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Translation Software

Translation Management software helps users manage language translation projects and can assist companies in need of web content translation services.

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Translation Software Buyers Guide

Translation Management Software (TMS) quickly and easily translates websites and other content into other languages. The software uses automated translation techniques, allowing businesses to serve many regions of the world with up-to-date content in their native language without needing to have those pages translated by humans. This process is known as localisation and would traditionally have required someone to translate the content each time there was an update.

Some of the core features that a buyer should expect to find in a translation management solution include the ability to automatically translate content from the organisation's default language to several other languages. In the case of websites, this process can also be automatic, meaning it does not need to be initiated each time a translation is required. For example, the software can automatically translate new content and cache the results for each desired language.

The key benefit of this type of software is the ability for businesses to localise their content quickly and efficiently. The nature of translation software means that those translations will not always be perfect but are generally good enough to convey the original message. They can also be used as a starting point for a human translator to check over. In both cases, the result is less time-consuming and less expensive to attain than hiring translators for each language.

Translation management solutions are focused on the translation of content like other solutions in the translation software category, but they can be readily compared to categories like content management software. Translation management software can come in many forms of deployment, including locally deployed applications. It can also be a plugin or add-on for other software packages or be offered as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution.

Organisations looking to purchase a translation management solution will need to consider several factors, including but not limited to the size of the organisation, the regions they will be operating in, and the effectiveness of the translation method used (for example, algorithmic vs AI). In all cases, the features of the software will need to be scrutinised closely to ensure they will meet the organisation's needs. For a solution to be included in the translation management category, it will usually include the following:

  • The ability to automate localisation, allowing new content to be automatically translated into the desired languages and published to the relevant regions without the need for human intervention
  • Workflow management features allow an organisation to manage the process of translating content more effectively, such as having the software automatically grab new content from a content management system and flag it for translation, whereby it can be assigned to a translator
  • Translation software will often provide memory management features, which allows the software to store and re-use words or phrases rather than generating new wordings each time
  • Support for multiple languages, while not ubiquitous, is common in translation software

What is Translation Management Software?

Translation Management Software (TMS) is designed to handle the translation needs of a system—often a website or content management system—more efficiently than could be achieved by human translators. By introducing things like automated localisation, an organisation can put out new content or change existing content and have that content quickly translated to the languages of the regions they operate in, ensuring that none of their customers is left behind.

The internet and near-ubiquitous connectivity have made the business a global affair for many, not just large international corporations. But, while smaller businesses might now be in a position to sell their products and services internationally, they don't necessarily have the resources to run an effective localisation program, and certainly not in real-time. Translation management software puts localisation within reach of these smaller businesses. Meanwhile, larger businesses can benefit from a more efficient workflow. Where translation accuracy is critical, the software can speed up the process while still incorporating human translators.

When it is possible to sell products and services online and easily ship an object anywhere in the world, language barriers are proving to be one of the more significant hurdles to international business. Translation management software removes that barrier for all. And with the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI), this type of software is improving significantly and exponentially. There will likely come a time when human translators are not needed to oversee the localisations made by this type of software. In the meantime, translation management software offers several features to make the translation process as fast and accurate as possible.

What are the benefits of translation management software?

The benefits of translation management software primarily focus on making localisation as easy and efficient as possible. Reducing the workload necessary to bring content to regions that speak a different language makes it easier for businesses to have an effective market presence in those regions. This benefit, as well as some of the other specific benefits that translation management software can provide, are listed here:

  • Time savings due to automation: The most common benefit of translation management software is automated translation. The software solution should be able to automatically translate new content into the desired languages, reducing or even removing the need for a human translator to be involved. This is not only a faster process; it can often be more cost-effective. It is also common for translation management solutions to feature robust import and export features, allowing the process of content going into the software much smoother than it might otherwise have been.
  • Better data protection: One of the problems with using human translators for localisation projects is that those translators are often not in the same location as the business. This means sending sometimes sensitive data via methods that may not be the most secure, such as email. A translation management solution provides a safe and secure environment within which that data can be accessed. If human translators are used, they can be given access to the software and carry out their translations from there. This ensures the data remains protected from interception or leaking.
  • Improvements to collaboration and communication: As effective as automated translation is becoming, it is still necessary to have human translators involved in localisation projects, as well as developers, designers, and marketing teams in some cases. All the people involved in a localisation effort will need access to the translated content and will need to be able to communicate with each other easily. These are features that modern translation management systems usually provide. It also allows for smoother workflows between multiple translators, such as in cases where there may be a copywriter, editor, and head translator all working on the project.
  • Easier to avoid duplicate translations: Any time an app or website is updated, there is a good chance there will be some content that needs translating. Having a large team and a lot of content can, unfortunately, lead to crossed wires and miscommunications, and duplicate translations can happen. Translation management software avoids this by carefully managing the workflow of translation tasks. Some solutions can even check new content against previous translations to see if any duplicate content has gotten through.
  • Establish a glossary of translated terms: No two languages are quite the same, and not every term an organisation uses will be directly translatable into another language. In these cases, an experienced translator can put together an acceptable alternative translation. Translation management software can keep a glossary of such words and phrases so that they can be automatically used in future translations. Easier project management: Translation management software can act as an effective project management tool. It brings all the aspects of a localisation project into one place. From there, managers can oversee the different stages of the process, task assignments, projected completion dates, and more. Many translation management systems can deliver notifications to their translators to inform them that there is new content to translate.
  • Simple QA: Many translation software solutions have built-in features to handle quality assurance, making it easier to ensure that translations—be they human or automated—are accurate before they go live. This also helps with device compatibility issues, which are less common but do occur, particularly when translating to a language with an entirely different alphabet.

What are the features of translation management software?

The features of translation management software generally consist of a core and common set. The core features are critical and should be found in all translation management solutions, whereas the common features will be found in most solutions, but the precise combination of these features will vary from solution to solution. Here are some of the most common features of translation management software:

  • Automated translation functionality: The ability to automatically translate content from one language to another is the central feature of any translation software. In the past, this functionality was provided through the use of complicated algorithms that were coded by developers. This method is limited, however, as the point of diminishing returns in terms of the amount of effort it takes to improve often falls short of the quality needed by most businesses. In more modern software solutions, the much more cost-effective and accurate alternative—artificial intelligence—is being used. This method involves machine learning, where the AI is "trained" and improves with use.
  • Collaborative and project management tools: Even when translation software is so accurate that human translators are not needed, there will still be a need for adequate project management features, which is why translation management systems often provide it. This feature allows the many different aspects of content and localisation to coordinate effectively, such as notifying translators of new content, allowing managers to oversee the schedule, and more.
  • The ability to post translations directly to a website or app: Many translation management software solutions are available as plugins or add-ons for content management systems or can integrate with other content management software solutions. These allow organisations to have new translations automatically posted to their websites and apps without having to manually extract the content from the translation software and enter it into the content management system. Software that provides this functionality will usually also provide the ability to hold new translations for approval before pushing them to any apps or websites.
  • The ability to import and export data: While direct integration with content management systems is the most popular way to handle localisation projects, it is not always possible. Whether the content management system doesn't support integration or translations are needed for a different project other than an app or website localisation, it is sometimes necessary to manually import content for translation. Many translation management solutions will provide robust import and export functionality, ensuring that users can easily get content into the software and translations out in those times when it must be done manually.
  • An API: Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are extremely useful when dealing with any software service or database. The cost of building and maintaining bespoke software is increasingly too prohibitive to be viable—particularly when compared to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). However, APIs offer a useful middle ground in which a business can leave the core functionality of the software—in this case, translation management—to a service provider and then create its additional functionality by hooking into the API. In this manner, a business can benefit from bespoke functionality without the exorbitant costs of developing software from the ground up.
  • A persistent glossary of custom words and phrases: Languages don't always contain words or phrases that are equivalent to a word or phrase in another language. This may be a word that simply isn't in the language or a saying that doesn't make sense in other languages. Translation management software can offer a glossary function that allows it to store custom translations. It will then use those translations in the future. This process can also be recursive thanks to memory management, with the translation software being able to look back on previous translations, observe notes and changes, and in doing so, make the translation process faster and more accurate.
  • Support for multiple languages: The languages available with any particular translation management software can vary significantly, but it is uncommon for a solution to not support multiple languages. Particularly difficult translations where the languages are fundamentally different—such as English to Chinese, or vice versa—may not be found in every solution, whereas more common translations—such as between English and French—should be an option in most solutions.

What should be considered when purchasing translation management software?

When purchasing translation management software, it is crucial to consider several factors, though most of them revolve around cost and integration. For example, it is possible to buy a standalone algorithmic translation software solution for a one-off license, but that solution will be limited in what it can do, and there may be issues with getting content in and out of the application. Software as service options are typically more popular but require an ongoing financial commitment. Here are some of the more specific things a business should consider when looking to purchase translation management software:

  • Does the organisation need a TMS? The first question that needs to be addressed is whether the business needs translation software at all. A relatively small business with a static web page may it find more cost-effective to hire human translators for a one-off localisation project, for example. On the other hand, larger businesses which publish new content regularly will benefit from the easier translation process and collaborative tools.
  • What are the key features of the TMS? Once it is established that the organisation needs translation software, the features need to align with the company's needs. For example, a company that cannot, for various reasons, use automatic publishing features will want to make sure the solution they chose has robust import and export functionality. A business with a large team working on content and translation will need good collaborative tools, etc.
  • How much does the TMS cost? The cost of the solution is typically more a matter of commitment than a single amount. Software-as-a-Service solutions are usually paid for by ongoing subscriptions, and continued use of the software means continued payments. Locally deployed one-off purchases are more expensive at the outset, but once bought, the software can be used indefinitely. Of course, there are more factors to consider, such as how quickly a traditional software package will be outdated and how much it will cost to remedy this.
  • Is the TMS suitable for the size of the business? For the vast majority of businesses, capacity will not be a concern when looking at translation management software. Most businesses are unlikely to publish more than a few pages a day. Where the size of the business is likely to matter more is with the collaborative tools included. Larger businesses are likely to need better collaborative functionality than smaller ones.
  • Is the TMS compatible with other software? If the translation management software is going to be working in conjunction with other software solutions—such as a content management system—it is essential to ensure a potential TMS is compatible with those software solutions. A prime example of this is the ability to automatically publish translated content to a CMS.

Given the globalisation of business through the near-ubiquitous connectivity afforded by the internet, it's not just large corporations that need to consider providing content and communications in multiple languages. Therefore, the most relevant translation management software trends are:

  • Efficiency considerations: While translation software is unquestionably faster than human translations, that doesn't always equate to being more efficient. If the translations need to be checked over by a human, the process becomes lengthy and less efficient. In the past, where high levels of accuracy were required, it has proved more efficient to have a human translator take care of the task. This is increasingly not the case, and developers will be looking to make the accuracy of their translation software better going forward. This improved accuracy will reduce the need for a human component, making the translation process far more efficient.
  • Audiovisual translations: Translation management systems have traditionally focused on text translations, but the world is increasingly a multimedia one, and there is a growing focus on audiovisual content. Naturally, for a localisation effort to be truly effective, this content would need to be translated too. Translation software is already making strides in voiceovers and subtitles, and this trend will almost certainly continue, improving the accuracy of these translations.
  • Increased use of artificial intelligence: Older translation software solutions used hand-coded algorithms to translate text. This is effective up to a point, but as it soon becomes exponentially challenging to improve the accuracy of these algorithms, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is used more and more to handle the translation process. Neural Machine Translation (NMT) has not been around for that long but has already significantly impacted translation management. As machine learning improves through "training" rather than coding, it is much easier to improve these AI systems, and the accuracy achieved is higher. This trend will almost certainly continue, with translation AIs improving significantly in the coming years.
  • More cloud-based translation platforms: AI may be a more effective way to translate things into other languages, but it requires a good deal of resources in real-time to achieve—especially on the large scales of a global website. It is also costly to set up and maintain. For these reasons and more, cloud-based translation platforms are likely to take over entirely from more traditional translation software solutions. And, as AI essentially learns by doing, a translation platform with a large number of users has the potential to become exponentially better through the feedback given by those users.