Whether you’re looking to get your short excerpt or an entire user manual translated, you’ll need a standardized translation process to get it done. A simple spreadsheet or Word document might be a good starting point. If you’ve got a large volume of work, such as an enterprise-level website, then a more complex translation management system (TMS) might be needed. Regardless of the type, every translation stakeholder must be trained on your translation process.

Below details low and high-tech translations, as well as considerations when using them.

Low-Tech Translations

The simplest translation process is through a spreadsheet or Word document. For a user manual, that means each paragraph or page is copied into a cell. An adjacent cell on that same document would contain the translations for another language. The finalized translations are then copied into the marketing collateral. From start to finish, this spreadsheet or Word document becomes your single source of truth.

While spreadsheets are as simple as it gets, they are quite prone to human error. Translators can and often do make errors when inputting translations into the spreadsheet. Proofreaders correcting errors from the translators add a typo without even knowing it. Your designer could copy the wrong cell into the marketing collateral. These errors get compounded and eventually, you’ll have some bad-looking translations. A common sense technique for preventing this is to proofread over and over again. And you’re done, proofread it one last time!

High-Tech Translations

Many of the existing platforms out there, such as Lokalise and Transifex, provide an all-in-one translation experience. They have user management functionalities, allowing your team to assign translators and proofreaders to the language of choice, and to set the right permissions for each user. For instance, translators can only input translations while proofreaders can only input translation corrections. TMSs also provide versioning, which protects translations from being incorrectly overwritten. Because translation teams are inputting translations directly onto the platform, they’ll eliminate errors associated with copying and pasting content, which streamlines your whole translation process. As a result, TMSs will get your content out faster than any other method, allowing you to communicate with your end customers quickly.

TMS platforms definitely simplify the paperwork around translation processes. However, they can be complex and costly to implement. Keep in mind that there’s an initial investment and an ongoing monthly subscription fee with TMSs. You’ll also need to consider the costs related to training your staff, sourcing translators who are familiar with your chosen technology, and even core integrations with your business!

So why use the high-tech route? It’s all about scale. If you’re translating a large volume across multiple markets frequently, the cost savings from TMS far outweigh the investment. There’s less administration work and you’ll recognize bulk discounts from your translation provider. Connect with a translation partner, like Uplancer to understand whether a TMS is even needed for your translation process.

A Happy Medium for Translations

Is there somewhere in between that could work for you? Absolutely. You don’t need to dedicate a bunch of resources to a top-tier TMS. You also don’t need to manage everything through spreadsheets or Word documents. There are free TMS platforms out there. However, keep in mind that these free platforms are limited in functionality and may feel archaic at times. They usually are a mix of a platform and a spreadsheet and can take a lot of time for onboarding stakeholders.

The Bottom Line / TLDR

One size does not fit all. Choosing a low-tech option of spreadsheets and Word documents is great for low-volume work that’s ad hoc. On the other hand, high-tech options are great for fulfilling high-volume and consistent translation work. Unsure of whether you can get away with just low tech? Reach out to Uplancer for a free consultation!

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