The globalization of online content assets can mean a big boost in foreign markets and revenue. By targeting additional languages and marketplaces, Serbian businesses can rapidly and cost-effectively expand their reach and worldwide customer base. But how does a small business get started going global without breaking the bank account? We’ll consider strategies for adding languages and local markets cost-effectively, outlining best practices, tips and tricks for translating and localizing content in the most efficient ways.
Benefits of Globalization for Serbian Companies
Serbia is a relatively small country, and its domestic market is not sufficiently large to feed a company with global ambitions. If your products or services have potential appeal to foreign audiences, and you’re not going after these export markets aggressively, you’re missing out on the benefits of globalization, leaving money on the table and slowing your growth. It’s not hard to grasp why globalization is good for business.
The logical place to start may seem to be other European countries. Even though Serbia’s application to the EU remains pending, the economic news from Serbia these days is good. There are plenty of practical advantages and attractions to market products and services to neighboring states. But despite the proximity and similarities of Serbia’s states, that may not necessarily be the most cost-effective way to grow – not, as the Americans say, the “best bang for the buck.”
Seeking Guidance from Professional Localization Agencies
Instead of rushing randomly into foreign markets, it’s wise to consult with companies that focus on localization and globalization as their core business. According to Ofer Tirosh, CEO of Tomedes – a language service provider which supports more than 100 languages for 50,000+ clients in more than 100 countries – “it’s essential to look before you leap into globalization. Most translation and localization service providers will give you some free consulting even before you spend anything. You should take advantage of that.”
There are a few definitional distinctions that must be made. For example, what is globalization in essence? The “globalization” definition describes the overall effort to reach foreign markets, usually focused on digital content assets like websites and social media. “Localization” refers to the process of adapting those assets to a local (national or regional) market. This term encompasses the “translation” definition but also includes aspects like numerical and date formats, currencies and measurements. It also includes a more subtle understanding of cultural likes and dislikes. What is preferred in Serbia may not be so desired in Croatia? For this reason, you need a localization strategy.
Strategic Insights into the Localization Process for Digital Content Assets
Localization, these days, also involves technical processes of modifying one’s website and social media to support additional languages and local versions. There is specialized software for localization management. However, these are complex business to business applications. Software localization services target developers and Software localization products target localization service providers — not regular export businesses.
Your best bet is to ask for a free quote from a self-described localization services company. You should ask which countries make the most sense to target, and let the agency give you some of its acquired experience and wisdom. You should list the content assets you have, an approximate budget, and ask how best you should proceed.
The website localization process is quite straightforward. There are many website translator services and software which scrapes your web pages to extract and download text strings and non-text items as well. This information is then structured into a database, each item adding a row. Adding a new “locale” means, in effect, adding a column to this matrix.
This may sound straightforward, but the key to successful localization is in translation. To translate a website means more than create a database of text strings. Content localization is a culturally sensitive thing, and language localization is best left to expert linguists with mother-tongue familiarity with the target culture. They are best qualified to deliver the benefits and considerations of content localization.
Freelance Translators as Cost-Effective Localization Resources
Localization agencies seek to provide a “one-stop-shop” for all of your translating and localizing needs. They typically support many languages and have technical and linguistic teams around the globe on call to serve you. However, you will also pay a premium for this on-demand multilingual service and the efficiencies that come with it. Translation and localization companies usually do not allow you direct access to the actual translators and localization experts, so this remains a “black box” to you.
The question naturally arises as to whether it doesn’t make economic sense to work directly with translators, either using local resources or one of the many online freelance platforms like Upwork or Freelancer.com. It’s easy enough to review profiles, rates, ratings, reviews, and portfolios. You can engage them with questions about their experience and expertise. And you can negotiate terms directly, while protecting your investment by using the platform’s escrow service to hold the money until the job has been successfully completed.
The downside is that you will need to put a lot more personal time to finding and managing the freelance translator. There’s also more risk working with a freelancer. They or a family member can get sick or they may get bogged down in other projects. A translator also may not have experience in the non-linguistic aspects of localization.
One useful tip is the work with pairs of freelancers, where one audits the work of the other and serves as a backup. Hiring a freelancer in each language can also provide quality assurance for the work of a localization or translation agency.
Welcome to the Machine! Can Translation Software Do the Job for Free?
An even lower-budget temptation is to do your translation using Google Translate, Microsoft Translator or other machine translation tools available (free, mostly!) online. While the quality of these algorithms has improved dramatically in recent years, Tomedes’ Tirosh notes that “machines still cannot match the linguistic acumen and cultural sensitivity of an expert human translator.”
Still online translators can be useful for internal translations, for translating highly structured or “dry” language, and for routine customer support interactions. And, last but not least, for checking to see if your agency or freelancer is using machine translations instead of doing the work for which you are paying them!
The Bottom Line: Going Global Without Breaking the Bank Account
To sum up recommendations for Serbian companies pursuing a content globalization strategy, we can offer the following recommendations:
- Gain knowledge and guidance by engaging with a localization agency in a minimal way starting with 2-3 new regional targets and foreign languages.
- Expand to additional languages only after the localization process has been proven.
- Use freelance resources judiciously, primary as auditors and quality assurance.
- Use online machine translation resources carefully and only for internal uses, not for translation your valuable digital content.
Лепо путовање! Good luck going global!