Translation Basics for Global Product Managers

Published on Feb 20, 2019

by Marcos Dinnerstein

Understanding the best practices and limitations of translation and keeping current with what technology allows can be very important for global product managers. As a translation platform, we often see that both of these are not readily understood. Some think that machine translation is a viable alternative to product localization. Others think the traditional translation agency model is the only option they have. None of these statements are true and there are better options global product managers can use.

This article is a good place to start to learn some things to consider.

In an earlier role I had at an education company, we were building a digital platform for document management in the academic world. This platform allowed students, faculty, and researchers to share documents and collaborate on writing research papers. At first, the product team did not fully appreciate how universities in different countries view enforcing copyrights and their own agreements with content providers. This resulted in sales being hampered until we gave the customers’ admins the ability to restrict or turn off document sharing. Clearly, localization was not in for forefront of our planning and that cost us time and money.

Managing a product involves a lot of important steps. Understanding the user and market, determining the business strategy for that market, designing the user experience, ensuring product build and delivery and handling the product growth and customer support; these are all daunting tasks even on a single product and market. As a global product manager, you have to navigate multiple locales, multiple languages, and cultures. That’s when things become even more difficult.

The W3C’s page on internationalization gives an excellent example of the requirements of correctly localizing content for a specific market.

“Cultural problems also need to be considered. Symbolism can be culture-specific. The check mark means correct or OK in many countries. In some countries, however, such as Japan, it can be used to mean that something is incorrect. Japanese localizers may need to convert check marks to circles (their symbol for 'correct') as part of the localization process.”

The lesson here is that localization must take cultural differences into account. Merely translating text is not the end of the job when it comes to localization of content.

A translation service needs to support the task of a global product manager by being technologically current, low-cost, agile, truly on-demand, fast and allowing instant access to tens of thousands of skilled translators. The only contender for being able to do that is through an AI managed platform model. (Read here our article titled “Very fast translation thanks to a different approach”.

How early should a global product manager think about localization when developing a new product? That depends on a number of factors including, budget, available staffing, and your company’s resolve to be global.

In an ideal world global product managers should consider a localization component during  these phases:

  • UX Design

  • Surveys

  • Interviews

For global product managers, there are clear liabilities in ignoring or delaying localization and translating during product development. Here’s a quick intro video that shows you just how easy it is to get started on MotaWord.

Forewarned is forearmed.