From Context to Software


How to avoid getting lost in translation when localizing your product? Communication is the key to success in all areas of life – be it on a professional or personal level.

Persuading the investors to support your business, conveying to your customers why your brand is the best, even convincing your spouse to finally take that trip to Italy – all of these things wouldn’t happen without good communication.

The process of localization is no different.

In the context of localization, companies often tend to focus on what’s the message that they’ll convey to their target audience in a new market and how to adapt their communication to location-specific expectations.

However, there’s another kind of communication that appears in the earlier stages of the localization process and is the first step that will help you build a strong foundation for your product’s international success.

Namely, the communication between you – the company that needs localization services – and your language service provider, or LSP.

In this article, we’ll go through why this kind of communication is important in localizing your product or service for the global market and what aspects – like providing context and using modern localization software as a means of communication – to improve to get the best results out of the whole process.

Why communication matters

Imagine you’re finishing up a difficult task at work and you’re glad to finally get it off your back. Until your boss tells you – you’ve misunderstood the instructions and should have been working on a completely different project. Now, you have to start all over again.

Or –

A client asks you to complete two different tasks under a tight deadline. Without specifying which task is a priority, you start working on one of them only to learn later that the second task is more urgent and has to be completed right away. This puts you under hours of stress and overtime, and even takes a toll on your relationship with the client.

What do both of these situations have in common? Miscommunicating right from the start and therefore – ending up with an undesirable outcome.

The same premises apply to localization as well.

Poor or unclear communication and the loss of necessary information (like misunderstood deadlines, misinterpreting brand message, products, or goals) in the starting phases of the localization process can lead to risks such as:

  • Mistranslation. Not only will it take extra time to redo the translations, this also adds unnecessary costs to the whole localization process. One study confirmed that 15% of all translation project costs arise from rework.
  • Damaging brand image. In the social media and Internet age, it’s really easy to rush a translation, make a mistake, go viral because of it, and hurt the company’s reputation. KFC had a similar situation with their “Finger lickin’ good” that in the Chinese market translated to “Eat your fingers off”. Ouch! They were lucky to walk away from it and are currently the leading quick-service restaurant brand in China. But not every company will be as lucky as this – most businesses will never recover from a large-scale error such as this.
  • Loss of money. According to a recent survey, 80% of companies have lost revenue due to issues with localization and translation.

To avoid these risks, here’s how to ensure effective communication – and achieve great localization results – with your LSP right from the get-go.

Work with the right LSP

First of all, you have to understand that among the plethora of language service providers, you must establish a partnership with the one that matches your needs – especially communication-wise.

Aside from professional skills like language capabilities (how many languages the LSP can provide), technical prowess (can they provide an easy-to-use platform for translation management), quality and price, you have to consider how well and how often your LSP will be able to communicate with you and keep you in the loop regarding the project.

Think about it – the translation will be your direct connection to your target market. So it’s essential to be able to convey your needs and communicate with your LSP easily anytime you need, especially in the case of an emergency.

Therefore, it’s important that your LSP’s customer service is proactive, as well as:

  • There’s a real human you can talk to about your project
  • The interaction with your LSP contact person is smooth and pleasant
  • You’re able to discuss any issues that arise during the localization process
  • Your LSP provides regular information and updates

Another aspect to keep in mind – if you’re working with an LSP that’s operating outside of your home country, make sure they can communicate with you in your preferred language. You don’t want any important directions to get lost in the translation.

Provide context

As an entrepreneur who knows their brand inside and out, it might seem to you that your product, software, or service is straight-forward, and anyone can understand it at a glance. Therefore, you might be tempted to submit the text for translation to your LSP without any additional explanations or directions.

Do you know what’s missing here? Context.

In reality, the language service provider isn’t familiar with your brand yet and will get to know it from scratch.

That’s why your LSP will need to know the environment in which the text is used to interpret it. Providing that context is one of the most important factors that will determine whether localizing your brand will be a success or not.

Here’s why:

If you don’t provide context, translators will have to do additional research to establish what the author has intended with the source text. In this case, you risk pushing the deadline, burdening yourself with additional costs, and in the worst case scenario – torpedoing your own localization process.

When providing context for your LSP, here’s what you need to keep in mind:

  • Is there any linguistic context you should convey? Is there any specific terminology that you use? Are there any words or phrases in the text that have many meanings, but only one fits your case?
  • How about situational context? Are there any political, social, or economic factors that could alter the text meaning and the translator should be aware of?

Remember that if your LSP asks for context, it’s not a sign of incompetence. On the contrary, it reveals you’re working with a professional who wants to provide a high-quality service.

Use localization software

Long gone are the days when you had to send your content in a pile of confusing document files and try to figure out what’s the best way for leaving notes for the translator.  

This kind of approach is confusing, time-consuming, needless to say – irritating.

Fortunately, there are plenty of new generation localization platforms and tools that can make the whole translation process more visual and efficient, facilitating the communication process between you and your LSP.

We’re talking adding screenshots, live chat, making changes in your translation directly into the software, and more.

Here are a couple of localization tools we recommend using:

  • Lokalise. A platform that automates the workflow for translating your app, game, or other software. It offers a unique Live Mode that lets you see translation updates on the device instantly.
  • Memsource. A translation platform that reduces repetitive, manual tasks through automation and reduces translation costs by identifying content that can be translated automatically.

Communicating your way to better localization

When going global, localizing your product, service, or software is such a necessary step – but it’s also a complex process where even one slight mishap can cost your company a fortune.

That’s why it’s crucial to ensure smooth communication with your language service provider right from the start.

Begin with establishing a bond with the right LSP, make sure you’re providing enough context, and don’t hesitate to use platforms for the best localization results.

On the 19.04.2023. SIA “Language Inspired” has signed an agreement Nr. SKV-L2023/208 with Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) within the project “International competitiveness promotion”, which is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund.

The first step on your road to global growth is at your fingertips. One click, and we are here to help.