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  • Writer's pictureRick White - Director of Client Services

Why do Translation Companies Specialize?

Why it’s Important to Use a Translation Company That Specializes in Translating Your Type of Content

Translation covers a lot of territory, most of it much more complex than sending a block of text to a linguist and having a translation returned as another block of text. Virtually every translation we do requires an understanding of the intent and purpose of the translated content and has a requirement to be formatted for that purpose. On top of that, our linguists, who are native speakers and professional translators, are also subject matter experts in the type of translation they do. What does that mean and why should you care?

Language Intelligence has five defined translation specializations addressing five major markets for translation and localization:

This article covers what translation and localization specialization means and why it is critical to getting accurate, time-sensitive, and properly formatted translations, while also keeping budget in mind.

Specialized publishing and distribution requirements require specialized workflows

The market specializations above cover a very wide range of projects for businesses, government, not-for-profit, and more. These projects include multiple content types: "Documentation", for example, can be found in Manufacturing, Life Sciences, and Software. "eLearning and Training" is created across all of these specializations. Other aspects require experience with proprietary software formats and coding skills used in creating market research surveys, eLearning courses, and software user interface (UI) translation.

Single market specialization providers

Some specializations like game localization and feature film translation and voiceover/subtitling are so resource and knowledge-intensive that language service providers (LSPs) who solely specialize in those areas are often your best option. Conversely, they may not be your best option for translation projects outside of their specialty. An example in the feature film business might include using a film translation company for the subtitles and a more mainstream LSP for marketing materials for the film. Larger LSPs who do not have these capabilities often contract this work out to specialized providers who have in-house facilities for voice/over and subtitling talent and editing.

Subject matter and software tools expertise

In all of these situations, customers expect and require that their language service providers be proficient in their chosen working environments and whose linguists are subject matter experts in each of these distinct fields. The ability to support this range of project types requires extensive experience across a range of technology tools and a deep base of linguist (translator) expertise. This defines a full service, fully integrated translation company. Language Intelligence is a fully integrated translation company. Why is this important? Let’s quickly break down the major reasons for choosing a partner that understands the business and content you are creating and distributing.

A note: Machine Translation will change this, won’t it?

Machine Translation (MT), a la Google Translate, and many others, will change translation. In fact it already has, and we use it in our translation workflows. For some limited applications, where 100% accuracy is not needed, it can stand alone in a pinch. But, there is far more to doing translation and localization than a simple (and often inaccurate) word for word translation. Languages are all different in many ways including word length, syntax, gender of various verbs and nouns, etc., and it is very difficult for MT to accommodate these differences. For the most commonly translated languages, it learns faster and they improve but many other languages still require extensive human input and review. Add in the custom formatting we discuss in this article, and MT becomes an important but still peripheral part of the story.

eLearning and Training Translation: Industry-specific creation tools and file formats, video and audio

Elearning, training course development and in-person training all use very specific types of content and content tools for everything from proprietary course delivery platforms to slide decks, video and audio, and course workbooks and other materials. These various formats are designed for both in person and online learning and, as such, must be formatted for delivery on a variety of media from print handouts to online eLearning software platforms. And each one of these elements, when translated, must conform to these same requirements.

For example, audio tracks in videos must either be replaced with voice-over dubs in the target languages or captioned with subtitles. Often scripts must be rewritten to accommodate language who text is longer or shorter than the original language or to convey a message with different cultural nuances. In our case, these specialized tasks associated with translation are managed by our project managers.

Market Research Translation: Industry-specific survey software formats and comment translation

The market research work we do is largely surveys designed to get opinion, feedback, polling information, and other information from both individuals and companies globally. The deadlines are usually very short because the results can change constantly and many surveys are designed to provide a snapshot of a time and place. These surveys are designed with specialized software to handle various query types, response types and to guide the respondent through to follow-up questions based on their answers. In surveys with open-ended comment fields, respondents answer questions in text boxes and often these answers must be translated in addition to the actual survey content.

When the survey has been translated, responses are collated in the software for analysis by the market research firm. This makes it quite critical to maintain the translation in the context of the survey software format.

Life Sciences Translation: Highly regulated communications that vary from country to country

Imagine your company is selling a prescription product like contact lenses across a variety of countries, each with their own specific regulations for packaging, marketing, documentation, warnings, etc. Understanding these regulations across a range of countries requires native speaker subject matter expertise. When you get to complex machinery like medical devices, this is multiplied with installation and usage manuals, repair manuals, and other support materials. Translation of these critical functions also requires specialized knowledge and experience.

Manufacturing Translation: Technically complex, long form, content deliverable in a variety of formats

How do we get product information before, during, and after a purchase? It used to be relatively straightforward: Read the box, talk to a salesperson, read the manual. Today expectations are very different. Users want huge information sets at each step of ownership. Amazon pages, reviews, user manuals, both print and online, chatbots, Help Desk and Knowledge Base software, Customer Success Managers…the ways to access documentation and other product information mean that creating that content, and translating it must be managed with tools like a DITA CCMS. These databases enable simultaneous publishing to multiple formats and updating in real time from a central resource.

These systems generate XML files that contain a wealth of data about the content. It is important to retain this metadata (and update it) during translation. Fortunately modern translation technology integrates very well with these complex tools and XML files are our friends

Software Translation: UI expertise, coding and testing skills, Help Desk and Knowledge Base documentation

Software translation and localization involves a variety of disciplines including user interface design, modifying code strings, translating documentation like training materials and automated, self-serve customer support tools, and various marketing materials. We have a software development team internally at Language Intelligence that serve two primary functions: they develop and maintain our own software, intellireview and intelliportal, and the tools we use to manage our workflows.

They also work with our project management teams for software localization projects. It is essential to have developers in-house, even if certain aspects of a process are handled by outside resources (typically tech-savvy native speaking linguists in the target languages).

How do we manage these specializations?

It takes time to develop efficient processes for specializations like those covered here. After thirty years in business, serving clients all over the planet, we seen massive changes in the translation business. The biggest change is one that you see mentioned throughout this post: the increasing use of technology at every stage of the process. We’ve embraced these changes and they bring efficiencies, including cost and time savings, to our clients. This constantly evolves and our roadmap includes developing better connectors and APIs for specific content development applications. These give us the ability to move towards a more and more automated translation and review process. Content in, well translated and reviewed content, formatted and ready out.

Finally we have a rigorous Quality Management System that is ISO 9000:2015 certified. This helps us maintain high quality standards and troubleshoot situation to identify constant improvement opportunities.


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