From Translation Tips

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.

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!

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!

How Accurate is Google Translate for Website Translation?

The advent of the Internet made it possible for businesses to reach a global audience. Yet, what use is a website or mobile app if it can only be viewed in a single language? Today, businesses need digital content to be translated quickly, almost on the fly, and a single or even team of translators may not be able to provide acceptable turnaround times or quality. In an effort to expedite the process, many businesses are turning to Google Translate for website translation.

Localizing Websites with Google Translate

The Google Translate Algorithm

Google Translate is a translation service that can be used to translate a word, sentence, paragraph or  full web page. It uses a translation algorithm that is based on language pattern matching, termed Statistical Machine Translation or SMT. The algorithm references human translated documents from a multitude of sources dating back to 1957 and looks for patterns in the translation.

Actual translations are then based on the probability that the translation of two strings match, e.g. ‘hello’ in English (English in this case is the source  language) is highly likely to be ‘Hola’ in Spanish (target language). The probability of getting an accurate translation is thus dependent on the database of translated texts.

Using Google Translate for Business Needs

When serving customers in multiple countries, translations are required in all areas of business from replying to customer support emails to displaying technical documentation on a website. To meet this large scope of translation needs, a number of businesses (around 549,088 to be precise) use the Google Translate widget to translate their digital content. All the user has to do is go to the Google Translate tools page, complete the setup process as instructed, and at the end, copy the provided code snippet onto every page that is to be translated.

Because the Google Translate widget uses an algorithm that is based on probability, the system is most effective when used with smaller chunks of language to convey simple messages. For example, responding to a customer request email in his or her native language may be fairly straightforward, while technical documents, because of inaccuracies around grammar, may not be as easy to translate accurately. The British Medical Journal (BMJ) reviewed Google Translate’s ability to perform language translations in a paper titled, “Use of Google Translate in Medical Communication: Evaluation of Accuracy” and found the accuracy of translating medical documents to be less than 58% with some errors being potentially life threatening.

So Can Businesses Rely on Google Translate for Accurate Translations?

Using a translation method that relies on probability increases the chances for errors in a given translation. The translated text will only be as good as the best possible, available texts and therefore will only be “close” and never as good as a human translation. With mobile apps, websites, and software products in particular, marketing messages and notifications such as error messages must be translated with respect to the context of the entire text as opposed to each word individually. Businesses will likely need a more flexible and robust translation alternative that can take into account the nuances of meanings and expressions to attain high-quality and accurate translations.

Another area of weakness in the Google translation service is in the types of language and pairs of languages chosen to translate between. An example of this is translating a text from Serbian to Korean. In these situations, you are likely to have few, if any, translated texts to build a decent database from. To compensate, Google Translate will use a more complex route to obtain a translation, perhaps translating the source language to a more common language like English or Spanish before translating the original content. This process leaves more room for error and can result in translations that do not make sense to the end user.

Data Privacy Issues and Google Translate

Google’s Terms of Service agreement is another point to consider when translating online content and documentation. Their Terms and Conditions state:

Google Translate Terms
The above clause is also perpetuated in the Translate API terms of Google’s product. This may be a turn off for companies because it states that data privacy may not be respected, an especially important note if proprietary documents or content require translations.

Alternatives to Google Translate

Businesses often cite cost and simplicity as the top reasons for using Google Translate to translate web and app-based content. While Google Translate may be a short-term solution, its unreliability could potentially cost businesses in the long-term as content may be incorrect or even offensive to individuals in a certain locale if translated out of context. This is where localization platforms come into play. A localization platform is able pull translatable strings from software or a website or app and collect them on a platform where individuals can translate them. These individuals can be hired from a professional translation agency or a company can leverage their user base to crowdsource translations. The benefit with both of these options is that content is translated in context as opposed to word for word. After translations are completed, they can then be pushed back into the product and viewed by customers. The process is automated, making the job easier for developers, and overall, provides more flexibility and control than the Google Translate widget.

Localization Automation Platform

The Perfect Translation Combination

The basic premise of using pre-translated documents as a basis for translation is a sound one. The devil is however, in the detail. Finding a balance between fast and accurate translations may be found in using an automated localization platform that uses both computer-assisted translation, as well as input from native speakers. This creates a powerful and intelligent way to enjoy accurate translations and to convey the right message to the right audience.

For more information about localization, check out the Localization Benchmark Report and see why companies of all sizes are localizing their apps, websites, and digital content.

The Do’s and Don’t’s of Translating Your Online Store

A note from the Transifex Team: Today we’re happy to have our friends at TextMaster share some useful tips on how to optimize localized websites. Check out their blog for more great ideas and a few guest posts from us!

The beauty of online stores is that you can reach customers around the world without opening up shop in a new location. Many storeowners think that they can just run their site through Google Translate and new customers will be rushing to their (virtual) door. They then feel confused when the weeks go by without a single international sale.

To avoid this kind of frustration, we’re going to show you the right way to translate your online store, with examples of mistakes to steer clear of.

Mistake 1: Using automatic translation tools

This is the number one mistakes that business owners make when trying to translate their online store or even their corporate website. While Google has been improving its machine translation tools, they still have a long way to go, especially for more complex languages.

We always recommend human translation because not only can translators write in the style and tone that you want, but they can also see the context of the text. This is most important for expressions and ambiguous words that may completely change the meaning your of sentence. For example, if your product description for shoes says that they are “to die for”, this may not translate well into other languages; your customers will be wondering why you’re talking about shoes and death. A human translator can replace this with the equivalent phrase that will resonate with your local audience.

Mistake 2: Missing translations

You put effort into your online store – the content, the design, the user experience – so that when visitors come to your store, they’ll be persuaded to buy something. So why wouldn’t you make every language version of your site as effective as the original? When you translate only a few pages (like the product descriptions) and ignore others (like Customer Service), you’re giving your visitors one more reason to abandon their shopping carts.

It’s important to translate everything, from the most obvious – home page, product descriptions – to less obvious, like menus, footers, and text in images. When you make your online store available in your customer’s language, you’re not only making it easier for them to navigate and get the information you want, but you’re also building a strong sense of trust, which is still crucial for online businesses.

Mistake 3: Not keeping your store up to date

You’ve translated your store; great! Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that you can just forget about it now. Translation is an ongoing process because your store is always changing. Did you add new products? Is there a promotion on your home page? Did you shipping policies change? When you make any additions or changes to your online store, it’s important to update it in the other languages so that your visitors receive the latest information.

Mistake 4: Forgetting to check the layout

The English language is fairly short compared to others like German or French. Your website layout may look perfect in English, but don’t assume that this will be the case when you import your translations. The most important elements to check are your navigation menus, titles, buttons and forms. The text may be cut off or spill over onto other section of your pages. This is another situation where your human translator will come in handy. They can offer shorter synonyms or reword your sentences to fit into your desired layout. As with point #3, it’s important to keep checking the layout of your website whenever you add new products, promotions, etc.

Going beyond translation

We want to leave you with a final thought – the goal of translating your online store is to make a connection with your target audience in a new region. While translating your website into the local language is essential, to be truly local, you need to take into account your customer’s culture and preferences. Regional holidays, currencies, expressions and buying behavior are all important elements to integrate into your multilingual online store.

About TextMaster

TextMaster provides online translation, content writing and proofreading services to over 5000 customers all over the world. With a network of translators and writers specialized in over 40 areas of expertise, TextMaster can handle all types of orders, from marketing content creation to website localization.

5 Secret Features in Transifex to Simplify Your Localization Workflow and Improve Translation Quality

While Transifex doesn’t have any Easter eggs (or does it?), there are a few lesser known features which can your simplify your localization workflow, improve translation quality, and make you a Transifex expert:

1. String Permalinks

Have you ever needed a specific string translated or reviewed? Each string in the editor has its own unique permalink, so instead of asking your translator to dig up a string, simply select the string, copy the URL, and send it to them. Easy!

This way, you’ll be sure you’re both looking at the same thing.

String Permalink


2. Screenshots

One thing you can do to help your translators deliver high quality content is to document how the text they are translating appears on the website. A screenshot lets translators know where strings appear in your product, removing any doubts about what the correct interpretation of “manual” is.

String Permalink

To add a screenshot, paste the URL of the image file as a comment in the editor (you can use services such as Dropbox, Imgur, or CloudApp to host your screenshot). Transifex will display it inline.


3. Set Character Limits for Translations

Depending on what you are translating, you may need to keep a translation within a specific character limit in order to not break the user interface. For instance, in menus, buttons, and mobile apps where space is constrained.

Set translations character limits

To set character limits for a translation, select the string in the Transifex editor, then click on “Character limit” in the middle panel (under the Instructions field). If a translation exceeds the character limit, Transifex will notify the translator and ask them to shorten their translation.


4. Pseudo Localization

A project must test its internationalization support to ensure that a) when rendering a translated language, all strings which should be translated are marked as localizable and b) different sizes and encodings of the original strings are supported.

The way to do such tests is to run the application, website, or document using a special “pseudo” file. This file makes it possible to identify issues before translations begin.

Download pseudo localization file

Visit Project Overview > Source Language > Resource, and click on a resource. From the resource details popup, you can download a pseudo file for that resource.

Note: You can read more about pseudo localization in our support documentation.


5. Order Translations

If you aren’t working with a vendor or crowdsourcing translations, you can order translations to 33 languages right in Transifex. Translations are provided by one of our partners and delivered back in your project.

Click “Order translations” at the top of your dashboard to start.

Order translations

Know of any other not-so-obvious features in Transifex? Share them in the comments below. I’d love to hear them.

7 Tips for Startups That Want to Expand Globally

In today’s hyperconnected world, your customers can be located anywhere. If you’re launching a technology company, you probably know this already. Unfortunately, the world is not flat. Some countries are exceptional at incubating young startups. Some offer unfriendly confines. And others are a mixed bag of pros and cons.

  • Argentina boasts a ton of talent but stiff competition.
  • Australia enjoys a comfortable AAA credit rating but suffers from stifling bureaucracy.
  • The infrastructure in France is reliable, but the tax codes are not.
  • Malaysia hosts 2 of the 3 largest IPO’s recently despite lack of a developed workforce.1

World at night

It is possible to live and work on a different continent from your target market. Here’s how to go about it.

Plan internationally from day 1

Look for customers in unexpected places. The Arab world is home to 60 million smartphones and 90 million internet-connected consumers yet less than 1% of apps are available in Arabic.2 There’s huge opportunity outside the traditional first world. Whatever you’re building, more people can use it in Dubai, Munster, Kampala, and Seoul than in Duluth, Tuscon, Charlotte, and Bangor. Build it for them, make it awesome, and they will buy it. Your competition, the big established player in your market, has been resisting an overseas push for a long time because it’s scary for an established company to break stride and explore new markets. That’s good news for you. You don’t have a stride to break.

Make your first steps in the market with international goals, and even if you’re 12th to market in English, you can lead the pack in Mandarin, Spanish, German, and Arabic and experience all of the first mover advantages when you open those new markets.3

Hire language skills

Your first 10-15 hires will likely be made on referrals.4 They are usually made to meet a very immediate need. Once you begin to expand globally, include language skills in your hiring criterion for jobs like customer service, marketing, and sales. A bilingual team of translators working in-house isn’t necessary (especially if you use a platform like Transifex), but since you’re planning to build a customer base in a culture other than your own, you need people on hand who can support those customers, empathize with them, and answer their questions when they call.

Start with low risk

Start with the languages and markets that represent the smallest amount of risk. Translate from English-US to English-UK, for example. Virtually all of the vocabulary remains the same, and the text is highly readable for everyone on your team. It might seem like a waste of time to translate your product into a different locale of the same language, but this will give you the chance to work out all of the kinks. You’ll be able to test your workflow process, and since the only differences will be nuanced spelling and word changes, there’s little risk of a major faux pas.

British vs. American English

Do serious research

Translation is just one part of global expansion. Before going into a new market, know its landscape.5 Does your target market use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or a regional equivalent such as VK in Russia? What are the the written and unwritten laws and regulations that you will be subject to? In the European Union, for instance, websites must ask visitors for their consent before most cookies can be installed.

Study the companies that have managed to be successful where you’d like to go and talk with the people involved. There will be bumps along the way, but doing your homework beforehand and creating a plan will minimize them. One place to start is the Department of Commerce.

Make decisions based on potential return

Once you have a successful launch in a different locale or dialect, choose the next project based on potential return. Move to places where you’ll operate an effective monopoly. You can be first to market in these places, and you can grow faster. A virgin market allows you to learn the customer tendencies apart from the bias of standing industry norms. All first-mover advantages will belong to you. You can set price, service expectations, even the business model.

Do it right the first time

Translations are an investment. You have options ranging from machine-based translations similar to Google Translate (use sparingly) to full-service professional translation. If you’re just starting, and don’t have a large enough user base yet to support community translations, you should pay for professionals who can deliver consistent and high-quality results.

Your product, website, and marketing pages are the lifeblood of your company and directly impact your bottom line. Saving money by cutting corners will come back and haunt you, not to mention affect your customers’ user experience.

Translator cartoon

Stay involved in the process

It’s wise to delegate project management duties to someone on the team. Build a localization workflow that acts as a natural extension of your development process, and build in plenty of windows for you and your key staff to see what’s going on. A continuous localization platform is the easiest way to accomplish this.

Look for a cloud-based platform that supports a variety of localization file formats, provides a RESTful API, and offers analytics while protecting your intellectual property (i.e. doesn’t touch your source code).

Do you have tips for companies and startups that want to go global? Share them in the comments below.

Read Next: 10 Rules for Painless Software Localization

7 Keys to a Successful Community Translation Effort

Companies like Facebook and Twitter rely on their communities to translate their products — and they are seeing great success. Twitter, for instance, has nearly 1 million community translators translating Twitter products into 30+ languages.

You may not have hundreds of millions of users, but the fact is, you don’t need that many to successfully translate your products with your community. Here are 7 things that you can do to make your community translation effort a success.

Make a game or contest out of it

We all like to win. It feels good. So why not start a friendly competition? For instance, create a race between the various teams where the first team to reach 100% completion for a language wins a prize. Or present a list of your top 10 translators by word count each week. People will work hard for that coveted number one spot.

Community translators

Bottom line, a simple reward or bragging rights will provide additional motivation for your translators to translate your product while making the process more fun for everyone.

Remind your translators to translate

Community translators are busy folks. Many have work, school, or other things going on — translation probably isn’t at the top of their minds every day.

A reminder can reengage your existing translators and help get new users involved. Consider DriverPack Solution: they first announced their translation project through Facebook, and about a month later, shared a similar post that served as a reminder to their community.

Driver Pack Solution

The second post was well received with 476 likes, 60 comments, and 75 shares.

Create a forum for your translators

Just as Roman forums served as a gathering place, an online forum gives your translators a common place to talk about translations, provide feedback, and discuss the product. This has several benefits:

  • More collaboration means better translation quality.
  • It strengthens your translator community as members interact with each other.
  • You get an opportunity to know your translators on a more personal level.

Waze is a great example of this. They dedicate a whole section of their forum to localization. It has hundreds of posts and tens of thousands of views.

Localization forum

Acknowledge the contribution of your translators

Your translators are a key part of your company or organization’s success. They are doing you a big favor; make sure they feel valued and know that their efforts are noticed. It could be something as simple as an email or Facebook post thanking them for their contributions.

At Twitter, translators who spent a lot of time helping out and reached certain achievements criteria received a special translator badge on their Twitter profile next to their names. You can provide your translators a similar badge which they can proudly display on their profiles, website, or blog.

Twitter translators badge

Update your translators on translation progress

According to research, of all the events that have the power to excite people and engage them in their work, the single most important is making progress. And from personal experience, we know that to be true. Progress gives you a sense of accomplishment that drives us toward completing our goals. That is why showing translators the progress of their work is critical.

This can be done in different ways through the various channels you use to communicate with translators. One suggestion for Transifex users is the widget you can install on your website that shows the translation progress of each language (click on the Share button of the project overview page to find the link).

Transifex widget

Tap into your translators’ network

Give translators ways to invite their network to help translate your product. It could be a social sharing button where you update your translators or an explicit message asking your translators to tell others about your community project. In general, people are more likely to trust messages or invitations from a friend.

You can also find social sharing buttons on the project overview pages of Transifex:

Social sharing buttons


Having reviewers will ensure that translations meet a specific level of quality and consistency. Reviewers could be professionals, trusted translators from your community (another reason to have a forum!), or people from within your company who speak the language.


We’ve covered 7 things you can do to make your community translation effort a success. At the end of the day, keep these two things in mind:

  1. Create and empower community.
  2. Communicate with your community.

If you have some thoughts or more ideas, share them in the comments below!

Context, Translation Quality, and Productivity

Accurate translation requires the translator to understand the context of the content they are working with and how it will be displayed. But that’s only the beginning of the problem. What is context exactly? And what is the most effective way to provide this context to a translator?

Context can take different shapes, depending on where the phrase you’re translating will appear. For a book, context would be the text surrounding the phrase you’re currently translating. For a website, context could be the entire content of the page on which the phrase is located. Similarly, for a mobile application, seeing the screen on which a phrase appears should provide information to the translator about what the context for this phrase is. It might even provide the translator with an idea of how much space their translation needs to fit in. For other content, like subtitles, seeing the video being subtitled is imperative to give an accurate translation.

Recently, a new crop of tools has surfaced promising translators the end of out-of-context translations, using a variety of rather clever techniques to do this. If you’re currently looking for a translation solution that puts context at the core of the translation process, there are several factors to keep in mind as you’re making your decision:


Being paid by the word, most professional translators prefer to translate using specialized software that will enhance their productivity: their bottom line is directly impacted by the amount of words they can translate in a given amount of time.

translation web editor

These tools provide a wealth of information to the translator about each piece of content that they need to translate, and allow the translator to navigate quickly from one piece of text to the next. There are two schools of thought here. Give context to the translator in their translation environment, or build a translation tool on top of the product, which allows the translator to translate in-context.

Because of their productivity boost and the amount of information translators need to provide a good translation, we think most translators prefer to translate using a dedicated tool. In this case, an in-context translation tool can be used by the translator as a second step to review or proof-read their work. Another solution is to make the feedback cycles between the translator and the developer as short as possible. This is what Transifex does with the Continuous Localization Process: a change made to a translation can be made immediately available in the product for translators to review.

Flexibility and control

Who gets to decide which language gets presented to the user? Can you change this logic easily? Can you easily extract the translated content you paid for from the tool you decided to use? Some in-context translation tools require you to run a separate server in your datacenter to do this, others rely on a network infrastructure they put in front of your product, and another set requires you to install some Javascript or use a different library in your code. None of these approaches are perfect and they each come with their advantages and drawbacks.


Some of the tricks used by the in-context translation solutions are a fertile breeding ground for cross-site scripting attacks. How do you prevent malicious users from stealing your translator’s cookie and providing bad translations? If your localized content has to be delivered by a third-party, does their solution require you to route incoming requests, including those containing passwords, logins, credit-card information through their network?

Technical debt

Like most long lived engineering projects, you’re never really finished with internationalization. First you have to prepare your site for translation by extracting your content. Then you’ll realize that some of the source content needs to be split up into different translation units, because their context is different and requires different translations. You may even need to mirror some parts of your interface to support bi-directional text. Perhaps you will have to deal with different plural rules, or gender specific conjugations for some of the action words your site uses.

Some solutions provide you with an automated way to mark content up for translation. These solutions are usually based on a collection of regular-expressions or some more complex rules specific to the content you’re translating. Either way, identifying the content you want to translate is the first step to providing context. If you do not put care and thought into this process, you will get a lower quality end-result, because some content may be missing or needs to be endlessly modified to support all the languages you want to expand into.


Localization platform

Does the solution you’re evaluating support all the technologies you plan on using? Will it work for mobile applications, or HTML5 content? Will it work if your product is made of content from multiple sites like this page from l’Equipe, or gets embedded in another website, like those Disqus comments?

What about you? What are some of the other features and criteria you use to evaluate a localization platform?