Connecting personally relevant information to people in an easy way is key to success in business. But the pursuit of information connectivity can hit a wall when it reaches language barriers. Happily, the latest generation of translation apps bridges the gaps which previously separated businesses from worldwide customers. We’ll consider how you can use an online language translator — software app, bot or online translation services — to increase connections and improve communications with global audiences.
Globalizing your customer communications with professional translation services
Globalization is a megatrend that has transformed our world. The physical borders that previously separated us have been replaced with cloud communications and devices which connect us with everyone else. One main barrier remains language. And even here, thanks to the latest batch of apps, the walls are tumbling down.
Who can provide translation services? If you have the budget, it makes sense to turn to a translation agency that can provide an expert human translation. But for those businesses that want to save money and cut some corners, we’ll outline cost-saving alternatives to certified translation services. The economic benefits are already built-in: the cost of localizing content is a fraction of the expense to create new, original content. Reach a new country or region that expands your market and your revenues. So it’s an investment with potentially rapid payoffs.
Localization services go beyond mere translation. They involve the adaptation of measurement units and currency to the target location. They sometimes require changing dates and number formats. And, ideally, they involve knowing something about the cultural preferences of your target market, adapting language and graphics accordingly. Localization also involves many technical adaptations to get your website and software localized, but that goes beyond the scope of this post. We’ll focus on the top translation apps, both for mobile devices and on the desktop, hitting the leading business translators among them and identifying the best features of each.
Translation apps to close language gaps
What are the best translation apps? There’s no one best translation app that does everything better than all others.
- The most common language service that businesses require is document translation. What is the best app to translate English to Spanish documents? It should come as no surprise that Google Translate is the winner. Whether you translate English to Spanish or Spanish to English, choose between copy and paste or choose document mode to produce a translated document. The interface is fast and easy, on desktop and mobile devices.
- Another common business usage for translation apps is one-to-many speech translation. This is useful when you have a conference call and not all audience members understand the language of the speaker. Here Microsoft Translator really shines. Each member of the audience is given a unique code that embeds their linguistic preference. The speaker’s speech is automatically translated into the preferred language in real-time, just like a simultaneous human interpreter.
- Google Translate is good at one-to-one voice translation. A voice-to-text algorithm translates your words as you speak. Press another button and the app voice-translates into the language of your interlocutor. It takes a few rounds for both sides to get comfortable with the back and forth in a business or traveling context, but the process soon becomes natural and fluent.
- Another feature of value is camera translation. Several translation apps have this capability. Point your phone camera at a foreign language menu or sign or marketing brochure and a translation in your preferred language overlays the original text. It’s an implementation of augmented reality. It’s of great use when dealing with unfamiliar texts while on the go, for ordering at restaurants or making sense of images online or in the physical world. Both Microsoft Translator and Google Translate have this feature: judge for yourself which is the more intuitive.
Some apps perform better in some languages than others. While Google and Microsoft do well in Western languages, try Baidu or Gengo for Asian languages, especially Chinese.
Working with freelance translation services to finish the job
Mobile apps can take you a long way, but in terms of translation quality, they still cannot match a quality human translator. You’ll want one of those on your side if you’re producing translated materials for publication. There the cost of an embarrassing mistake is too high to trust only machine translation. Find a translator specializing in the language pair, direction, and who knows your target industry (Software in Spanish, for example) on freelance marketplaces like Upwork or Freelancer.com.
Just sign up there as a client and briefly describe your project. You’ll likely get a flood of applicants. Compare their profiles, rating, rates, and reviews. A freelance translator – and you should insist on a mother-tongue speaker of your target language — will certainly cost less than an agency. how much do translation services cost? The range is wide, from $0.01 to $0.20 per word. Bear in mind, too, that you will need to invest personal time in selecting and managing your resources. Time is money. Freelancers can be a cost-effective investment if you wisely. Often it makes sense to do most of the work by machine translation, using your freelancer as a proofreader and auditor, or as a watchdog on an agency. This should give you a level of quality control and keep you safe from embarrassment
When translation and localization online services are needed
While our focus here is on budget translation solutions, there are times when you will want to pay a premium to have a translation company or localization agency to assist you. This is the case if you want to create a multilingual website, mobile app, or any other software. There are also ways to integrate automatic processes to expedite localization, and there are dedicated software apps for this. But this kind of project requires technical expertise beyond what most business people, or freelancers, possess. For these more complex projects, email a few translation and localization companies to get a free quote and some free strategic advice to get started. You can always leverage machine translation after a localization/globalization framework is in place.
For now, at least, you have some starting points for getting “found in translation”. Good luck on the fast track to going global!
About Ofer Tirosh
Ofer Tirosh is the part-time editor at Study clerk, CEO and the founder of Tomedes, a professional language service agency specializing in localization and translations services, supporting more than 100 languages and over 1000 language pairs.