Alex Owen-Hill, Author at Rubric


Does software localization have to be so complex!?

When you are creating software for the global market, localization can seem like a lot of work. Your development (dev) teams are already putting all their best efforts into keeping up with your release cycles…

Won’t adding localization into the mix require a huge added effort?

You imagine copying and pasting hundreds of English strings into documents, sending them to the translators, then doing exactly the same when the translations return.

You worry “Is my customer going to see this button translated differently because something weird has happened during the translation process?”

Wouldn’t it be great if software localization felt like “business as usual”?

In this article, Victoria Milton, a Senior Project Manager at Rubric, explains how you can improve your localization process to make it almost effortless for your dev teams.

The unnecessarily difficult approach to software localization

Many dev teams think that software localization only happens after all the English content has been created. They start thinking about translation once the entire release has been created, when time is already extremely tight.

They strip out all the strings to be translated, zip them up or copy them into a document, and send them to be translated. After all the translations are done, they then do all this work again in reverse, manually copying the translated strings back into the code.

Many translation providers will only be able to handle this way of working.

This is a terrible option for software localization!

As a dev team, you know that automation and low-touch processes are vital for an efficient software development workflow.

Does copy-and-pasting all your strings out by hand sound like a very efficient workflow?

There is a much better approach to localizing software…

What if localization was just business as usual for dev teams?

At Rubric, we are fanatical about process optimization. We understand the needs of a dev team and we have always incorporated automation and software-development approaches into our localization processes.

Victoria Milton explains how we often directly handle our clients’ source files and data interchange files (for example JSON, XML, or even working directly with the databases of their headless CMS):

The client makes a branch of their main development branch for us and tells us “This is the branch we need to translate.” We do everything from that point onwards.
We use our automation tools to pull the English and existing translated files down directly from their Git or Bitbucket repository, whatever they’re using. They don’t have to isolate strings or Zip anything.

We then follow a process that may be familiar to you as a dev:

  1. Our automation tools process the software files to prepare them for translation.
  2. We translate the required strings into your chosen languages.
  3. We post-process them according to the pre-arranged requirements for the target files (naming, encodings, line endings, etc).
  4. We compare them against previous deliveries to ensure only the correct parts of the files have been changed.
  5. We push them straight back up to the repository branch.

Victoria says:

All the client has to do is merge the branch into their main repository branch. The way that it gets merged in is exactly the same way that all their other features get merged in.
And that’s it! That’s all they have to do. Basically, the localization branches are part of their business as usual. It’s not fully zero-touch but it demystifies the entire process.

Other ways to streamline software localization

When you think of localization as just another strand of your development, many doors open for further process optimization.

You will start to notice so many ways that you can incrementally improve your localization workflow.

Victoria gives an example of how we streamlined the Quality Assurance (QA) step even further with one client:

With that client, when we push up our changes it triggers an automatic product build. That then sends us a file to install the software so we can do testing.
The devs tell us “This is the new feature we’ve added this week, this is how you need to test it.” We pull that down, get the build, then we go away and test it. For any linguistic QA fixes after that, we just push them back up again.

Making your software localization match your dev cycle

Over the years, one of our key learnings is that you need to match your localization work to your dev cycles.

Whatever project management methodologies you use and whatever release cycles you have in place, the localization step should fit into your cadences. With our clients, we often help them to adjust their process to better accommodate the localization.

According to a Project Management Institute report, 78% of companies use either a waterfall or an agile methodology, so let’s look at how we work with them.

If you use a waterfall methodology

Despite the rise of agile, the waterfall methodology is still popular in some software companies and can be highly effective for some products. It’s possible to integrate localization into a waterfall approach in an efficient way.

Victoria explains how this works:

We can respond to whatever teams need. For example, one of our clients was using the waterfall model. The teams developed everything in English. Then, 2 weeks before their code freeze, there was a flurry of activity while we translated and tested everything. As well as the code, we also translated all the help files and the tutorial videos.

If you are using the waterfall method, leaving enough time for all the extra steps associated with localization is vital (such as extra QA).

For example, if you are translating the help files, remember that these will include references to products. To ensure the Help matches the product, those references should be translated and signed off before the help files are translated, which requires extra time.

When you leave enough time for localization a waterfall approach can be very effective. But, be aware of what can happen if you don’t leave enough of a time buffer.

Victoria explains that this particular client often didn’t leave enough time for those extra steps:

In that case, there was too much of a time crunch for the client. Their internal teams had to do crazy hours and burn themselves into the ground in order to get ready for each new release. They sometimes had to delay their release dates because features weren’t ready, which wasn’t ideal when marketing campaigns and sales teams had planned around release dates.

If you use an agile methodology

We are big fans of the agile methodology.

We have found that clients who adopt an agile approach to localization can make impressive gains in efficiency, product quality, and ease of use.

Victoria describes one example of the significant difference that an agile approach has brought to the same client:

That same development team has now moved to an agile sprint model on a yearly release cycle. This was a change across their entire organization — it wasn’t done because of the localization — but we helped them to switch the localization to agile as well. They now work in 13-week sprints. They have it all planned and the marketing team hook into that same sprint planning.
We use a rolling model with them as we’re translating 2 main products. So, we alternate between those products each week. They know that, whatever new strings have been added, those strings will be translated in 2 weeks’ time.
By the time we then get to the release, we’ve been testing all those new features for an entire year!

When you approach localization in the right way, your translation provider can even help you to achieve a more agile way of working.

And your project manager will be just as excited as you are about the gains that your process improvements have made!

Learn more tricks to improve your localization workflow

There are so many more improvements you can make when you start thinking of localization in the same way as your other development processes.

Our guide 33 Content Translation Hacks to Simplify Your Life describes a selection of changes you can make to get more from your localization process.

Download a copy of the eBook by clicking this button:

Download the guide


Does your business have technical terminology?

When you’re translating your content, terminology can sometimes cause issues.

Your reviewers come back with many comments, complaints, and changes every time you translate a piece of content. There are inconsistencies in the way that pieces of terminology are translated over different projects.

Perhaps your product names are being translated when they shouldn’t be. Perhaps technical descriptions are mistranslated, leading to difficult-to-spot mistakes that could have serious implications if they got in front of your end-users.

How can you ensure that terminology remains consistent over all your translations?

April 27, 2021

Subtitle formatting can be a minefield. The wrong formatting could jeopardize all of that hard work, time, and budget that you put into creating and translating your subtitles.

The problem is that every video project is different. Subtitles that would be perfect for one particular video can be unsuitable for another video.

How can you ensure that you are formatting your subtitles properly for your specific video project?

April 20, 2021

With the rise in popularity of video content and shorter project timelines, it’s not surprising that subtitle mistakes are common.

When you’re translating your videos, even more mistakes can trip you up.

Over the years, we delivered thousands of translated videos to clients here at Rubric. As a result, we have seen many of the mistakes that people often make when adding translated subtitles to their videos.

April 13, 2021

Artificial Intelligence (AI) automation is extremely popular now. With the current growth in video content, a lot of people are wondering if AI tools could be used to reduce the time and cost of their video translations.

What tools are available for companies looking to use AI in video translation?

And are such tools reliable and accurate enough to use in place of human translations?

There are certainly some promising benefits to using AI tools in video translation… with some caveats.

April 6, 2021

You need to translate some spoken videos…

Should you use speech to text technology to prepare them for translation?

There are some important factors to remember when you are translating speech into another language. Speech to text translation, with the aid of artificial intelligence (AI), can be a good option.

But, you need to use it correctly…

Why some spoken videos are tricky to translate

Video projects are relatively complex when it comes to translation and localization.

Although the translation of the words is usually straightforward, the engineering work that is associated with video localization can be significant. Extra time is needed for tasks like formatting subtitle files, stripping text from on screen graphics, and precisely matching the timings of the video file.

One factor that affects the complexity of the translation is when the video contains someone speaking in a conversational style.

For example, a video of a speaker giving a conference presentation is likely to be unscripted or semi-scripted. The person will speak with more filler words (for example “um”, “er”) and their language will be less structured than, say, a highly scripted marketing video.

To reduce the work needed to turn such speech into translatable text, people often use speech to text technology.

What is speech to text translation?

Speech to text translation simply involves turning spoken words into text and then translating those words into another language.

The transcription can be carried out either…

  • by a human transcription service.
  • by an AI-powered speech to text program.
  • by a mixture of both.

Speech to text AI has grown in popularity over recent years and is now a fundamental feature in our lives. If you have dictated a message to your cellphone or searched for something with a smart speaker, you have interacted with a speech to text algorithm… and probably experienced the shortcomings of the technology.

It’s important to remember that auto-generated transcriptions are not perfect. At best, they produce around a 70%-85% accuracy, with results varying hugely. As a result, the output of a speech to text program should always be checked by a human.

This reduced accuracy means you need to make specific allowances when it comes to video localization.

Why use speech to text translation?

Speech to text technology can be a valuable method to help streamline the translation process.

AI algorithms provide a tool to quickly turn spoken words into (almost) translatable text. For example, an hour-long video of a conference presentation could take just a few minutes to process with an automated service, compared to hours for human transcription.

With 1-hour of conversational language possibly coming in at around 8,000 words, giving the task to automation can mean a significant time-saving.

Even with the additional step of manual checking and correction, there is certainly a benefit to using speech to text automation.

Due to the complexity of video projects, any time saving that we can make is valuable. Translation is usually the last stage in a long process and the time for translation often gets cut down as other activities run longer than originally expected.

How not to use speech to text translation

Although speech to text can be a useful tool, there are several pitfalls that you can run into if you are not careful.

Here are some common mistakes people make with speech to text translation:

  • Not sending the source video file to translators — Even when you have transcribed the video yourself and had it checked by a human, it’s still important to send the original video file to the translation provider. Information can be lost in the transcription process (especially when using automation) so the translator needs the original file to get the best result.
  • Ignoring the human step — Many people think that speech to text technology is good enough and ignore the need for a human to check the transcription. This is a mistake. It may be better to give the video file directly to the translation provider and have them do all the work than to give them a low-quality machine transcription. An added benefit of the human touch is that the translation itself becomes cheaper as editing makes the text short, sharp, and concise. For example, the speech “And so, well, ummm, next up, next we’re going to take a look at…” becomes simply “Next…” This is much better for subtitles.
  • Not being clear about jargon — AI tools often struggle with jargon and slang. This can wreak havoc on a translation project if you’re not careful. This is especially relevant with unscripted or semi-scripted speech, where slang and jargon are more common.
  • Forgetting the environment — Speech to text technology works best when there is a clear audio sound with clear accents, no background noises, and no overtalk. It can struggle when people are speaking in a non-studio environment.

These issues might seem small, but they can have significant impacts on the translation.

For example, the other day, one of our clients was translating a video where the speaker often used the phrase “kit” to mean “a set of products.” The AI detected this as “kid” (i.e. child). If we hadn’t been on top of this jargon, it could have been translated into niño, enfant, or дитя instead of productos, les produits, or товары which would have produced a lot of issues in the review process.

How to use speech to text translation effectively

When you are aware of the challenges of speech to text translation, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure that your video localization project is carried out effectively.

Steps you can take include:

  • Talk to your translation provider early to discuss your needs with the translated video content.
  • Understand what you want the final outcome to look like upfront and communicate this to your provider.
  • Provide the correct files (for example original video, scripts if available) in the right format.
  • Be clear on the extra time that will be needed for specific tasks.
  • Decide with your provider if they will transcribe the speech for you or you will take care of transcription yourself (and ask them for advice on which is best for your unique project).
  • If possible, ensure that you are sending the final version of the video to them as subtitle timings shouldn’t change.

Of course, factors affect a video localization project, not just the speech to text step of the process.

For more tips on how to improve your video localization process, download a copy of our eBook Video Localization Best Practices.

Download a copy of the eBook by clicking this button:

Download the guide

March 30, 2021

How can you tell if the cost of translation services is reasonable?

Perhaps you have just received a new quote and you thought “Is this really the cost of translations!?”

Or maybe you are looking for some guidance to get a better idea of the “going rate” before you ask around for quotes.

One thing’s for sure… it can be hard to know how to judge quotes for the cost of translation services.

Why you should avoid “instant price calculators” for translation services

“Just tell me the going rate for translation services!”

This is a common sentiment when people are trying to source translation services. You just want a clear cost that you can put down on your budget sheet.

It is an entirely understandable desire. But, this way of thinking can lead to several problems when you are looking for the best-priced translation services for your needs.

What are instant price calculators?

The desire for quick pricing has given rise to various “instant price calculators” offered by some translation service providers.

Such calculators allow you to enter the number of words in your source content and the desired target languages. The calculator will then instantly spit out a flat fee for that particular job.

Beware of such calculators!

Most are far too simplistic to get an accurate understanding of your content translation needs. To give you this instant price, the providers often need to inflate their quote to ensure that they don’t lose money on the job.

This way of approaching cost is not conducive to helping you find ways to reduce the cost of your translations, which a good translation services provider will do for you.

With instant-price providers, you are forever tied into the inflated price.

Why instant price calculators are confusing

For all their apparent simplicity, instant price calculators can end up confusing you even more.

Most calculators require you to become an expert in translation and localization before you can accurately judge which services you need.

They might ask questions like: Do you want general or specialist translation?; Do you need extra proofreading from an independent reviewer?; Do you want machine translation or human translation?; or Do you want to charge per page, per word, or per character?

If your answer to such questions is “I don’t know!” … this is exactly the problem with the way many providers approach their quoting.

A more reliable way to assess the cost of translation services

It’s worth remembering that various factors will determine whether or not a translation services provider is the right one for you.

Cost is only one of those factors.

Providers that lead with their pricing could be masking a “multitude of sins” in other aspects of their services. Unfortunately, some parts of the translation services industry are rife with problems like late deliveries and unexpected extra costs. If your company has been using translation services for a long time, you might be unlucky enough to have experienced this.

What’s a better way to get an accurate cost for translation services?

A more reliable way to assess cost is to look for a provider that asks you the right questions about your content and needs.

You’re looking for a provider that will become a trusted partner in your global business. One that you can rely on to provide the right services to you and will help you reduce costs when they can.

A good start is to propose a project to a provider and see how they handle your request.

What information a provider needs to give you an accurate cost

A reliable provider won’t give you an instant quote if you ask them a question like “Can you translate 1000 words into German?”

This is not enough information for them to give you an accurate quote for translation services. The best providers don’t just translate your words – they provide end-to-end localization services that integrate seamlessly with your existing processes. This requires that you give them more information.

A reliable provider will ask you questions to learn more about your content and your needs. With the information they gather, they will assess your situation and give an accurate quote that truly aligns with your goals as a global business.

Here is some of the information that a reliable provider will need:

The content files

Every piece of content is slightly different. A provider can only give you an accurate cost for translation services if they know what type of content they will be working with and the unique features of that content.

The cost of two similar-looking pieces of content can vary. For example, a 10,000-word training document with lots of repetition will be significantly cheaper to translate than an equally-sized document with no repetition.

If you don’t yet have your content files – which is the ideal situation as it means you’re thinking about localization early – you should talk over the project with the provider so they can understand the nature of the content.

Which languages are required

The cost to translate into different languages varies. There are various reasons for this, including the availability of translators for a particular language, the complexity of the language, and the varying cost of living for translators working in different parts of the world.

A good provider will also help you to reduce costs, if possible, when you are translating the same content into multiple languages.


It pays to start thinking about translation and localization as early as possible in your content creation process. Quicker turnaround times will usually translate to higher costs.

At Rubric, we take an extra step to fully understand the specifics of our clients’ deadlines. Often, we can help to reduce the costs by understanding the stages of your whole project, its key dates, and how translation fits in.

Your global content strategy

When your provider understands the global strategy of your content, they can provide a much more reliable translation service that truly meets your needs.

Strategy-focused providers are very rare in the translation services industry. At Rubric, we are proud to be one of them. We honestly don’t know how other providers could provide a quality service without this vital step.

Important qualities to look for in a translation service provider

Do you want to learn more about the common mistakes people make when sourcing translation services?

We have created a buyer’s guide titled How to Find the Right Translation Provider for You that gives tips on what to look for in a translation services provider.

It includes 9 reliable qualities to look for in a translation provider and 10 questions to ask any prospective translation provider.

Download a copy of the eBook by clicking this button:

Download the guide

March 23, 2021

You need to source translation services for your business… but how do you find a good provider?

Searching through the different translation services can get overwhelming very quickly.

How can you tell if a particular provider will be right for your business?

Although sourcing translation services can be difficult, there is an easier path. You just need to learn what to look for in a provider.

How most people source translation services for business

Many businesses source translation services too late in their content creation process.

They have content that they need translated… right now!

Why do businesses get themselves in this situation?

Because most people think of translation as an add-on activity that happens after the creation of the source content. This is a very common misconception.

In reality, translation is part of a larger process of “content localization.” You should start considering translation before your source content is created… but you need to plan your localization process long before the source content is ever created.

By waiting until the end of the process to find translation services, businesses set themselves up for failure right out of the gate. As procurement specialists explain, nobody makes good decisions when they are under pressure.

You end up rushing to find a provider that promises fast turnaround times at a low cost. But, this can be a recipe for disaster. With some providers, the translations take much longer than the provider anticipated and even go over budget.

If you find yourself in this position right now, don’t worry. It’s not too late to make a change that will help you in the long run.

You just need to start looking for the right type of translation service for your business.


The 2 types of translation services (and which is best)

When you’re searching for translation services, it can be difficult to determine the differences between the various suppliers.

How can you tell if one provider will be better for your business than another?

You can think about there being 2 types of translation services provider:

1. Providers who just translate your content

The vast majority of translation services are provided on a “per job” basis. You submit your content to the provider, they translate it… and there your relationship ends.

The provider gives you little more than a service to translate your content into another language.

Such services are well-suited to small, basic, one-off translation jobs. For example, if your cousin wanted to translate the order-of-service for their bilingual wedding into Spanish.

2. Providers who strategically improve your business

When you work for a large global business, you need more from your translation services provider.

The type of translation services provider that is suitable for a business like yours works closely with you over time to strategically improve your global reach.

Such providers will help you to hone your global content strategy, streamline your translation process, and reduce the cost of translations. Their ongoing professional relationship with you is more important for them than quick, one-off jobs.

This type of translation services provider is rarer.

You need to know what you are looking for in a provider to ensure that you will get the right translation services for your business.

Finding the right translation services for your business

What should you be looking for to ensure that the translation services you are considering are the right choice for you and your business?

The process for sourcing translation services doesn’t need to be complex. But, it does need to be targeted.

Here are some factors you can think about in your search for the right translation services for your business.

Consider your global content strategy

Everything starts with your global content strategy.

There are several benefits when your translation services are aligned with your global strategy including:

  • Increased global outreach
  • Lower publishing costs
  • Shorter product release timelines
  • Fewer linguistic review rounds
  • Improver ROI of translations

This is a good place to start your search because you are looking for a translation services provider that will help you to develop and improve your global content strategy.

Identify translation services providers

There are many options for translation services available in the market. As a result, the search for a new provider can be quite overwhelming!

Identify which qualities are most important to your business and use these as a filter to narrow down your choices (you can find a list of reliable qualities here).

Ensure providers can handle your business

One of the key qualities that you should look for in a translation services provider is that they can handle the needs of your specific business.

While almost all providers will claim they can meet your needs, only some will truly be able to. As we said above, only one of the two types of providers is likely to be right for your business. Only consider those providers that specialize in international businesses like yours.

Look for credible signs of reliability

How can you tell that a translation services provider will be reliable?

It can be surprisingly difficult to tell upfront. Providers often throw around statistics about “number of languages”, “price per word”, and “number of industries.” While these may be relevant, they can often be a smokescreen, obscuring more important signs of provider reliability.

For more details on signs of reliability, check out our article 2 Reliable Marks of a Trustworthy Translation Provider.

Ask the right questions

The secret to sourcing the right translation services for your business is really in asking the right questions.

Most people in your position are not (yet) familiar with the process of sourcing translation services. As a result, they don’t know which questions to ask to discover if a particular provider will really be able to meet their business needs.

You can find a list of good questions to ask prospective providers here.

The buyer’s guide to translation services

Do you want even more guidance on how to source reliable translation services for business?

We have distilled some of our best sourcing tips into a buyer’s guide titled How to Find the Right Translation Provider for You.

Download a copy of the eBook by clicking this button:

Download the guide

March 16, 2021

You want to create a video for your international market.

Should you choose a translated voice over?

Many people assume that voice over translation is the best option when creating international videos. While it may be true that voice over is a good option for you, it’s not always the best option.

There are ways that you can get smarter about how you translate videos. That might mean using translated voice over… but it might not.

How can you tell if voice over will be the right choice for you?

What is voice over?

Voice over (which can also be written voice-over) is a production technique where a narrator’s voice is added to the video after it has been made. With translated content, this means that an actor is hired in the target language to record the translated video script. This translated audio is then added back to the video.

Voiceover vs overdubbing

It’s important to draw a distinction between voice over and overdubbing.

Overdubbing is a specific type of voice over where the words of a person who appears in the source video (an interviewee, character, spokesperson, etc) are translated. The translated audio is then matched precisely to the source video so that it appears that the person is speaking in the target language.

Translated overdubbing is often used in TV shows and movies when they are exported to the international market. It is a more labor intensive process than voice over, where the speaker is not seen in the video.

Does voice over appear more professional?

The alternative to voice over is to use subtitles.

Some global companies think that they shouldn’t use subtitles for their videos, assuming that they will appear less professional. They believe that voice over always makes videos look better.

Is this true?

While a translated voice over may be a better choice for your particular content, it is certainly not always the best option. For instance, well-translated subtitles will look far more professional than a badly executed voice over.

The most important factor to consider is whether or not a voice over makes sense for the strategic needs of your content.

Both voice over and subtitles could be suitable for your needs. But, you first need to be clear on what those needs are.

5 good reasons you might choose voice over

Voice over translation is a more expensive process than subtitle translation thanks to the added engineering work that it requires.

With voice over, you need to hire voice actors in the target language, record the audio with a producer, merge the translated audio into the original video, etc. These are not required with subtitle translation.

For this reason, it’s important that you have a good reason for choosing voice over.

Some good reasons might be:

  1. The audience can’t read so well — This was a complaint when audio was first brought into Polish cinema back in the 1930s. Video content allows less proficient readers to access information about your company. Adding subtitles could negate this benefit, if this issue arises within your target market.
  2. People need to concentrate on the graphics — If the video graphics are complex or require full concentration, viewers won’t be able to read subtitles at the same time.
  3. Several people are speaking quickly — If your video includes quick conversations with people speaking over each other, voice over (specifically overdubbing) will be needed otherwise viewers won’t be able to follow the conversation.
  4. The video must look local — If it’s vital that the video looks as local as possible, but you don’t want to remake it completely with a local marketing agency, voice over may be the best choice.
  5. Your content strategy requires it — If your content strategy calls for voice over for this particular piece of video content, by all means go with voice over.

The smart way to translate a video voice over

You have decided that a particular video needs voice over.

How do you ensure that you are carrying out the translation of that voice over in the best way possible?

Here are some thoughts on how to translate a video voice over most effectively.

Be clear on your content strategy

First, as we have mentioned, your content strategy is vital.

All decisions about your video and its translation will be more effective when you can justify them with your strategic goals for the content.

Everything starts with your content strategy.

Determine if voice over is vital

We’re not trying to dissuade you from choosing voice over. But, just make sure that it is actually required for your specific video content.

This is especially important if you want to use overdubbing which is more complex than simple voice over. There may be other ways to meet your needs more easily so make sure you have considered your options first.

Find ways to make the translation simpler

Even with voice over, there are often ways to make your translation simpler, reducing the cost and complexity of the entire video project.

A good translation provider should be able to help you identify aspects of your project that you can change to reduce translation costs.

Streamline your engineering process

The vast majority of the costs associated with voice over translation are the extra engineering costs. For this reason, you can make your life much easier by streamlining your content creation process up front.

Again, this is something that a good translation provider will be able to help you with.

What more do you need to know about video voice over?

In this article, we’ve presented just a few thoughts on how you can get smarter about how you translate video voice overs.

There are many more steps you can take to improve the process even further.

Our free eBook Video Localization Best Practices provides a collection of hints and tips on how to translate video more effectively.

Download a copy of the eBook by clicking this button:

Download the guide

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