)
  • Software Localization
  • User Interface
  • Product Catalogues
  • Labeling
  • Brand Management
  • Multimedia Content
  • Product Launch Briefings
  • App Store & Google Play Materials
  • E-learning
  • Environmental Compliance Content
  • Software Documentation
  • I18n Audits and Code Refactoring
  • Content Management Systems
  • User Manuals
  • And More

3. When in doubt, leave extra space.

Many website designers and content marketing specialists don’t realize that translated text can take up, on average, 30 percent more space than the English equivalent. Translators call this expansion. Because every language has its own grammar and syntax, it often takes more than one word to translate a single word of English into another language. 

For example, suppose you are in need of a software translation in Spanish. Just compare some of the following simple technology terms in Spanish and English:

English text: Computer virus

Spanish translation: Virus de computadora

English text: Computer screen.

Spanish translation: Pantalla de computadora. 

English text: Computer programer

Spanish translation: Programador de computadoras.

From a design perspective, expansion and contraction (which occurs most often translating from a different language into Englsih) factors can make a difference to the layout and appearance of a website or other marketing collateral. If your software engineers design an app or website where the English just barely fits, then you’re likely to run into problems at the translation stage. So, it’s a good idea to instruct your web developers and graphic designers to leave adequate white space.

4. Context matters a great deal in software translation.
The more notes you can provide your language professional about how you expect a piece of software or other technology to be used, the better. Knowing the context and use of certain pieces of text or strings of phrases will help your translators choose the right translation. Most translation tools allow translators to see the comments as they work.

5. Test, test, and test again!

In the software and technology industry, experts are no strangers to the importance of adequate testing. The same is even more true of any software translation and localization project. In most cases, your software localization project should be tested as rigorously as the original English version. Even if you believe your translation project is nearly finished, you need to take into account time for finding software bugs before launching to the public. Ideally, you will want a professional linguist or localization expert to do the testing.

6. Maintenance is an important concern for technology clients.

To be a technology provider is to be agile. Products constantly change and adding any updates or new features means the text in the product’s interfaces change as well. Therefore, translating a technology platform or piece of software is a continuous, ongoing maintenance project.

This is a challenge both from the standpoint of staying on budget and keeping the translation work consistent. However, when you invest in a professional translator with the right skills, the time and energy invested will pay off. An experienced professional can grow along with your software translation project over the long term.

7. Teamwork makes the dream work.

When it comes to agile markets like technology, a new product is only as good as the team that works to bring it to market. We recommend that you bring your translator in and think of her as part of the team. Make changes with your translator and in partnership with her so she can better understand the context and improve her process for the next project. Remember, the strength of the translation supply chain depends on how well everyone can collaborate to meet the team’s goals.
8. Consumer electronics translations is a cog in a complicated machine.
In one survey of global consumer buying behavior, 72 percent of consumers reported that they are more likely to buy products when the information is in their native language. This is especially true when it comes to buying electronics. Customers want user guides, manuals, and customer support to be in their own languages.

Beyond the language concerns affecting B2C markets, product manufacturing often takes place in a different country from where the product is designed. So, you may need to take language services into account with B2C markets as well. At DTS Language Services, Inc., we serve the whole lifecycle of technology products from design to manufacturing, from customer support to maintenance to repair.

9. Preserving your unique brand voice is a quality assurance issue.
When it comes to localization, not only do you want to preserve meaning and avoid any culturally sensitive faux pas, you also want the translated version to maintain your brand’s unique voice if at all possible. This idea goes back to helping your translation experts gain the context they need to infuse your translation with subtle nuances that can make all the difference when it comes to a brand’s voice.

Gaining this level of quality assurance is more of an art form than a strict science. Although it can take time to develop this level of expertise, our linguists strive to give you that level of quality each and every time. When you work in partnership with your language provider and project manager giving them the resources and reference materials they need, you will be amazed at the results.

10. We are more globally connected than ever before.

This one has a lot of consequences—both intentional and unintentional. You’ve probably heard of the “butterfly effect” where the slight breeze caused by a butterfly flapping its wings can be felt all around the world. The idea here is that we are so interconnected that any global event potentially affects events in our local community. For example, political unrest in one region of the world could affect the cost of consumer electronics in another. With advancements in technology this is perhaps more of a concern than ever before in human history.

What does this mean for the technology and software industries? Well, more and more you are expected to provide products that are both global and local at the same time. Rather than being impressed that your company can speak to the masses, your customers want to know, “yes, but how do you speak to me?” The challenge is showing that you can understand local wants and needs. Working with the right translation agency is only the first step in that direction, but it is a big one.

When you’ve been in the software translation game for as long as we have, many of the above lessons become second-nature. Still, it’s always a smart business move to take stock of the institutional knowledge that exists within a company. We look forward to serving translation clients for the next 40+ years!

See our other articles for more lessons we’ve learned in our decades spent serving global clients:

Have a technology and software translation project in need of some TLC? Contact us today to talk about your needs and get a quote.