How to Reduce Translation Update Costs
The untrained eye often views localization as a one-time expenditure. In fact, it is a long-term commitment to processes, resources, and budgets. The initial localization endeavor is often the costliest one. We addressed reducing its costs in a previous article, Tech Pub Writers Contribute to Reduce Localization Costs. But localization updates can be in the neighborhood of 40% of the initial costs. This is also significant considering their recurring nature. Here are ten tips for reducing your localization update budget, year after year.
- Use the correct localization process to allow easy leverage and reuse of the previously translated and localized files.
- For instance, if you are localizing a software application, the ability to localize binary files or leverage dialog box coordinates may be essential to you. When localizing manuals, the ability to support native file formats is also critical. When localizing websites, the ability to handle databases and dynamic html is essential. Adopt the best localization process from the start, then enhance it as time goes on.
- Build a complete and accurate translation memory (TM) for each language pair, starting from the very first localization task. Your localization assets need to be reusable. Looking for previously translated files, paragraphs, or strings outside of a robust search engine/database environment (with a translation memory tool) is error-prone and costly. It is never too late to build the translation database. This is even when your don’t use translation memory tools in the initial localization. Do it as soon as you can.
- Spend the needed time to update your translation databases consistently and accurately with each product update. After you create the translation database, if you change the target files, make sure the changes find their way back to the corresponding translation memories. Doing this will accurately maintain them for the next release. It will also eliminate the need to re-apply the same changes after the next leverage from the TM.
- Implement a comprehensive translation memory strategy and have all involved in your localization tasks consistently adopt it. Do that up front and for all languages. It may take some work to establish the strategy, and more work to maintain and audit it for consistency. But the effort will pay off in the efficiency gained. You’ll be able to confidently reuse the translation data with each product update.
- Delegate the management of your translation memories to one vendor or expert to help maintain efficiency and accuracy. That vendor or person will establish an audit mechanism to check the work of all translators, editors, proofreaders, and localizers. Furthermore, it ensures that the proper process is followed.
- Archive and save the intermediate bilingual files to reuse in the future. With these files, you can then use Perfect Match (fully untouched paragraphs) to reduce future review costs.
Leveraging translations one sentence at a time requires translators’ intervention and manual checking. With the ability to automatically leverage translations one paragraph at a time, you’ll reduce costs during an update.
- When performing updates on your source files, keep changes down to essentials. For instance, minimize stylistic enhancements and unnecessary edits, as they reduce the frequency of leveraging previous translations. Also, keep terminology changes in check. Changes in terminology will require a full review of everything associated with the product. This includes the software, help, documentation, marketing collateral, website, and so on. It will maintain consistency throughout. So, be cautious of overzealous writers and reviewers. When you change the author or editor of your documents, make them aware of all localization cost ramifications of changes to the source text.
- Retain the file structure and file naming between releases to enable the use of Perfect Match and diff3 tools. By comparing old source to new, these tools can help identify where minor or no changes exist. Apply any changes directly to the previously translated files. You can then use a hybrid top-down/bottom-up localization process to reduce costs. (Refer to the article Localization Processes, for more on the hybrid top-down/bottom up approach.)
- Identify all files that remain intact from the previous release. These can be reused as-is, eliminating the leveraging, updating, desktop publishing, and QA work associated with each release. When you can reuse previously localized images, files, or documents, you reduce the overall update costs.
- Keep source file formats unchanged for as long as feasible. For instance, if you currently use Framemaker as your desktop publishing tool, do not switch to another unless the localization cost ramifications are financially justified.
Changing help systems can also increase your updating costs. As you move from WinHelp to HTML help to XML help, markup or formatting tags in your help files will change. This creates fuzzy matches between the new source and the old. This happens even when the text to translate has not changed. Translation memories maintain the internal tags specific to that tool. Switching to another will induce a fuzzy match due to the change in the internal tags format. A translator must check and correct these changes, adding to the costs. So, if you need to change your source files’ formats, do it during major updates to the product. And do it only when needed.
Note that these tips are recommendations you can use to help reduce your localization costs during updates. Don’t use them as shackles to inhibit your writers and editors. Rather, empower them to give your clients and end-users the documentation and support they need to use your products correctly and efficiently. Client focus should remain at the forefront of your activities, even as you keep an open eye on the potential impact on localization costs.
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