It is not uncommon for larger companies to be translating a lot of content, across various business divisions and for a variety of end users. That also means that they have a lot of different stakeholders for translation spread out all over the world. Often, this equates to a disorganized and decentralized translation process for the company as a whole. Does this sound familiar? Let’s talk about why you should consider centralizing with one translation and localization partner. The two main reasons are saving on cost and improving quality and consistency.

Are you supporting multiple translation memories across multiple vendors? That can mean a lot of unnecessary translation

If you’re not already familiar with what translation memory is and how it can reduce the cost of translation, you can read up on the basics here. Here is a basic definition:

“At its core, translation memory, or TM for short, is simply a database of source sentences and their corresponding translations. When a translator starts on a new sentence, the TM is searched to determine if that sentence has been previously translated. If a match is found, it is presented to the translator so that it can be ‘dropped-in’ to the document, thus preventing re-translation of the sentence from scratch.”

By eliminating the need for re-translation from scratch, most translation vendors will offer discounts based on these repetitive sections of text. Each time you translate with that vendor, the translations from your new project are added to the translation memory database. That can add up to a lot of future savings! However, if you’re working with six different vendors, it means that there are six different translation memory databases. Therefore you’re only getting the cost benefit from the database held by the one vendor working on a given project. Each time a new project is translated, you’re missing out on the benefit of all of the segments in those other databases. Later in this article you’ll learn how to get all of the benefits from each and every translation memory database.

Companies have personalities: Centralize for quality and ‘voice’

Chances are, you’re aware of the importance of consistency in tone, style and terms across your English content. That same consistency is also hugely important for translated content, and is usually a good measure of translation quality. So it makes sense that you would want your translation vendor to have as much information as possible about your terminology*.  If you’re serious about quality and consistency, you might have term bases, glossaries, and/or style guides for translation. But quite often, the translation vendor is responsible for maintaining these. If your process is decentralized, it’s possible that one or two vendors are maintaining and developing these resources, but you may have three or four other vendors without access to these important guidelines. By centralizing to a single translation vendor, you can make some great strides toward greater quality and consistency across your translated content. Any resources (glossaries, style guides, etc.) will be centralized, so it’s clear to your translators exactly what the approved translations are for any key terms. There’s also a good chance that your single vendor will continue to use the same translator for all similar projects from your company, so they will be intimately familiar with your content and requirements. As you can imagine, this can do wonders for the consistency of your translated content.

* Read more about translation terminology management.

A Roadmap: 4 steps to centralizing your translation and localization process

There is an organizational roadmap to realizing the cost savings and gains inefficiency and quality that centralizing our translation projects offers. These four basic steps will help get you on the road to a centralized translation process:

1. Identify an owner

The first step toward centralization is to designate someone to “own” the process. In some organizations, this person is a manager within marketing communications or technical publications. Other organizations have a translation process robust enough to necessitate a “Director of Localization” or a similar, specialized position. The person you choose to manage the process in your own organization will depend on your company’s needs. However, keep in mind that this person should be at least somewhat familiar with the process of translation.

2. Choose your partner(s) and consolidate existing translation resources

It’s likely that your decentralized process has involved several different translation vendors. In order to move toward centralization, you’re going to need to narrow it down to one or two. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this. If your organization requires something more formal, you could implement a complex request for information (RFI) process. To keep it simple, your designated “owner” can speak with various stakeholders in your organization, find out about their experiences with various vendors, and then make a judgment call. You may be wondering what happens to the resources held by the vendors that you’re moving away from, such as your translation memory database, glossaries, or termbases. The good news is that if your various vendors have been maintaining those for you, you can request them to send you these files. These resources are your intellectual property and you can now reap their benefits with your chosen, centralized translation partner.

In situations where you have specialized translation types such as eLearning or market research translation, your partner should have demonstrated expertise in both, with linguists who are subject matter experts. If you are unable to find a vendor who can handle all the content types you translate, narrow your search to only fully integrated language service providers.

3. Work with your partner to establish best practices

The key to an effective, centralized process is for everyone in your organization to understand the strategy. Anyone who uses translation for their work should understand the steps they need to take to complete a project while taking full advantage of all available resources. Many organizations will establish a “go-to” place where this information can be accessed by all employees. If you’re unsure of how to begin to establish these guidelines, your chosen partner should be able to offer some suggestions.

4. Evaluate and adjust

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your ideal translation process isn’t going to happen overnight either. The phrase that we often use in the translation industry (based on ISO guidelines) is “continuous improvement,” and continuous improvement doesn’t stop with your translation vendor. You should regularly evaluate how your centralized process is working and make plans to improve where you can. Be sure to set guidelines in the beginning as to how often the process will need to be evaluated and what the criteria for evaluation will be. By following these four steps, you will be well on your way to a centralized translation process. Enjoy your cost savings and increased quality and consistency – they’ll only get better and better over time!


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