10 Proven Ways to Ensure Consistency When You Translate

May 24, 2021
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How do you control the consistency of your content across your international markets?
When you are working with translations, it can seem difficult to keep your content consistent.
You send translated content out from headquarters, but your local markets seem to take matters into their own hands. They change translations themselves, complaining that they “just don’t sound right.”
And that’s in the best situation! That’s when the markets communicate problems back to you. Sometimes, international markets feel like a “black hole” for content. You’re never sure what happens when the translations leave your office.
In such a difficult situation, it might seem impossible to maintain consistent content.
Thankfully, there are several proven ways to ensure that your content remains consistent even when you are working with many languages across diverse markets. We’ve used these with many clients over the years and we know they work well.
Here are 10 good ways to ensure consistency when working with translations.

1. Use a terminology management system

An indispensable first step when you are creating international content is to invest in some sort of terminology management.
Terminology management tools maintain a database of words and terms that are commonly used throughout a company. They include accepted translations for each term as well as usage notes and other pertinent information. Often, they are combined with translation management tools that automatically detect those phrases in your content, which can reduce the cost of translation by facilitating reuse.
There are also various changes you can make to your processes to get more from terminology management systems.

2. Share your brand guidelines and marketing brief

When you are working with marketing content, maintaining consistency is especially important as the content can directly affect people’s perception of your brand.
A powerful but often underutilized way to improve consistency with marketing content is to share your brand guidelines and marketing brief with your translators. This gives the translator a much better idea of what you are trying to achieve with a specific piece of content and allows them to alter their translations to suit your chosen brand voice.
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3. Opt for transcreation where necessary

Another way to improve the consistency of marketing content is to use a different type of translation completely — transcreation.
Transcreation is a process by which the translator is given more creative control than purely technical translation. Instead of just translating the meaning of the words, they work to maintain the same style, tone, and emotion of the source content. This is a more involved form of translation and isn’t always necessary, but it is useful to keep the option in mind for those creative types of content.

4. Use Product Information Management systems

If you need to manage various product lines, you are likely already familiar with Product Information Management (PIM) tools.
PIM systems help you to maintain consistency whenever someone in your company needs to communicate about a product. They help you to keep track of product information, improve content reuse, and help to ensure that all product information is up to date. When you are translating your content, your PIM system needs to be integrated with your translation workflow.

5. Promote centralization

All the tools and systems in the world won’t help you to maintain consistency if they aren’t used consistently across your markets. A common problem is when a company’s head office uses terminology management but local markets do not honor them.
Whatever steps you take, you must promote centralization throughout your organization. Ideally, every proposed change to a translation should be communicated to your localization provider so they can incorporate those changes in the central databases.

6. Involve local markets early and keep them onside

Your local markets are the closest to your customers or users. As a result, they perform an essential role in localization and in maintaining consistency. Involve them early in the process of approving key terms and continue to communicate localization best practices. When everyone knows how they should interact with translated content, it becomes much easier for them to maintain that consistency.
Sometimes, the people in your international markets may be reluctant to change their well-established methods of working. However, they are often more willing to change when you help them to recognize the time savings they can make when translations are handled centrally.

7. Start from your Global Content Strategy

It’s much easier to maintain consistency when you align your content with a consistent strategic purpose. Having random pieces of translated content moving through your workflows is a recipe for confusion.
Your Global Content Strategy should act as a foundation for all of the content you produce and roll out to your international markets. When you are clear on your strategy, you can then track the progress of your content with suitable metrics. This makes it easier to track consistency and correct for it as you go along.

8. Address localization as a whole

Too many companies treat translation in isolation. Translations are seen as a simple add-on step after the creation of source content is complete. There is little effort to link the many pieces of translated content that go through the organization, which makes it very difficult to maintain consistency.
It’s far more efficient to address your entire localization process as a whole. This gives you a better view of how your translated content is being handled across your markets, which makes it easier to maintain consistency.
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9. Work with your translation provider

If you’re working with the right translation provider, they can help you to implement systems and processes that improve the consistency of your content.
Often, translation providers are only seen as a service to turn one language into another language. However, a good provider will also be able to manage your entire localization process and help you identify areas where you can improve. Together, you can work with them to improve your consistency year on year.

10. Strive for continuous improvement

Content creation processes can be complex. When you are dealing with content across multiple markets, there are many moving parts that you may need to change to improve consistency overall.
There’s no “magic bullet” that can make your content completely consistent in an instant.
But, when you view consistency as a process of continuous improvement, there are huge gains to be made. Together with your translation provider, you will continue to improve the efficiency and consistency of your content year after year.
There are many tweaks and changes that you can make to improve your content creation workflow even further.
In our guide 33 Content Translation Hacks to Simplify Your Life you will learn a selection of changes you can make to get more from your translation.