From Localization

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:


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


  • 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.

10 Rules for Painless Software Localization

Your team built a killer app in English. High-fives all around. Your user-base is growing, reviews are all positive, you even caught TechCrunch’s eye. Life is good.
Then your 15 minutes are up. Sales flatten out. You start losing market share to a new competitor.

The technology sector has the memory of a goldfish. New players rise and fall every day. You stand a cold thing’s chance in a hot place of riding your initial success through a career-full of revenue. Unless you localize.

You just groaned. Software localization is not your favorite thing. You love to build things, and translating is much less fun. Few developers are eager to localize until they hear about all of the business they’re missing out on. Try this on for size:

  • Global SaaS and cloud-based business application services revenue will grow from $13.5B in 2011 to $32.8B in 2016.
  • By 2017, Gartner projects that there will be 268 billion mobile app downloads annually, amounting to $77 billion in revenue.
  • More than half of the world’s mobile subscribers (52.1%) are located in Asia Pacific.
  • Global games revenues will grow at a 5.7 percent Compounded Annual Growth Rate, reaching an annual haul of $93.18 billion by 2019.

Consider the social networking site, LinkedIn, a company that’s seen much success such their inception in 2003. A few years ago, LinkedIn headed the Forbes list of 25 Fastest Growing Tech Companies. At the time, LinkedIn was a relatively young company, only available in two languages, English and Spanish. The site now displays content and offers customer services in 19 different languages and the number continues to grow. The same goes for the other 24 companies that were listed on that year’s Fastest Growing Tech companies, and rings true for featured companies year after year. Coincidence? We don’t believe in coincidence.

Bottom line — there’s a lot of money to be made in software development right now, but most of it is global money. You need to localize your software.

Getting Started with Software Localization

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Use a Continuous Localization Platform

This might sound a little self-serving coming from us, a company whose product is a Continuous Localization Platform (CLP), but seriously, you need one. Before the CLP, you had only two options: Human (great final product, but slow and expensive) or robot (fast and cheap and terrible in terms of quality). A CLP allows you to remain in control, access real-time analytics, protect your intellectual property and get your software translated efficiently. It’s really a no brainer.


2. Always Use a Full Locale

Be as precise as possible when you localize. Different regions may speak and write a shared language with nuanced differences. Lionbridge explains the nuances of languages perfectly, using the words screen and monitor as examples. “Both describe a device that provides visual output from a computer. However, in the Life Sciences industry, “screen” means to check a patient for a particular symptom and “monitor” means to watch something over a period of time.” Your software should reflect an understanding of those differences.

3. Make Room for Strings to Grow & Shrink

Design should already be part of your most precious intellectual property. You should invest as much energy on how your software looks as you do on how it works. As you design, keep in mind the reality that text will vary in size as you translate it into different languages.

Here’s an example. “Repeat password” is 50% longer in German than in English; if you haven’t left enough space, localization will break your design. You will need a 2-pronged approach to this problem. You want to create enough elasticity to accommodate a 40% variance. This will take care of most strings in most languages. That said, you’ll also need to test early and often. Let your designers be involved in the process at every phase, so they don’t experience a bottleneck of updates once the translations are complete.

4. Start with your Product Page and Description

If you’re really nervous about localization as a whole — not sure your product will have global appeal, or remain unconvinced of the business logic — then start small. Many companies have seen great sales gains resulting from the launch of a localized product page even without making changes to their software. If you decide to use your product page as a test, be sure you do it right. Comb over every single pixel of your product’s LP and every syllable in your app store description. Adjust the username in your screenshots (“Carlos” instead of “John”) change any references to location (maps, pictures, timezones). You don’t want to fail because of poor execution and come to the (incorrect) conclusion that localization doesn’t work.

5. Never Concatenate Strings

Sloppy amendments in CSS or HTML, qualifying one string with another as can often happen in redactive search, is a shortcut that nobody will notice until your software is localized. When you do, you will have bugs out your ears. Even the Romance languages, which are very close to one another, have subtle syntactical differences. Sometimes modifiers come before nouns, sometimes after, sometimes they become a suffix.

Instead, code the entire string together and allow your translators to put the words in the correct order for each linguistic context.

6. Include Punctuation

It’s tempting to omit punctuation while you are coding, and plan to add it later. Maybe you hope to re-use the string in different contexts where it will need to be punctuated differently. Don’t.

Include punctuation in context, and create unique strings for each line of text. Even the same sequence of words may translate differently with different punctuation. In French, for example, a colon is surrounded by spaces. If you omit the colon in your string, and try to add it later, your French interface will have a typo that your translators could have helped you avoid.

7. Pay Special Attention to Proper Names

Some languages alter the spelling and pronunciation of proper names in different contexts. Others alternate the placement of given and family names. Pay special attention to your treatment of names. It’s best to offer all three fields – first, last and username.

8. Never Hard-Code Date, Time, or Currency

Time and date formats vary wildly around the world. Currency too. Java can help. Code in a universal format like ISO time and then tap an open-source library like Date.js to format for your specific location.

This can be especially in date selection tools. Estonia marks Saturday as the first day of the week, the US starts on Sunday, the UK on Monday, the Maldives on Friday. Use the jQuery UI date picker to overcome this challenge.

9. Plan for Languages that Read in Both Directions

Most languages read from left to right, but Arabic and Hebrew read from right to left. CSS and HTML provide a directional property, but they will not override a CSS element coded as “float: left” or “float: right”. If you have fixed positioning layouts, you might need to build an entirely new set of style sheets for your left-to-right products.

10. Never Trust the Browser

Yes, the browser can translate. But you shouldn’t trust it. Any extra work the browser has to execute on your app will make it slower, and nobody likes to wait. Let the browser do what it does: browse. Let the people coo about your speed. Localize. Don’t trust the browser.

Ready to Go Global?

Software localization can be a painful process, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow these simple rules and you can launch your software into a global marketplace without more than a little pinch. We promise. And if you want to see how easy it can be, just reach out to us and request a demo. One of our team members would be happy to show you around the platform.

*Editors Note: We’re all about simplifying the localization process! A recent increase in requests for how to properly localize software gave us the idea to re-share a post that was previously featured on our blog, written by our CEO, Dimitris Glezos. We made a few updates and hope you enjoyed it!

Counteract the End of Year Doldrums with a Fresh Look at Your Marketing Horizons

If you’re a marketer working in a company that doesn’t support a big holiday rush in business, December can seem like a dead zone. Who wants to launch a new campaign or publish new content when your audience is focused on holiday parties, gift giving, and travel plans?

The more relaxed business environment leading up to the holidays might be the perfect time to challenge yourself to think creatively, evaluating new opportunities and creating a breakout work plan for 2016 that will have you running into the office with a spring in your step on that first Monday of the new year. Here are several steps to consider to support your end of year evaluation process.

1. Review the marketing tactics that won in 2015 and check out the predictions for 2016.

This is the time of year when every thought leader is providing a retrospective of the year and/or making their bets for 2016. Leverage these lists and articles to stimulate ideas for new approaches and tactics you might not have considered. These lists may also reinforce your commitment to key programs you’re already using but may want to expand. For example, CloudPeeps just reaffirmed the importance of email, and BuzzSumo summarized 23 winning content-focused tips from Inbound 2015.

2. Evaluate your marketing technology stack and schedule some demos.

These days, the MarTech universe is overwhelming, which may be a barrier to adopting anything. But don’t let the chaos dissuade you from employing the technologies that best support your strategy, needs, and business maturity. The ultimate cheat sheet provides a clear approach to understanding and evaluating some of the key marketing technologies for all businesses. Once you have your own tech short list, identify the top tools within each category of interest and schedule some demos to see them in action.

3. Coordinate with your sales team to create a collaborative technology plan.

Much as we all like to think “marketing is not sales,” more and more, our two functions need to work in concert to maximize business success. That couldn’t be more true when it comes to the sales stack, which has to play nice with the marketing stack, otherwise leads can be dropped somewhere along the way. (And isn’t Influitive a marketing solution anyway?) The line of demarcation is getting fuzzier and fuzzier, and honestly who cares where the line is if the key tech for your business is somewhere in the gray area. Get aligned and chart out some sensible investments for your company as a whole.

4. Revisit your personas and the buying process.

In the end, it’s all about customers — acquiring, converting and retaining them — so make sure you understand your target customers and their buying process. You may want to consider updating your personas if you don’t currently employ an evergreen process. If so, HubSpot has some super helpful templates and tips for generating and maintaining robust personas. And don’t forget the design of your customer experience — there’s a lot of discussion these days about making sure you account for the emotional elements of how your customers perceive their business relationship with your company and your brand. Make sure you understand all aspects of your customer, and if you don’t, think about gaining that insight as a key priority in 2016.

5. Consider creating a marketing experimentation schedule or plan.

If you haven’t yet been bitten by the agile marketing bug or drunk the Kool-Aid on growth hacking, you should at least familiarize yourself with these concepts and the value that they’re attributing to taking a higher velocity, incremental, frequent testing approach to building marketing programs and success. Maybe these techniques are too far from your current organization’s DNA, but it’s helpful to understand if there are elements you could use to increase the velocity of your current team or positively impact your results.

6. Think outside the box.

Are there totally new techniques or ideas that you’ve seen but didn’t think about rigorously because you initially thought they might be too untested or too difficult? Now’s the time to revisit the new or different just to make sure you aren’t leaving a valuable opportunity on the table. Perhaps the idea is a small one, like fielding a multi-channel quiz to drive lead capture or trying some humor in your content mix, or perhaps it’s a larger initiative like building a webapp for viral acquisition or launching your website in a few additional languages to take advantage of the growing trend towards globalization. Even a small step outside your comfort zone might yield bigger than expected results, so gather all the facts and determine what resources you’ll need to give your new idea a try.

Don’t get too distracted by the fun going on outside the office — remember to have some fun at work, too, learning, exploring, and charting a new course for the new year.

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.

ACA Recognizes the Importance of Multilingual Support for Patients

One of the most unsuspecting industries is leading the way for a new customer service trend. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the health care industry is redefining how to serve customers, no matter what language they speak.

The reforms put forward by the ACA, also known as Obamacare, require health care providers to provide Limited English Proficient (LEP) patients with access to the information and materials they need to make informed decisions related to health care. This includes making sure payment systems, programs, and documents are properly translated, and that LEP patients have access to interpreters when they receive health care services. These requirements place the health care industry ahead of many others when it comes to reaching customers with multilingual content.

General Language Requirements

Within the Affordable Care Act, there are several provisions that deal exclusively with providing LEP patients with the linguistic access they need, specifically for written documents and oral communications.

Written Documents

The ACA requires that each provider supply all patients with a translated Uniform Glossary and Summary of Benefits Coverage (SBC). In regards to the SBC, the employer and the insurer are responsible for distributing these documents under fully-insured plans. For self-insured plans, the employer is the only one responsible for compiling and handing out these forms. Although it is not explicitly stated, the ACA implies that documents like appeal notices and provision of claims should also be translated to provide comprehensive health care for patients.

Standardized documents like intake forms may also be translated, and providers may benefit from adding translated taglines to the top of commonly used documents, ensuring LEP patients understand the important details of those documents. Health care providers and insurers should also plan to translate their website and digital content into the languages most commonly spoken and read by their patients.

Oral Communication

Individuals with limited English proficiency must be granted access to bilingual staff members or interpreters at each point in the health care process, from registration at a medical facility to financial counseling. This high level of language support ensures that all patients have access to information to confidently make important medical decisions regarding their care.

Selecting Languages for Translation

With more than 6,000 distinct languages spoken around the world, it would be cost prohibitive for providers to translate documents into every language, so the ACA has created guidelines to assist providers in determining which languages they must provide to their patient communities. According to these guidelines, documents should be translated for every LEP patient group that exceeds a minimum of 1,000 people or 10 percent of the health care provider’s population in a specific county. In the situation where 10 percent of the population is less than 50 individuals, it’s not necessary to translate written documents. Instead, translation can be done orally, as needed.

The ACA guidelines also recommend adding a tagline to the top of important health care documents, translating only the headline as opposed to the entire document when cost, resources, or other limitations prevent translations of entire documents. In addition, LEP patients should be provided with a notification that language interpretation is available for free.

Sections of the ACA Relating to Language

Some of the features of the ACA that relate to interpretation and translation include:

  • Section 15574 About Nondiscrimination – According to this section, federal civil rights laws and Title VI don’t allow discrimination due to national origin, color or race – which includes language discrimination. This applies to any program that receives federal funds and any health care exchange.
  • Section 1001 About Notice Requirements – Every health plan and insurance company must create an appeals process for dealing with coverage claims and decisions. The plan or issuer must give enrolled members notices in a language they can understand. Plans with 100 enrolled patients or fewer only need to translate notices if 25 percent of the enrolled patients are primarily literate in another language. Meanwhile, plans with 500 enrolled members need to be translated if 10 percent of the members speak the same, non-English language.
  • Section 1331 About Plain Language Requirements – This section requires each health exchange that wants to be certified under the Affordable Care Act to submit information such as their financial disclosures, denied claims, rating practices, payment policies, cost sharing and other data. Any information provided must be written in plain language that can be understood by patients with limited English proficiency.
  • Section 1001 About Coverage and Benefits – Anyone seeking health care coverage must be provided with a summary of the potential benefits and coverage requirements. This must be written in language that can be understood by the average person, and it may need to be in another format for patients with limited English proficiency. The goal of this provision is to ensure that consumers understand their plans and adequately compare options.

How do Health Care Providers and Insurers Tackle the Requirements?

Although adhering to the multilingual language requirements of the Affordable Care Act may be complex, they ensure that the majority of patients understand their care options and have access to quality care. This improved understanding may help to reduce longer term costs of care, helping to offset the investment providers will need to make in the short run. It’s also important to note that smaller insurance plans and areas with limited LEP populations will be exempt from some of these provisions. An early step for many providers may be to begin working with translation agency or language service provider to identify the right languages and assemble the resources for translation.

For more information about translating digital health care content including websites and mobile apps, reach out to a team member from Transifex and request a quick 30 minute demo. Transifex is a localization automation platform that enables health care providers to raise their standard of care by connecting patients with the information they need to make informed medical decisions.

Localization Process for Javascript Web Applications

Last week, Transifex software engineer, Matt Jackowski (@mjjacko) spoke at Bitmatica’s Code and Cookies event in San Francisco, sharing his insights about Javascript development. For readers who couldn’t make the event, Matt recaps the localization story shared at Code and Cookies!

“Localization can often be a scary process, especially if you haven’t done it before. In this post I’ll walk through the a basic agile process that can be used for any Javascript web application.”

An Agile process for Javascript development

When we are building Javascript applications, we move from ideation to application very quickly. Therefore, we need an agile approach that can be used to quickly enable us.


We often skip this step and go directly to coding. But it’s important to pause a minute and consider the decisions we must make before building our app.

  1. Internationalization Support – We’ll want to leverage existing i18n functionality either in our framework, or pick a library that supports multilingual functionalities. Unfortunately, support for i18n is not as mature as most other languages. Depending on the structure of your application, it might be difficult to find a good supporting i18n library. ReactJS and AngularJS currently have the best support, however this support comes from external libraries. Some integration will be needed.
  2. Linguistic Guides – During planning, it’s a great time to define style guides for your translated copy. A typical translation style guide contains the application’s standards and expectations that must be followed when writing copy.


1: NodeJS i18n will allow you to process formatting on the server-side. This is great from a performance perspective, but can be tricky with client-side views.

2: Build tools can be used in place for a more formal i18n approach. However, this approach primarily works well for static content.


There are 2 key parts to build step:

  1. Tagging the code– For most frameworks, we can use our templating language to designate the text that needs translations. Similarly, dates and numbers should be passed to an internationalization format before displayed in the view.

  1. Translation – As soon as we start tagging strings for our text, we also want to start sending this to our translators. Waiting until the entire site is complete and THEN doing translation, isn’t very efficient and certainly isn’t agile.


Now we want to bring the code and the translations together into a working application.
Reliable automation is the key in this step.

We can accomplish much of this automation with Grunt and if we integrate with a translation management tool (like Transifex), that setup allows us to run our application in other languages before translation is fully completed.



The last step in this process is our final quality check. Here we can run any time consuming acceptance tests, keeping in mind that we’ll likely need to run these multiple times for each language. Also on the linguistic side, it’s recommend that a quality check should be performed by professional translators who really understand our application.

Next Steps

Here are some additional resources to help you get started:

Matt shared some great tips for companies interested in taking their web apps to a global audience. For more information about localizing Javascript web apps, don’t hesitate to visit our website at or request a personalized demo with one of our team members today!

Support Documentation: Job #1 for Localization?

You’re a software or mobile app provider and you’re thinking about developing localized content to enter international markets for the first time. That’s great! But which pieces of content do you start with? Oftentimes, the task of translating support documentation seems like it would be far down the priority list, well behind translating your marketing website or product interface. The thing is, that prioritization could be totally wrong. Localizing your support materials might be the most important information to translate as a first step to cement your global growth.

Does this seem counterintuitive? Let’s look at some data and examples to understand why this just might make sense for your business.

The Case for Making Support Documentation Top Priority for Localization

First, let me share an anecdote I heard recently at a localization conference I attended. Another attendee from a large, well-known software provider* shared her company’s experience with the decision process for initiating localization projects. (*I was not able to make personal contact with this attendee, nor did she provide blanket permission to share her story officially, so I am omitting the company identification, but trust me, you’ve heard of them.)

Her company had not localized the user interface to one of its key products, only offering it in English. A few years ago, when the company started thinking about whether to localize the product and for what markets, they dug into the details around their users’ experience, and they realized they already had a large base of international users. Their product was powerful enough and their interface simple enough that many non-English speakers were adopting it despite its lack of a locale-specific interface.

But that’s where the good news ended. The company also realized they had a customer support issue on their hands. Multiple international users’ forums had sprung up online to answer questions from the users who had no way to get adequate support directly from the company. That meant users were depending on the quality delivered by other users who spoke their language, rather than the official, vetted documentation from the company itself. So that’s where all the company’s localization efforts began — with customer support materials.

We see a similar prioritization in the results of our 2014 Localization Benchmark survey. Among the organizations surveyed (all of whom are at least thinking about localization) the content that rated as the second highest priority for localization was Documentation / Knowledge Bases. This prioritization is also consistent with the finding that the number one benefit of localizing is delivering a better user experience, noted by 51% of respondents.

Customer Service — A Critical Element of the Customer Experience

It’s important not to lose sight of customer service’s strategic importance to your business. According to the 2015 Global State of Multichannel Customer Service Report, 68% of US consumers stopped doing business with a brand due to poor customer service. Selling excellent products to customers at the right price through their preferred channel isn’t enough in and of itself to create a robust customer experience with your brand. How you provide customer service must be top of mind to fully satisfy customers because in today’s competitive landscape, it’s not about not meeting, but exceeding customer expectations.

This same study also reports that 90% of consumers surveyed globally expect companies to have an online self-service support portal or FAQ. So if you’re planning on delivering an exceptional online experience for customers around the world, you must have the support aspects of your business ready from the start. Providing online support through localized content is no longer an option, but a must.

Preparing for Localization Before You Begin

In much the same way that customer service design is now an integral part of the go-to-market strategy, planning for localization can no longer be an afterthought. A product development approach that anticipates localization tasks smooths the process when you are ready to go global. If you’ve already implemented a solution like the one from Zendesk that helps your U.S. customers help themselves, you can easily leverage that solution internationally via the Transifex Sync Zendesk App, easing the process of meeting customers’ high expectations in each market that you enter.

If you’re interested in seeing how the Transifex Sync Zendesk App works, schedule a personalized demo with one of our team members, and you’ll be one important step closer to achieving your global growth objectives!

Freaky Friday: 3 of the Scariest Translations in Celebration of Halloween

Embarrassing mistakes aren’t really a big deal when you make them in front of your friends, but make an embarrassing mistake in a global marketing campaign and you can bet everyone will be talking about it. In celebration of Halloween, Transifex wanted to share some embarrassing, and quite frankly, scary translations that were made by companies we all know and love.

1. Kentucky Fried Chicken

Kentucky Fried Chicken is one of the few American fast food companies to succeed in China. KFC understood that the Chinese often viewed American fast-food chains as cheap establishments, serving mediocre western-style foods, and instead positioned themselves as part of the local community by serving items besides fried chicken. The Chinese KFC menu contains 50 items, in contrast with the 29 items commonly found on American menus, and includes traditional dishes beloved by the Chinese like egg tarts and congee (rice porridge) with pork.

KFCs in China also have larger kitchens to accommodate the larger menus, and the actual restaurant is typically larger than those in the US. Why? To allow customers space to linger. Unlike America where families grab a bucket of fried chicken to share around the table at home, KFC wanted to welcome extended families and groups to dine inside their establishment.

While KFC had been so thoughtful in how to localize their product and dining experience to suit the Chinese, it lacked the same thoughtfulness when translating one of their most popular catchphrases. According to reports, the popular saying “Finger-lickin’ good” was translated into Chinese, reading literally as, “Eat your fingers off.” Appetizing, right?

2. Pepsi

In the late 1950s, a demographic phenomenon known as the post-war baby boom would change the way Americans thought about daily activities and purchases. Knowing these individuals were part of a new generation that embraced a lifestyle with fewer rules, Pepsi crafted a campaign that captured this new, fun loving spirit. As more Americans identified with Pepsi’s campaign, the first Pepsi Generation was born.

Pepsi’s campaign was seen as innovative in the marketing world because it portrayed Americans in a new light. The campaign’s main message was simple – live life to the fullest. There is no set structure or ideology to live by. The popularity of the campaign helped Pepsi steadily gain market share over Coca Cola – a percentage that would continue to grow as they launched the Pepsi Challenge campaign in the 1980s.

That said, when it was time to expand into new global markets, it seemed like a no-brainer to bring the successful Pepsi Generation campaign to Taiwan. The fun loving nature of the campaign would be exciting and would represent the brand in a positive light. Unfortunately, the Pepsi slogan, “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” translated into Taiwanese became, “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead.” A bit creepy in general, but for us, a perfect scary Halloween story!

3. Jolly Green Giant

Most Americans recognize the Jolly Green Giant as a friendly, approachable fellow who will happily share his frozen and canned vegetables to hungry consumers. Yet, this isn’t always how the Green Giant was portrayed. Prior to adopting the name Green Giant Co., the company was known as the Minnesota Canning Co., and its mascot wasn’t jolly or even green. In fact, he looked more like a caveman, wearing a bearskin and carrying a large pea pod.

The Minnesota Canning Co.’s mascot made his first television debut in 1928, and to much surprise, wasn’t warmly accepted by consumers. Over the next few years, the famous Leo Burnett would step in and create the trademarked Jolly Green Giant we’re all familiar with. Burnett would make the Giant completely green, add a tunic made of leaves, and give the Giant a smile and friendly demeanor, which became a huge success in the United States.

After finding success in the United States, Green Giant Co. wanted to expand its offerings to other countries and identified canned sweet corn as the first product to test overseas because it wouldn’t require flavor changes across international markets. Jolly Green Giant quickly learned this wasn’t the case, as local influences played a much larger role than anticipated, and they also ran into a translation error in Middle Eastern countries. The “Jolly Green Giant” became the “intimidating green ogre” in Arabic, reversing the work that Burnett had accomplished in America in a few poorly translated words. At the very least, the ogre might scare Arabic-speaking children into eating their vegetables!

Scared Silly?

All of the above translation tales are just that, tales. None have been confirmed by any company reps and there’s no historical financial data showing a decrease in sales during the time of these poorly translated campaigns. But like all Halloween tales, they’ll leave you cautious, whether you believe in them or not.

5 Ways to Let Your Translation Glossary Work for You

Everyone has a set of favorite tools that makes their job easier, whether it’s something as simple as a smartphone calendar that integrates with email or a password manager that keeps all login information in one secure and convenient place. Each tool has its own purpose. Maybe it’s to automate a manual process, to enhance workflow, or to save money. No matter the reason, at the end of the day, you adopt tools that’ll make your life easier and set you up for success. Why should it be any different when it comes to your localization platform?

Within Transifex, there are a number of tools that make your life easier. Translation glossaries, in particular, ensure consistency and clarity in all your translated materials, creating a consistent user experience. And with studies showing that around 15% of all translation project costs arise from rework caused by inconsistent terminology, a translation glossary is an invaluable tool in supporting your localization efforts.

1. Structure your glossary with purpose.

A translation glossary is only helpful if it’s organized and easy to navigate. If your glossary includes thousands of terms, your translators are forced to constantly reference the glossary as they’re translating. It’s a nightmare! And it takes a lot of time.

To create a comprehensive glossary, review existing client-facing materials for frequently used terms. As you build your glossary, double check to make sure each term is only included once. For instance, we wouldn’t want our Transifex glossary to include the term and definition for “localization platform,” “localization,” and “platform.”

Structure your glossary to contain key terminology in your source language, as well as approved translations (for that terminology) in your target language. This helps translators by shortening the time needed to translate strings and frees up your time (or your reviewer’s time) because you don’t have to double check and see if commonly used terms are translated correctly.

2. Include terms specific to YOUR company or product.

One of the key purposes of a glossary is to enforce consistency in messaging and branding, providing current and future translators with a repository of properly translated company and industry-specific terms. For example, including your company’s name in your glossary ensures translators will never attempt to translate (and change) your brand name. This isn’t an issue for companies with distinct names like ours, but for companies that share their name with commonly used words like Apple, making a distinction between the brand name and the fruit ensures consistency across digital content in various languages.

It’s also important to make a clear distinction between important industry terms and terms that are simply helpful for the translator. Let’s use the fast food industry as an example. A majority of fast food chains serve burgers and fries, which may be considered industry terms, but not all restaurants will use a term like “Happy Meal” which is specific to McDonald’s. Including burgers and fries in your translation glossary might create unnecessary clutter, whereas including Happy Meal will ensure the product name is used correctly.

3. Make your glossary translator-centric.

It can be easy for companies to veer off track when creating their glossaries. Keep in mind that your glossary is a tool for your translators, so put yourself in their shoes when creating it. One of the best ways to do this is to give your translators context. Along with the term and definition, give an example of how the term is often used so they can have a better understanding of the word and when to include it in translations.

Additional information to include in your translation glossary includes the definition of the word, part of speech, and depending on what you’re translating, any language variance that may occur, such as differences between American English and British English. Taking the time to create a comprehensive tool for your translators may seem like an exhausting process, but will ultimately reduce the overall cost of translations over time as your translators become familiar with your business’ related terminology.

4. Conduct an in-country review.

Your translation glossary isn’t helpful if your source language terminology isn’t correctly translated into your target language. After you’ve compiled the first draft of your translation glossary, send it to translators who specialize in your target language. Spend some time reviewing any feedback or notes with your translators to see if nuances in language affect or change the meanings of certain translated words or phrases.

Along these lines, continually ask your translators for feedback. The best translation glossaries evolve as the business grows and new products and services – and associated marketing messages – change. You may need to add, change, or delete terms over time, but by involving your translators in this process, you increase your chances of retaining a valuable, high-quality, and helpful translation glossary.

5. Create a Translation Memory database.

Glossaries can also serve as the foundation for translation memory databases, another tool that decreases time spent in translations, increases productivity, and reduces cost. Translation Memory Databases house your company’s most commonly translated terms, so when translators come across a similar word or phrase as they’re translating, TM will make suggestions based on past, accurate translations. Learn more about Transifex’s Translation Memory and why more and more companies are incorporating this tool into their translation process.

Translation glossaries exist because even the best translators may have difficulty translating a key marketing concept or catch phrase. Give your translators a great resource, make their job easier, and enjoy the benefits over time. For more information about translation memory or the localization process in general, feel free to reach out to one of our team members – we look forward to hearing from you!