How to create Content for Multilingual Software

Although much of the world speaks English, many companies are realizing that they will have much better results if they speak to their potential customers in their native language.

So how can you create multilingual content that will move seamlessly from one culture to the next?

 

Here is a list of 9 things that you can do to make sure that your content looks as good in another language as it does in your native tongue:

 

  1. In the roots – Start putting multilingual content right from the point of inception. If you have a plan to put together a website that might be able to be used in other countries or you’re selling a product that will have a global appeal, you need to start including content that’s in other languages right from the start. If you’re just a little startup, this might be tough, but there is an easy solution….
  2. Hiring multilinguals – Make it part of your hiring process that you find people whose native tongue is one of the destination languages that you’re targeting. A software engineer might not be the person to translate your work, but if you hand her a translation, it’s guaranteed she can tell you what’s wrong with it. Having people on your team that come from the places that you want your product to go will be a significant help. This doesn’t mean that you have to have them in your offices. You can hire virtual assistants and freelancers to help you.
  3. Editing for change – Did you ever play that game “Telephone” as a kid? Someone makes something up and it gets passed via whispers around the classroom. The result usually has nothing to do with the original. That’s what happens to mistakes in your original content. No matter how small a mistake is, it will be reflected in the translations. Edit your content several times before you send it to the translator.  This way, your work will be perfect in two languages and you aren’t paying a translator to fix a mistake that was avoidable.
  4. Finding the right languages – It’s tempting to just translate your work into the big languages, but that might not be your niche. There are 1500 to 2000 languages in Africa and 122 languages in India alone. This means that you can easily corner a market by finding the right language to present your work in. For example, what if you translate your work into Tsonga? There are 13 million native speakers in South Africa. Or try Odia in India with 33 million native speakers. Most of these people speak English or Hindi or Afrikaans (depending on where they are), but what a compliment to be addressed in their native language. Guess who they will be loyal to?
  5. Keeping your translators in the loop – Put notes onto everything you’re sending out for translation that explains what you mean to say. As many of us know, there is often a great difference between what we mean to say and what we really say. This misunderstanding is compounded once it reaches a new language. If you are using a noun as a verb, like Google, make sure that that’s understood by the translator.
  6. Translation memory system – Most professional translation services maintain a translation memory system that allows them to reuse approved translations. This saves a lot of time and money. Once you have a file full of approved translations, your translator can insert those and focus on the new text.
  7. The Right Tools – Making sure that the right team is in place for everything you do is important. Also, ensuring that they have the right tools will make the job easier. A centralized and systematic file system will help. The right structure of file names and versions will go a long way to making the work faster and more complete.
  8. Testing, testing – Test your software, website, or content over and over again during the creation process. If you have people monitoring each step of the way, you won’t have a massive and painful editing process at the end. Every project, no matter how small, needs a project manager. This is someone who is proficient in both languages and can oversee the project with a bit of distance from the translation itself.
  9. The right editor – “Are you lactating?” When the US’s Got Milk campaign went to Mexico that’s the question it boldly asked all Mexicans, male and female, children and the elderly. What’s missing from the translation process of “Got Milk” to “Are you Lactating?” An editor. It might seem like a radical idea, but if your company is spending $10 million dollars to open a new market, make sure it’s done well. Hire a second company to verify the translations. The expanse is likely pretty small, but needing to spend another  $10 million rebranding yourself and stopping the laughter will be worth.

 

These are the fundamentals of creating multilingual content. In reality, it can be summed up with, “Start early. Touch it often. Test it over and over. Reverify.”

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