Multilingual Software Development: The Key to a Successful Global Product

July 7, 2022
Post feature
As our world has become increasingly more connected, the demand for localized products and services has also grown.
If you want your software product to meet this growing demand and better serve your global customer base, you may need to significantly improve your localization process.
Multilingual software development involves developing your software products in multiple human languages simultaneously. This approach has several benefits over traditional, single-language development processes where translation is usually just an afterthought.
By taking a multilingual software development approach, you can improve the efficiency of your localization processes, reduce translation cost, and provide a better experience for your software's international users.
Here's how you can switch to a multilingual software development process…

How many languages is multilingual? Does your software serve enough?

How many languages does your software need to be able to serve to be classed as "multilingual?"
There is no definitive number. The most important aspect is how you structure your localization process to support the multiple languages. Even a software product that currently supports just 2 languages — but that has the right underlying process — can be more suited to multilingual development than another with many more languages that is localized inefficiently.
It's helpful to look at what is classed as "multilingual" in a related area — how many languages a person can speak.
  • Monolingual — A person who speaks just one language. Here you would use your normal software development processes.
  • Bilingual — A person who speaks two different languages.
  • Trilingual, multilingual or polyglot — For many people, speaking over 2 languages is when a person is classed as multilingual.
Either way, with software development, we recommend you start thinking in a "multilingual way" when you are serving 2 or more languages.
Inline image

What continuous localization is and why it's important

How do you achieve multilingual software development?
The key is a process called continuous localization. It applies to both the classic waterfall method of software development and the increasingly common agile approach. It involves incorporating localization into your product lifecycle from the start.
Don't make the mistake that many software teams make of considering localization as a separate step to be done only when the rest of the product development is over. Even development teams that use an agile methodology often still treat localization as an afterthought. This can lead to disruption and product launch delays.
With continuous localization, localization becomes a repeating step in your software development cycle. Rather than translating all your strings once, near the end of the product development cycle, continuous localization involves translating smaller batches of translations more frequently.
When you do it in the right way, continuous localization seamlessly fits into the rest of your product development processes. The translations become just another software fork that your developers merge in with the main code every week, month, or product release.

Why user experience is a key consideration for global software products

Why use multilingual software development at all? A major benefit is user experience.
At its best, software products make our lives easier. When we use software that is well-designed and user-friendly, we feel empowered and in control. However, when software is difficult to use or seems like it was designed for someone else, it can be frustrating and even demoralizing.
People want to use software in their own native language. They want to feel like it has been developed with someone like them in mind — someone from their culture. This is only possible when you localize your software properly and update it regularly.
By continuously translating and testing your software in your international markets, you can ensure your users around the world have positive experiences with your product.

The Big Question: Managing version control problems and avoiding conflicts

"How can we avoid creating version control problems when we continuously translate our software?"
This is one of the most common questions when we talk with our clients about multilingual software development. Developers are understandably concerned about the idea of "letting translators loose" with their code — or the strings from their code, at least.
The key to avoiding version control problems is strategically planning your development workflow. Through careful planning and communication, you can ensure that the work of the translators won't interfere with your code.
You can find out more about how to do this in our previous article on continuous localization.

How multilingual software development improves the localization process

When you do it correctly, multilingual software development can actually help your development process.
The right continuous localization process offers benefits to localization teams and developers alike.
One key benefit is the reduction of manual steps. For example, the classic way to send strings for translation is to strip them out of the code, make the translations, then manually copy the translations back. These manual steps can be very time-consuming for developers. Removing such steps can save you significant time and effort.
Another benefit is the increase in quality. A well-designed continuous localization process helps reduce the chance for manual errors, leading to a more accurately translated software product.
Inline image

9 benefits of developing software in multiple languages simultaneously

If you're still not convinced, here are 9 great benefits to using the right multilingual software development process:
  1. Increases the efficiency of your localization process.
  2. Can reduce your translation budget.
  3. Improves the user experience for international users.
  4. Easier and faster for developers than handling translations manually.
  5. Increases your control over translation quality.
  6. Gives greater flexibility to add new languages.
  7. Leads to more accurate translations.
  8. Helps increase your market reach.
  9. Adds to your competitive advantage in the global market.

How to use continuous localization to improve your localization process

Designing multilingual software products can be difficult and expensive. However, with the right localization process supporting your development efforts, it doesn't need to be.
Continuous localization is a powerful tool that can help you reduce your translation costs and improve the efficiency of your entire product development workflow.
For more tips on how to introduce continuous localization for your multilingual software product, check out our previous article

10 Profitable Tips to Streamline Your Translation Workflow

Like any manufacturer, you know that a streamlined workflow is the key to a successful business. However, the idea of having a “streamlined translation workflow” might seem unusual.