By Lauren Lee

What’s Your Fun, Crazy, or Funny Holiday Tradition?

The holidays are known to be seeped in tradition. It’s the time of year when friends, family, and loved ones gather to overindulge in delicious holiday treats, exchange gifts, and share stories of the year that’s passed. But these are very general traditions. If you ask anyone what they do for the holidays, you might be surprised at the responses you get. Instead of diving into the holiday traditions of the Transifex team, we thought we’d share some of the unique, fun, and even wacky holiday traditions that take place around the world. And of course, we invite you to share your own traditions in the comments section below!

35 Bizarrest Christmas Traditions

Infographic courtesy of LoveHomeSwap.

Everything You Need to Know About Machine Translation

A couple month’s back, we published a post about the reliability of Google Translate. The post got a surprising amount of interest from our users, so we thought we’d take some time to talk about the category that Google Translate falls into, machine translation.

How Does Machine Translation Work

Machine translation is automated, meaning it’s the translation of text by a computer with no human involvement. Machine translation works by using computer software to translate text from one language (source language) to another language (target language).

Types of Machine Translation

There are two types of machine translation: rules-based and statistical.

  1. Rules-based machine translation is, like its name suggests, based on a set of rules developed by language experts and programmers. These individuals reference dictionaries, general grammar rules, and semantic patterns of both languages to create a library of translation rules (software) that when run, deliver the appropriate translations of the source content in the desired target language. This library of manually built translation lexicons can also be adjusted over time to further improve translation quality.
  2. Statistical machine translation has no knowledge of language or grammatical rules. Statistical machine translation systems use computer algorithms that reference and analyze previously translated text and explore the millions of possibilities of how to order words and put smaller pieces of text together. The result is a database of translations that is based on the statistical likelihood that a certain word or phrase in the source language will be another word or phrase in the target language.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Machine Translation

Rules-based and statistical machine translation can be compared to one another, but machine translation is generally looked at as a single solution as opposed to two different options. The general advantages and disadvantages of using machine translation to translate content, especially for businesses, include:

Advantages

  • Increased productivity and ability deliver translations faster
  • Faster translations means reduced time-to-market
  • Flexibility from a number of machine translation engines

Disadvantages

  • Machine translation can’t account for certain phrases because of lack of context
  • It’s difficult for machine translation to accurately translate nuances and slang
  • Complicated or industry specific terms (i.e. medical terminology) may not be easily translated
  • Specific errors are hard to predict and difficult to correct
  • Content in the target language can feel choppy or pieced together

Machine Translation vs. Human Translation

For businesses interested in translating their digital content into other languages, machine translation presents itself as an easy fix to a complicated problem. Machine translation is mainly seen as:

  1. A fast solution. Depending on how much content needs to be translated, machine translation can provide translated content in a matter of seconds, whereas human translators will take more time. Time spent finding, vetting, and managing a team of translators must also be taken into account.
  2. An affordable solution. There are many translation software providers that can provide machine translations for little to no cost, making it an affordable solution for businesses who may not be able to afford professional translations.

Can Machine Translation Replace Human Translation?

Now all this builds up to the question of the hour — can machine translation replace human translation? Yes, machine translation can replace human translation, and there are a few instances when machine translation is a better option. For instance, service-related companies often use machine translation to help customers via instant chat or respond quickly to emails.

But, (and there’s always a but) if you’re translating more in-depth content, like your website or mobile app, using machine translation puts your brand at risk. In the best case, improper translations make your website or app look unprofessional. In the worst case, improper translations offend users in your target locale. The cost of poor translations goes beyond monetary loss, and has the potential to impact how users perceive your brand. The negative backlash from an entire culture or audience will cost you far more than hiring a professional translator or native speaker to begin with.

Are you willing to put your brand in the hands of machine translation? While most brands aren’t, the answer should always be never! Protect your brand and learn how to get reliable, continuous, and quality translations with help from the Transifex localization platform. And if you’d like to see how the platform works, schedule a free 30 minute demo today.

Startups: To Localize or Not to Localize?

Wells Fargo’s recent International Business Indicator Survey indicated that 69 percent of businesses in the U.S. are conducting business internationally and 54 percent of mid-size U.S. businesses see international markets as increasingly important to their financial success. But where does that leave startups and early-stage companies?

Setting the startup stage

We can all appreciate the startup mentality: having a scrappy, can-do attitude that fuels the desire to create something special, something that fulfills a universal need. And while many startups dream about the possibility of international markets, going global probably isn’t a priority on a startup’s list of to-do’s. Why, you might ask? While optimism, agility, and ingenuity are abundant in almost any startup you walk into, most have an unproven business model and limited resources in regards to time, money, and support.

Why startups should keep localization in mind

Now that we’ve set the startup stage, we can also recognize that we live in a new digital age. The barriers that once held companies back from going global – like the inability to communicate beyond our own borders or slow shipping processes – have been eliminated thanks to technological advances. What this means for your startup is that it’s easier than ever to adopt a global mentality from inception, and doing so allows you to minimize hardships once you’re ready to take your business to international customers and users.

And you’re probably already global

Many startups, especially those in the tech industry, are international from the outset, whether they want to be or not. Launching an app in the app store or selling a product or service on a website gives international customers the opportunity to connect with your startup and purchase your product or service. With time, you’ll naturally gain global customers who may be willing to make a purchase even though your digital content isn’t localized for them. However, as you grow and mature, these early adopters will likely become your brand enthusiasts, and you’ll not only want to support them by providing content in their native language, but you’ll want to reach out to their peers. These customers already identified a need for your product or service in their area; all you have to do is deliver it in a language that speaks to them.

There’s so much opportunity abroad

Dave Goldberg, the late CEO of SurveyMonkey, shared in a 2013 interview that “if you have a product and you aren’t focused on international, you’re missing out on two-thirds of your potential customers.” Now, more than ever, this statement rings true as e-commerce is a growing market in the United Kingdom, China, France, and Germany, just to name a few. Customers are becoming more accepting of making payments and purchasing online, and concepts like free or fast delivery make this channel of buying even more appealing. As the e-commerce market shows great potential, a survey conducted by Common Sense Advisory reports that more than half of consumers are willing to pay more if you’re willing to give them information in their own languages. Armed with this information, it’s easy to see why startups should keep localization in mind.

Investors appreciate a long-term plan

There’s a basic list of requirements that investors consider when looking at potential startups, ranging from uniqueness of your product and your business expertise to the size your target market and number of competitors in the space. Aside from these line items, investors are also looking for projects with growth opportunities, ones that are scalable on a regional and global level. Including localization as a step in your roadmap shows that you’re planning for the long-term and that you recognize your international opportunities.

3 things that will help you down the road

What we’re trying to get at can be said simply — whether or not you launch as a global startup is irrelevant. You might not be ready to localize today, but the potential of foreign markets is only going to get bigger. Adopt a global mentality now so when you and your product are ready, you’ll be in a good position to reach new markets. Other things you can do now:

  1. Internationalize your software. Always be prepared is a motto that is often heard and rarely followed. Making sure your software can support international character sets (Unicode), allows for text expansion, and has user-visible text and images separate from executable code, are just a few of the steps needed to internationalize your software and ultimately be prepared for global markets. Internationalizing your software from day one ensures you don’t have to go back through your code (a time consuming process) and make changes (a developer-involved and costly process).
  2. Strive for simple, relevant branding and messaging. Startups that have an amazing product often rise up in a competitive landscape as they provide a simple solution to a common problem. Not always, but in most cases, it’s the product that does the selling thanks to a beautiful design and UX, and ease-of-use. The step that’s skipped is branding, messaging, and marketing. Startups that key in on their branding and messaging, thinking of a universal theme that can be shared across borders, are better able to translate and localize in later stages. You don’t want to choose a key message now and pivot later when you realize you want to go global. Keeping language simple can reduce the complexity of translations and their associated costs in the future.
  3. Think about localization in phases. Budget is often a localization blocker for startups, but localization doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, a one-and-done transaction. Think about localization in phases and plan for what you can afford today and what you can afford in the future. For instance, some companies may use in-house translators or machine translations in the early localization stages, and plan to have native reviewers revise the content for mistakes when budget is more flexible. Companies can also prioritize content by what’s most important to their users. Some companies start with localizing their help desk, then expand to their marketing website, or documentation. Planning to roll out the localization process slowly can be a big budget saver for startups with limited financial resources.

Democratizing localization

In an effort to create a dialog about localization among startups and other entrepreneurs around the world, Transifex has created a flexible and scalable localization platform that enables companies of all sizes – and with all budgets – to expand to new markets. Whether you’ve been thinking localization from day one, or you’re maturing to the point where going global is the clear next step, we’re here to help. See how Transifex works in a personalized demo or visit our website at www.transifex.com for more information about our API and Git-like command-line client, powerful integrations, and so much more.

Black Friday Spreads Beyond America’s Borders

Black Friday has become an infamous occasion that some may argue is even more popular than the day preceding it. While there’s some controversy as to whether or not the holiday that revolves around showing gratitude and being thankful should be exploited by retailers, there’s no arguing that shopping on Black Friday is just as much of a tradition for many American families as turkey is on Thanksgiving. Did we say American families? We meant families all over the world.

The Beginning of a Global Phenomenon

Despite the fact that it’s just an ordinary Friday following another Thursday in most other countries, international shoppers are being drawn in by the heavily discounted prices offered by American retailers. In a recent article published by the The Atlantic, Europeans who want to take advantage of the day’s amazing deals are boarding eight hour flights in the middle of the night, crossing the pond just in time to wait in line with East Coast shoppers.

Although some may argue the above mentioned scenario could be an isolated incident of a few crazed shoppers looking for the next best deal, the travel and hospitality industry has recognized such a high demand for these overnight outings that packaged tours have been created, specifically catering to foreigners who want to participate in the year’s Black Friday sales.

And it doesn’t stop there. Stores around the world are adopting Black Friday, holding their own sales during America’s Thanksgiving weekend to compete with American retailers. The U.K. is partaking in their fifth Black Friday, with the weekend’s total spending estimated at over $3 billion. Stores in France, Brazil, and Pakistan are also following suit, offering discounts and unbelievable prices on everything from clothing to electronics.

It’s no longer just about snagging the year’s hottest items at bargain prices, Black Friday is a cultural spectacle that’s spread overseas.

Technology Exports American Retail Culture Abroad

“Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the highest days of sales that we see from all the way around the world,” said Michael DeSimone, CEO of Borderfree, a company that partners with American retailers, helping them to collect taxes and tariffs while also working to facilitate shipping to international customers.

The Internet has made it possible for shoppers to embrace Black Friday no matter where they are, which brings up the emerging and apparent need for American retailers to offer multilingual digital content. While shoppers may be compelled to purchase from a retailer on Black Friday because of deeply discounted items, a website that presents content in the shopper’s native language could compel a repeat purchase on any other day of the year.

High-end retailer Saks Fifth Avenue references data from the entire calendar year, showing that while there’s a noticeable spike in international purchases on Black Friday, there’s a significant amount of international sales done in Canada, Australia, Russia, Asia, and the Middle East year-round.

For retailers that appeal to an international audience, localizing websites and mobile apps can go a long way in appealing to foreign customers — gaining their trust, initiating brand loyalty, and creating repeat purchases. And with DeSimone sharing that the third reason international shoppers buy from American retailers is “so people think [they] recently went to the United States”, it’s clear that the potential for increasing international revenue is not just a fad.

Mobile Predicting New Consumer Trend this Holiday Season

In keeping with the topic of technology, it’s important to bring attention to the shift in U.S. buying preferences. Shoppers are moving away from making in-store purchases and are instead showing a preference for buying online. According to data released by Adobe, shoppers spent $4.45 billion online on Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day. These numbers, based on aggregated and anonymous data from 150 visits to 4,500 retail websites, don’t even include Cyber Monday sales.

Along with desktop computers, tablets and smartphones account for a number of the online Black Friday weekend purchases. With retailers upgrading their mobile shopping experience, maximizing the space afforded by larger mobile screens and taking advantage of high-speed data plans, this is one of the first years where smartphones have disrupted the landscape for retailers. This trend is one that doesn’t appear to be going away, and could change how shopping is conducted, not just during Black Friday and the holiday season, but year-round.

Want to Reach Customers Around the World?

Whether you have a retail website or are simply interested in targeting and connecting with global consumers, learn more about what it means to localize by visiting our website at www.transifex.com. You can also find out how our platform can help you translate your digital content into multiple languages by scheduling a personalized demo with one of our team members. Happy shopping — or in your case, selling!

Calling All Bengali Translators

With advancements in technology, most notably the internet, the communication of people around the world is a much simpler task than in the past. Unfortunately, “the communication of people in more than 60 countries around the world are regularly censored, surveilled, and blocked. These restrictions and failures to protect fundamental human rights denies people access to democracy and positive social change.”

The above quote was taken from the Open Technology Fund (OTF), an organization that provides projects and individuals with funding to help promote freedom of expression and information to citizens around the world. Recently, there have been significant crackdowns on free expression in Bangladesh, threatening the ability of bloggers, independent media, and other digital activists from being able to access information online securely, and to communicate online safely with their colleagues.

Projects Needing Translations

With the shared goal of connecting people around the world through language, Transifex is reaching out to all of our translators to support OTF and those unable to access critical information online in Bangladesh. If you are a Bengali translator, check out the following OTF projects:

  • Tor Project
  • Signal
  • Psiphon
  • Cryptocat
  • Chatsecure
  • Tails
  • Lantern

To help the Open Technology Fund translate content, visit their public page in Transifex. We greatly appreciate your help during this busy time of year!

Recognizing the International Rescue Committee

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, the Transifex team wanted to share the translation story of one of our open source users, the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Founded in 1933, the IRC is recognized as a global leader in emergency relief, rehabilitation, protection of human rights, post-conflict development, resettlement services, and advocacy for those uprooted or affected by conflict and oppression. And today, we’re sharing their inspirational story about helping those affected by the crisis in Syria.

Where It All Began

In March of 2011, anti-government demonstrations began in Syria, and the peaceful protests quickly escalated after the government’s violent crackdown. Today, the war continues, and according to reports by the United Nations, more than 215,000 people have lost their lives, with millions more displaced without basic necessities like food, water, and medical care.

Many of those displaced in the conflict, over 1 million Syrians in fact, have poured into Lebanon to find shelter and safety. Because there are no formal refugee camps in Lebanon, it has often been difficult for these displaced Syrians to find and access the lifesaving services they require. As a result, the International Rescue Committee started ServiceInfo, a project designed to link refugees with services in the host communities supporting them in Lebanon.

ServiceInfo Reaches a Broader Audience

ServiceInfo is a web-based information and feedback mechanism, similar to applications allowing users to search for hotels or restaurants and then rate their services, designed to link service providers in Lebanon and with the Syrian refugees who need their support. With the goal of reaching the largest audience possible, the IRC looked for a way to share information in multiple languages. That’s where the Transifex localization platform came in.

“Supporting multiple languages helped us reach out to a bigger audience, which was integral to the success of the project,” said ServiceInfo’s Project Manager, Omar Meksassi. “In our project we use three different languages: Arabic, English, and French. Arabic is a RTL language, which often makes automated translation more complex, but Transifex handled it perfectly.”

Making the World a Better Place

Making important information accessible to those displayed from the Syrian crisis is just one of the many projects the IRC is a part of. Their humanitarian efforts include:

  • Emergency response at the outset of a crisis (water, food, shelter, sanitation services, assistance for unaccompanied children, primary health care, sexual and gender-based violence prevention)
  • Post-conflict education, training, income generation, and health care
  • Post-conflict development
  • Refugee resettlement in the U.S.
  • Advocacy for the cause of refugees

And it doesn’t stop there. In 2014, the IRC:

  • Helped 17.6 million people whose lives and livelihoods were shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future
  • Provided 16 million people with primary and reproductive health care
  • Gave 3.3 million people access to clean drinking water and sanitation
  • Vaccinated over 364,000 children under the age of one against disease
  • Helped 331,000 women deliver healthy babies in IRC-supported clinics and hospitals
  • Treated 104,000 children under the age of five for acute malnutrition
  • Provided schooling and educational opportunities to more than 1 million girls and boys, and trained nearly 23,000 educators
  • Provided counseling or cared for 32,500 vulnerable children
  • Counseled and provided essential services to some 11,000 survivors of gender-based violence, and educated, and mobilized over 1.2 million men, women and children to lead prevention efforts in their communities
  • Created 1,530 village savings and loan associations (VSLAs) that benefited some 36,000 members in 8 countries
  • Provided 18,000 farmers with agricultural or agribusiness training
  • Provided job-related skills training (entrepreneurship, business and financial literacy, vocational training) to 18,000 people
  • Provided legal assistance to 22,000 people through IRC-supported legal centers
  • Helped resettle 10,900 newly arrived refugees and other immigrants in the United States

Show Your Support

We love the International Rescue Committee’s mission and are proud to call them a user of Transifex! It’s a true testament to the power of breaking global language barriers and connecting people with one another, no matter what language they speak. To learn more about how you can help, please visit their website or click here to make a donation.

The One Step that Can Make or Break the Localization Process

You’re looking to take your website or product to a global audience. You’ve developed content, selected translators or a language service provider to translate your content, and after translations are complete, you’ll be ready to publish. While this might sound like the standard localization process, it’s missing a crucial step that has the power to determine whether your localization efforts are a success or failure: in-country review.

The frequently forgotten step

In a study conducted by Lionbridge, “approximately 15 percent of all translation project costs arise from rework, and the primary cause of rework is inconsistent terminology.” It’s a simple concept. Companies that don’t find translation problems until after the content’s gone live will lose money and valuable time because they’re forced to go back and make corrections. These costly setbacks don’t even take into account damage done to the company’s brand should a published translation be interpreted as misleading or offensive.

In-country review is the step of the localization process that mitigates this problem, and instead, presents a localized product that clearly articulates your company’s brand voice, marketing message, and overall product. This type of review utilizes native speakers of your source and target language, ensuring translation quality across all content and channels. Feedback from native speakers goes beyond translating sentences word for word, but ensures the translated content is appropriate in regards to cultural norms and practices.

Keys to succeeding with in-country review

Conducting an in-country review of your content strings isn’t as simple as finding a handful of native speakers. Not everyone has a solid grasp of language, grammar, and syntax, even if they only speak one language. And being a native speaker definitely doesn’t make you a professional, great, or even okay editor, which is why all successful in-country reviews require you to:

Vet translators carefully

As with any other member of your translation team, you’ll want to look for in-country reviewers who have experience doing professional translations. Some familiarity with the translation process is always a plus, too. Those who have worked on a localization project will likely be more in tune with your go-to-market strategy, understand the importance of meeting deadlines, and know how to work with other team members like your localization or product manager. But most importantly, look for in-country reviewers who are fluent in your source and target languages. This way, you can be sure that the nuances of language and things like idioms are properly understood in their source language and translated appropriately.

Communicate your expectations and goals

Translation quality is highly subjective, so setting clear expectations of how you’ll judge content quality and measure success is a key part of a good in-country review process. A few things to communicate to your reviewers include:

  • Brand and tone of voice – Have a meeting with your reviewer to clearly discuss what the voice of your product, service, or company is. Share information about your target customers or users, including how you want them to feel when they read any content associated with your company. This will help make sure the appropriate experience is delivered to your global audience.
  • Product and/or service – By being extremely familiar with your organization’s product or service, your in-country reviewer will be able to make sure that translations are in-line with your offerings. They should be committed to getting to know your product or service, allowing them to present an end product that shows consistency across all platforms in regards to language and tone.
  • Reviewer’s individual role – It’s more effective to define and communicate your reviewer’s role in the overall localization process before they get started. You don’t want them to modify the source content, or remove or add content that was not originally part of the project. Clearly explain their role as a reviewer and help them define what warning signs they should be looking for as they read through your content.
  • Reviewer’s role within the team – Don’t forget to discuss your reviewer’s role with other members of your localization team. Give them ways to directly communicate with one another. For instance, utilizing a localization platform can give your reviewers a chance to give personalized and immediate help to translators to minimize the time spent on subsequent reviews or pieces of content.

Conduct a review of your translator resources

Translator resources can be a great way to save money in the long run, making sure that your translators are using appropriate words and phrases when they translate content for other locales. Yet, many organizations forget to have their in-country reviewers take a look at such resources. Having your translators’ go-to set of resources translated incorrectly is just as bad as not having them at all! Make sure that your in-country reviewers fully understand corporate style guidelines and have them collaborate on the creation of approved materials like your:

Have a plan in place for translation disagreements

As with any team, all your members aren’t always going to agree. Create a process for how reviewers and translators will communicate about a specific translation, and appoint an individual who will be the final decision maker. This helps you consolidate feedback, while also eliminating lengthy arguments and resolving pressing translation issues.

Conduct an in-context review

While not all translators and reviewers have the opportunity to translate and review content in-context, seeing sentences, headlines, and other text elements in their intended page and design layouts can be extremely helpful in the localization process. Using a localization system like Transifex, reviewers can see how content will appear in context and ultimately make decisions to improve overall user experience.

Provide the best localized experience possible

Your in-country reviewers are your language and subject-matter experts, and they’re ultimately responsible for judging translation quality. When you think about it like that, in-country review is a step in the localization process that can’t be swept under the rug.

If you’re interested in making the localization process more streamlined with Transifex, request a personalized demo with one of our team members!

How to Get Your Boss to Invest in Localization

Taking a website, mobile app, or game to a global audience is a no-brainer for some companies, meaning the business plan is strategically designed to support localization. Yet, for a majority of companies, the need to localize a product for a global audience is identified by a developer or marketer who sees opportunity or demand in a foreign market. When this is the case, it’s up to that individual to become an advocate for localization; to get the right level of buy-in, support, and executive sponsorship.

Knowing that every successful salesperson has a great pitch, we wanted to share some tips for how you can get your boss to make the critical, long-term investment in localization.

Create a detailed plan

We’re all familiar with the saying “the devil is in the detail,” and this rings true when trying to persuade someone to adopt your thought process. When pitching to your boss, it’s important to really think through what you’re asking for. What’s the benefit for the overall organization? How many resources is executing your plan going to take? Who is responsible for the work and how much will it cost? Then, there’s the all important question, what is the organization’s return on investment? Going into a meeting ready to share the answers to these questions will help show your boss the value of what you’re proposing.

Identify a painpoint

Lower risk

You may be passionate about the need for localization, and you may even have data to support your desire to expand into new global markets. Despite this, there’s still risk involved for your boss. To overcome this hurdle, think about structuring your proposal in stages so you can modify or even eliminate certains stages if things don’t go as planned. You’re giving your boss the ability to keep his or her options open, ultimately limiting the overall risk involved.

Be completely transparent

You’re spending company dollars, so you need to be transparent with what you do. Share the pros and cons of your proposed project and identify key performance metrics that need to be met throughout the process. These metrics should also be paired with plans of action, detailing what happens when proposed numbers aren’t met. Sharing this in a thoughtful and organized way shows that you’re building accountability and also helps to enhance the level of trust that we mentioned above.

Ask for a trial, not a lifetime commitment

When you invest in localization, you’re investing in a long-term project, which may make your proposal unattractive. Eliminate potential resistance by asking for a trial. Perhaps you can test localization in a specific market before tackling multiple markets at once. Show your boss that he or she isn’t locked into a complicated, costly, and time consuming project.

Get the timing right

There’s a time and place for everything. If your company recently had layoffs or is struggling financially, now might not be the time to propose a new localization project. Same goes for the end of the quarter when everyone is scrambling to meet company-wide performance goals. Ask yourself if your boss is caught up in other matters. Will he or she be able to devote time to your project?

As we head into the end of the fiscal year for many companies, now may the perfect opportunity to bring up the topic of localization with your boss. For many organizations, the new year offers a fresh start, and acts as a time to look for new opportunities that will help improve engagement, sales, and profit moving forward. A lot of departments also determine their yearly budget in the new year, so proposing your localization idea now can ensure there’s enough funding to carry out your localization plan effectively.

At the end of the day…

…Make it easy for your boss to say yes. Having a localized, global-ready product can be powerful in growing an organization in terms of size, increasing leads and conversions, and making a positive impact on the bottom line, but it all starts with getting your boss on board!

Were you a localization evangelist at your organization? Perhaps you’re a localization manager that was challenged with the task of getting your boss to prioritize localization investments? Whatever the case, share your stories with us in the comment section. And if you’re interested in a solution that will localize your product in an efficient, scalable, and affordable way, request a demo with a Transifex team member and see the power of the Transifex localization automation platform.

Connecting your eLearning Courses with a Global Student Body

There’s a new trend among eLearning providers to go global; to make their online educational content accessible in other languages, across multiple countries, and for various cultures. This process, known as localization, is fast-becoming the key to reaching students all over the world.

Why localize?

The global eLearning industry is growing at a rapid rate – expected to produce revenue of $51.5 billion by 2016 – with the fastest growing markets coming from outside the US in emerging economies such as China, India, and Malaysia. While tapping into these markets can reap huge rewards for eLearning companies, eLearning providers must first understand the challenges of localizing educational content for a specific country or culture.

3 factors to consider before localizing

It’s no surprise that you’ll need a strategy for how to select new markets to enter and how to translate your content into the languages spoken in those areas, but there are three other (often overlooked) considerations when localizing eLearning content.

1. Enrollment

eLearning providers often think of how they’re going to engage students in their courses and skip right over how to get students to enroll in the course in the first place. Knowing that enrollment often proves to be a major challenge for eLearning providers, convincing students to enroll in a course that isn’t in their native language is a clear uphill battle. This is where localization comes into play. You’ll want to:

Create enticing, localized course descriptions
Course descriptions must be powerful and informative, but concise, so students can get a feel for how your course can benefit them in their personal or professional lives. Be prepared to translate and modify course descriptions depending on the country you’re localizing for. Making the course feel native to the student might provide just the right level of familiarity to compel him or her to confidently enroll.

Embrace the power of visuals
Effective use of visuals is the most immediate way to transcend language barriers and get potential students interested in your course. Stay away from stock images that appear vague and fail to clearly communicate what your course is about. Images like the one below, for example, are common on the enrollment pages of eLearning courses:

Visuals-for-elearning-courses

While this image may generally convey that the course is about business, it does little to clearly communicate what the value of the course might be. Instead, search for images such as the one below. Without even reading the course description, a student can easily draw the conclusion that your course is related to being successful or having a profitable business idea.

Showing-elearning-Value

2. Engagement

Designing and localizing your eLearning content to keep students engaged can be a major obstacle. Consider traditional Western students from the United States or Europe. Studies have shown that individualized, activity-focused, content is what keeps them engaged on a high level. On the other hand, Eastern cultures prefer a group-based, teacher-centric approach. So how do localization teams attempt to resolve these discrepancies? Here are a few strategies that can help engage students no matter where they’re from.

Design courses for immediate feedback
One of the best ways to engage students is to provide immediate feedback. Drill-quiz is a great way to achieve this goal in the eLearning environment. In a drill-quiz format, students digest the content, perform an exercise “drill”, and are then quizzed shortly after. This provides immediate feedback rather than a lengthy waiting period between midterm and final exams. Students are in a better position to understand the right answers from the wrong ones, which can help build confidence for future activities.

Know the students’ technology
Each country has different technology preferences, so you’ll want to become familiar with the devices that your students use to consume eLearning content. This information will strongly influence your localization strategy and design.

For example, when Amway was localizing their corporate eLearning content for Malaysia, they had to have content available in both HTML5 and Flash. In the past, Amway localized their content exclusively in Flash because their Western students used a PC or laptop almost exclusively for eLearning. However, many Malaysians don’t own a PC and prefer to use their iPads, a device on which Flash is not compatible. The key lesson? Get a clear understanding of your students’ technology preferences well before starting the localization process to avoid any hiccups.

3. Assessment

Localizing the assessment portion of your eLearning content goes beyond translating the letters A through F into another language. Make sure the grading portion of your eLearning course translates across different languages and cultures by using:

Your own customized grading color scheme
Used for grading in elementary schools and universities, an incorrect answer is often marked with the color red. Colors, especially red, have different meaning across cultures, and the wrong interpretation of a paper marked with red can ultimately impact the attitude or success of one of your students. For instance, in the Chinese culture, red is seen as a sign of good fortune, while in Western European countries, it tends to mean danger or urgency. By creating a customized color scheme on your grading forms that is congruent with the local culture and perceptions, you can better show students how they’re doing in your course’s activities.

Gamified grading
Gamification is becoming more and more popular in educational communities because it has the ability to motivate students, turning once boring lesson plans into fun and engaging games by using point systems, competition, rewards, and other elements of gameplay. Gamification goes back to simple computer programs on the first PCs to teach children math concepts, and have evolved into mobile and web apps that teach concepts in subjects from science to foreign languages. Students are able to keep track of how they’re doing using your course’s specific point system. And in a multilingual learning environment, visual puzzles and quizzes get the point across with less need for translation when compared to a lecture or readings. Studies have also shown that games increase knowledge retention so there’s really an endless list of benefits!

Ready to take your eLearning course global?

You have a great course and you’re ready to share it with a global audience – how exciting! As you plan to share your course with students around the world, don’t forget to include Transifex in your localization strategy. Through our intuitive localization platform, you can order translations, connect with professional translation agencies and native speakers, and even translate your digital content and any of your courses’ video subtitles!

Learn more about how the Transifex localization platform is being used by eLearning organizations around the world, or request a demo with one of the Transifex team members for more information.

Moving From Spreadsheet-Based Translations to Transifex

For years, spreadsheets have been the go-to for solution for managing localization projects. While they may work for simpler projects, scaling a spreadsheet to fit a large, distributed project can quickly become a nightmare. Shifting from a spreadsheet to Transifex isn’t as difficult as you might think, and we’re certain it will simplify your localization process.

What’s So Bad About Spreadsheets?

Spreadsheets are a static solution to a dynamic problem. Localization is a constantly changing process that spans multiple parties, uses historical and contextual information, and relies on constant back-and-forth communication. While this can be accomplished using spreadsheets and email, things can quickly get out of hand. A developer could accidentally forget to update his or her project with the latest translations, or a translator working on a copy of the spreadsheet could send the wrong version by mistake. The team localizing also has to maintain a set of policies for organizing, modifying, and marking text based on where it is in the localization process. The act of constantly updating, adding to, and reorganizing a spreadsheet can lead even the best plans astray.

How to Get Started on Transifex

Making the leap from a spreadsheet to Transifex may seem daunting, but the initial effort will greatly reduce your future workload.

1. Export Excel Strings to Plain Text

The first step is to get your source strings into Transifex. While Transifex doesn’t currently import spreadsheet files, it can import a variety of other files including plain text files. With plain text files, Transifex treats each new line as a different string, which is ideal for spreadsheets where each string is stored in a separate row. To create a new source file, simply highlight the column that you want to copy and paste it in an empty text file. When creating a new source file, we need to be sure that the character encoding of our text file matches the encoding used in Excel. The best way to do this is to export the spreadsheet to text using UTF-8 encoding, then copy the translations to a new text file. Be sure to remove column headers and delimiters if necessary.

Repeat this process for each of your columns. Keep in mind that Transifex matches localized strings with their source strings based on the line number that they occupy. This means that all translations of “Hello” should appear on line 1, translations matching “Goodbye” should appear on line 2, and so on. We also recommend naming each text file after the name of the target locale (en_US.txt for English translations, es_ES.txt for Spanish translations, etc.).

Preserving Keys

If you need to preserve a key associated with each entry (for instance, if your developers use a key to identify each string in software), you’ll want to use a more structured file type such as Resx. Otherwise, Transifex generates a key based on the string provided in the source file.

2. Create a New Transifex Project

In Transifex, create a new File-based project using your source file. This will create a new project using the source file as the default language. Each line in the source file is treated as a separate string.

new-transifex-project

3. Upload Your Translations

To upload your translated text, click on the target language in your Transifex project. You should see your source file listed with 0% completion. Click on the name of the source file to open the Resource dialog:

upload-through-resource-diaglog

Click on Upload file. This opens the File Upload dialog where you can select your language file. In this case, we’ll upload es_ES.txt to populate the project with our Spanish translations. Once the upload is complete, the en_US.txt resource file displays 100%. Reopen the Resource dialog, then click View Strings Online to verify the translated text.

localized-text-in-transifex

Repeat this process for each language in your spreadsheet.

Preserving Metadata
One downside to this method is that it won’t copy over comments, notes, memos, or other metadata. While there are file formats that support metadata, converting between those formats involves additional steps and goes beyond the scope of this post. In the meantime, you can manually copy metadata by opening the target language in Transifex, navigating to the specific string, and selecting the appropriate tab underneath the translated text.

At this point, the contents of your Transifex project should mirror those of your spreadsheet. Next, we’ll show you how to share your project with translators and coordinators.

3. Add Translators and Coordinators

When creating your new project in Transifex, you also created a new team. At the moment, the team consists of a single user: you. You can add other users to your team by inviting them and assigning them a role.

First, we’ll add our translators. Open your project in Transifex and click the collaborator invite icon:

adding-new-collaborators

Select the user’s role, their assigned language, and enter the user’s email or username. Once the user receives your invitation, he or she will be able to contribute to the project. Repeat this process for any other users you would like to include in your project. You can always modify a user’s role after they’ve been added to the team. Click here to learn more about how teams work in Transifex.

4. Start Translating

Once you’ve completed steps 1 – 3, you’re ready to drop your old spreadsheet for good. Any changes made to your Transifex project are automatically saved and shared across the team. You can update your source file by navigating to the file in Transifex and clicking the Update content button.

Other Features

In addition to translation and collaboration, Transifex provides a host of features designed to ease the localization process. While none of these are required for using Transifex, they do make it easier to manage translations across your team.

Translation Memory

Translation Memory (TM) provides automatic translation suggestions for similar source strings. Not only does it let your translators leverage previous translations, but it also lets you reuse translations across your projects. Each Transifex project comes with its own separate TM instance. Organization administrators can share a single TM instance across multiple projects by creating a TM group and adding each project to the group. TM can also automatically populate translations for source strings that have a 100% match. For more information, see the Translation Memory documentation.

The Transifex Client

The Transifex Client is a command line tool for managing translation files within a project. It lets you easily synchronize and share text between the Transifex website and a directory on your local machine. For instance, you can use the Transifex Client to automatically update a software project with the latest localizations.You can also use the Transifex Client to export your localized strings to different file types such as JSON, XML, or gettext. This way, you can convert from simple plain text files to more compatible formats.

The Transifex Client integrates easily with file-sharing tools such as Dropbox and Google Drive, continuous integration tools such as Jenkins and Bamboo, and even code repositories such as BitBucket and Git.

Crowdsourcing

Public or community-driven projects can benefit from crowdsourcing, which brings the community into the localization process. It’s a way for companies to not only engage with users, but also source translations for larger projects. The process isn’t entirely community-driven as users still need to be manually approved by a coordinator. However, organizations can use Transifex to crowdsource translations for free.

Video Subtitles

If your project contains video, Transifex’s Video Subtitle Editor lets you view and edit subtitles directly in your browser. Transifex stores each subtitle as a separate string and synchronizes it using the timecodes provided. A built-in video player loads the video from an external URL and displays the localized subtitles during playback. For more information, visit the Translating Subtitles page in the Transifex Documentation.

It’s Time to Move On

Spreadsheet localization might have worked in the past, but it’s time to move on to a better solution. Transifex turns a slow, difficult, and error-prone process into a fast, flexible, real-time solution. Please let us know if you need help dropping your spreadsheet in favor of a more flexible localization solution!