Best practices to multilingual localization at MessageBird

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Melanie Bueno

Localization is an essential process for expanding a business into new markets and tailoring products and services to customers with various linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

Although growing your business into global markets can be frightening, considering that 75 percent of consumers would rather purchase products in their native language, the possibilities for growth are enormous.

Modern customers require personalization to the highest grade, and localization is a fundamental part of that process. While there are no fixed rules or specific global standards that drive localization, we use some practices to avoid the most frequent localization challenges and guarantee a hassle-free process. 

A trouble-free process is essential, especially when localizing at scale. In 2019, we successfully translated 90.500 words into 4 different languages and worked to expand to 6 languages in 2020.

Here are five best practices that ensure an effective localization process in a fast-paced environment like MessageBird:

Planning ahead, engaging early

There is a lot to consider when it comes to localization: legal, linguistic, engineering, timeline, budget, and commercial requirements are just a few of the factors we examine when we localize copy. 

However, localization isn’t always top of mind for all of those teams. Many people consider it a simple “translation,” and in so doing, they fail to recognize how broad the scope can be. We’ve worked to develop a workflow that puts localization in mind at the earliest stages of all product development cycles. When new products UI’s are getting built or new landing pages are being created, our localization team is brought in early to ensure we, instead of seeing it as a separate task, are critical to delivering a successful localization project.

Deploy a translation management system 

To simplify software development and manage your interfaces’ localized content smoothly, you need a reliable localization platform, most commonly called a TMS or translation management system. With a TMS, developers can easily add translated copy to localized pages. Our localization team starts with English language pages, requests translations from our vendors, and reviews those pages for quality in our TMS enabling developers to rapidly deploy localized pages when they’re ready.

A TMS system also allows you to store, revise and modify all your translations, keep a translation memory of your preferred translated terms, and search for localized content on your translation database to maintain consistency across each language.

Don’t just translate, localize

We like to study a region ahead of localizing content for it. This helps us determine the best ways to present our products, being mindful of cultural differences and local needs. Your globalization process can determine how you can thoroughly present your localized products and support new customers to guarantee a robust go-to-market strategy. Along with examining whether your products and services would be successful in a specific region, it is essential to exhaustively plan for every aspect.

One of those aspects that we keep in mind is the level of formality. In French, for example, we translate the formal pronoun “you” as “vous” instead of “tu,” since it is commonly used in business settings. For many languages, like Spanish, adjectives are changed by the gender and number of the noun, but English adjectives never change. Sentences are also capitalized and punctuated differently depending on the language, and Romance languages are about 20-30% longer than their original English text, which can be a design constraint.


Build a localization kit

Whether you are working on new content for your website, launching a product, or helping with the latest marketing campaigns, a scalable system allows you and your localization team for quick copy iterations and consistency across multiple projects. 

Our localization kit is prepared during the pre-localization stages and includes project instructions depending on the localized content, deadlines, and budget specificities. Moreover, it assembles a series of glossaries with field-specific translated concepts, style guides for brand localization, and guidelines to clarify difficulties beforehand and prevent identical questions from various translators. 


Define quality & context

Establish a long-term relationship and quality expectations with your translation providers so you can communicate brand specificities, market positioning and ensure your native translators choose the correct translation from the beginning. 

Sharing enough context and details through screenshots and staged pages for the content that needs to be produced is one of the most critical requirements to eliminate quality risks and post-editing tasks. By doing so, you build long-term deliverables and strengthen the quality metrics.


Conclusion

MessageBird is a communication company. We know the value that good communication can drive for businesses and their respective customers. Localization is essential for communicating with people in the manner that’s easiest and preferred by them.