4 Questions you must ask before acquiring content localization services

A key advertising truth is that a product is only as good as its message. That is also true when translating that message into a new language. But translation is more than just substituting a word in one language for the equivalent in another. Tailoring an effective translation that truly delivers its message to its intended audience requires skilled language localization.

Language localization, or simply, “localization,” is the adaptation and modification of content to match the language of a specific market. It is a specialized form of writing that goes beyond preserving the meaning of the original message and seeks to seamlessly integrate into the local landscape. 

But who is best suited to handle this process? In a world of over 6,500 languages, language localization should be left to experts.  Typically, specialized work like this is given to translation agencies. Besides language mastery, translation agencies have cultural awareness, technological investment, and qualified staff dedicated to these kinds of tasks. 

So, how do you determine the right one for you? Asking these four critical questions will help in choosing the best translation agency for your localization needs.

1. Does the agency demonstrate cultural competency? 

A common marketing mistake that businesses entering a new country make is not understanding their audience’s culture. While a qualified translation agency can provide translation, it is also important that the agency demonstrates cultural competency.  Cultural competency is sensitivity and consideration of the cultural and dialectical differences that exist in every nation. This is a critical issue for a company’s success, as up to 78% of online shoppers reported preferring shopping on websites featuring localized language.

For example, it would make sense to run German language advertisements in Germany. But how would an agency modify their translation when marketing to neighboring Austria, or German-speaking populations with differing cultural characteristics, like Belgium and Switzerland?

Dialectical differences can occur even in a single country. Japan’s population overwhelmingly speaks Japanese, which would suggest that a single Japanese translation would be suitable. But does the translation agency account for the sixteen distinct Japanese dialects that exist, from the melodic Osaka-Ben of the Kansai region to the tonal Satsuma dialect? 

A translation agency’s cultural competency extends beyond technical prowess and assures potential clients that the localizing process will be free of cultural obstacles and blunders.

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2. What are the agency’s translators’ qualifications?

Imagine giving someone a job because they, “Felt confident that they could handle it,” based solely on, “living around people who spoke the language.” Most people look for the opposite in a translator – a combination of educational certification and successful work experience. Many people, though, are unaware that no certification is needed to be employed as a translator or interpreter in a translation agency!

Most translators have either had academic certification from an institution or immersed themselves in a language by living abroad for an extended time. While both are ways to learn, this variability can mean inconsistent translation and content localization. Finding out an agency’s qualification standards for employees and freelancers is crucial to ensuring that they have the right personnel to take on language localization. 

Do they require a four-year degree? Certification from accredited groups like the American Translators Association? Ascertaining the skill level of the people whom you are entrusting with your translation needs assures you that you are working with trained professionals instead of enthusiastic amateurs. 

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3. How much do they rely on software vs. human translators?

Translation and content localization take time and money. To reduce these tolls, many agencies have turned to advancements in computer technology to shorten turnaround times. Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) software can translate between 1,500-6,000 words a day – three times faster than traditional translation. For simple-but-accurate translations, they are a speedy and cost-effective choice.

However, languages contain too many subtleties and constantly evolve too many new words and meanings for CAT software to perfectly encapsulate and convey in localized messages. Software that relies on humans to constantly update its term base of words will therefore always be playing catch-up. That is especially true for slang, idioms, and playful expressions that make content localization such an important part of communication. Having that human touch requires actual humans involved in the process.

The best translation agencies couple intelligent CAT software with human translators to ensure accurate translation, consistent diction, and active quality control. While smaller agencies and individuals often rely on one or the other for translation, the best agencies offer a ratio that is scaled and adapted to your needs.

4. Are their ethos and reputation in line with your company’s goals and vision?

Courtesy, professionalism, and responsiveness are valued in any business. That goes for translation agencies, too. In an increasingly integrated world, creating a localized footprint in a new market is not a temporary deal; hopefully, it’s the start of a long and prosperous relationship. Similarly, the agency entrusted with facilitating that should be one you can foresee an equally harmonious partnership with.

A healthy respect for your company and its confidentiality is just as important in determining a suitable translation agency as price and turn-around time are. Sensitive documents and data should only be entrusted to those who can keep them safe. A reputable translation agency will also bear in mind the importance of an NDA to guarantee discretion and mitigate risk. 

The right agency will also be able to determine if they are a compatible fit for you.  Do they have a successful history of similar projects? Can their services and operations fit and scale to your timeframe and verticals? Will they be responsive throughout the entirety of the project?
Finding the right translation agency for your localization needs can seem like an overwhelming process. Asking the right questions can help to cut through all the options and home in on the best candidates. Integrity, the right technology, and qualified and culturally competent translators will make all the difference in your localization success.

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