Transifex is the leading translation management system, used by thousands of developers in both the open source and business communities. This article is intended to help existing Transifex users better understand best practices to translate content already stored within Transifex.

STEP 1 – Define your translation strategy

So you’ve opened a Transifex account, created your first project, and uploaded your English language files. Now what?

The most important choice at this stage is to determine the best method to translate your content.

Will you…

  • use machine translation?
  • have someone from your team translate?
  • engage your user community and crowdsource the translation?
  • hire freelance translators?
  • utilize a Transifex partner agency?
  • introduce your existing translation agency into the Transifex platform?
  • seek a new translation agency that is experienced in translating content within Transifex?

The best choice is highly dependent on your individual translation needs. Specifically, your content type, content volume, intended audience, quality expectations, updating frequency, user base size, and of course budget, should all guide your translation strategy.

The below table highlights the pros and cons of the various translation options, and can help you decide which method best meets your needs:

Strategy Pros Cons Good for
Machine translation Almost free
Immediate results
Insufficient quality(1) Internationalization test
Internal content
User-generated content (blog, etc.)
Very large content (support pages, etc.)
Crowdsourcing Affordable
Community engagement
Minimal control over quality
Minimal control over deadlines
Non-profit organizations
Open-source projects
Internal translation Relatively affordable
Familiarity with industry
Not professional linguists
Distracts team members(2)
Early stage startups
Internal projects
Freelance translators Direct contact Comparatively pricey
Difficult to validate quality
Familiarity with Transifex(3)
Small projects in a language that you can validate internally
Translation agency Familiarity with industry
Professional quality
Comparatively pricey
Familiarity with Transifex(3)
Ad-hoc projects
Transifex partner Streamlined workflow
Familiarity with industry
Professional quality
Familiarity with Transifex
Comparatively pricey Long term continuous translation

(1) Though machine translation has made considerable progress in recent years, its overall quality is still significantly inferior to human translation’s. Machine translation can be a powerful tool for non-customer facing content and, in some conditions, user-generated content. When it comes to your application string or marketing pages, however, it is typically advisable to protect your brand image by avoiding error-prone machine translation.

(2) If a member of your development team is a native Chinese or French speaker, for example, they may be able to help translate your application. However, as you ask them to translate more and more content, you may find that their linguistic skills lack the precision of a professional translator. Moreover, translating detracts valuable time from their core responsibilities, and a solution of this sort may not be sustainable.

(3) Most freelance translators and translation agencies prefer to work with their own tools and workflow. Even freelancers who agree to work within Transifex will in many cases download the content, translate it using their own system, then upload it back into Transifex. This method eliminates several core Transifex functionalities, including the ability to immediately visualize translation progress and the option to exchange information at the string level. Transifex translation partners such as e2f — along with select translation agencies and freelance translators — work directly within the Transifex interface as intended.

Consider a hybrid strategy

When it comes to translation, there isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution.  In many cases, a hybrid strategy makes sense to accommodate different content types and/or different languages.

One of our most prominent clients, for example, crowdsources the bulk of their product translations, but relies on e2f to finalize translations as product launch deadlines approach. e2f also takes care of translating all of their high-visibility marketing and advertising campaigns, which require a flawless quality that crowdsourcing is unlikely to deliver.

Next step

If you’ve determined that Machine Translation best meets your needs, proceed to this page to get set up. Going forward, we’ll focus exclusively on human translation.

STEP 2 – Build an internal team

As you hone in on  your preferred human translation strategy (crowdsourcing, freelance linguists, translation agency), there are several factors to consider to ensure a seamless translation process.

Who will manage your translation team and projects?

The best professional translation agencies provide several functions beyond translation. Such services include team management (selecting and overseeing linguists), project management (completing translations by a given deadline) and quality management (selecting translators and reviewers for each project, and addressing any quality issues).

If you’ve opted to crowdsource, translate internally, or work with freelancers, you’ll need to perform these functions internally, or allocate them to a dedicated project manager.

Who will validate translation quality?

Whether or not you’re working with a translation agency, it’s important to have an allocated party to validate translation quality —throughout the team selection process, and on an ongoing basis. Large international companies typically allocate one lead linguist or in-country reviewer per language. Lead linguists tend to work as professional translators in the head office, while in-country reviewers are typically marketing personnel of branch offices.

Startups often don’t have the luxury of a dedicated quality reviewer. In this case, they must simply trust the translation team, or establish a loose team of language validators — usually some combination of bilingual internal team members, personnel in charge of overseas sales or marketing, etc.).

Who will support the translation team?

Even the most experienced professional linguists ask questions. Sometimes a string cannot be translated without further context; in other cases, the English source may be poorly worded or ambiguous. Transifex provides linguists the ability to ask string-level questions within the translation environment. It is imperative to have someone ready to answer questions in a timely manner, as linguists are typically under deadline pressure, and may be unable to wait extensively for clarification.

Next step

Now that you have an internal team ready to validate translations, it’s time to select the translation team.

STEP 3 – Select the translation team

Selecting a team will be a very different experience depending on whether or not you’ve opted to work with a translation agency.

If you’re working with individuals

Working with individuals requires rigorous testing to ensure a candidate’s translations meet your quality standards.

To qualify your team, build and send a translation test that includes representative excerpts of your various content types — software, website copy, and legal content, for example. A test containing only a few hundred words should not require payment to candidates.

Once candidates have completed your test, ask your internal team to check and grade each translation. It is important to categorize any issues that may arise.

For example, at e2f, we grade according the following scale:

  • Complete retranslation needed
  • Heavy retranslation needed
  • Partial retranslation needed
  • A lot of major errors found
  • Major errors found
  • A few major errors found
  • Minor errors found (mostly style and/or typos)
  • A few minor errors found (mostly style and/or typos)
  • Only preferential and minor stylistic issues found

and we categorize issues found as:

  • Spelling
  • Punctuation
  • Grammar
  • Translatable content left untranslated
  • Untranslatable content translated
  • Omission
  • Addition
  • Mistranslation
  • Literal translation
  • Awkward syntax
  • Inconsistency
  • Formatting
  • Terminology issue
  • Style issue
  • Imprecision

This step is important, as it will help assign the right project to the right person. For example, a translator with an imperfect style could be adequate for technical translations, but should not be entrusted with marketing content.

Once you have graded all candidates, you can consider other factors (availability, cost, etc.) and build your perfect translation team!

If you’re working with a translation agency

If you’ve decided to work with a translation agency, you should start by scheduling a call with their account manager. This will give you the opportunity to understand their process and determine whether to build a translation team using their resources. Some helpful questions to ask include:

  • Who are your customers in my domain?
  • Do your linguists work within Transifex?
  • What will our workflow be?
  • How does your company handle continuous translation?
  • What is your typical turnaround?
  • Do you offer 24/5 project management service?
  • Who will my point of contact be?
  • Do you have linguists specialized in each of my content types?
  • How do you select your linguists?
  • How many linguists are involved with each project?

If you are satisfied with the agency’s answers, build and send a translation test that includes representative excerpts of your different content types — software, website copy, and legal content, for example. Ask them to translate all content into a language that is easiest for you to validate. If your test contains a few hundred words, professional agencies should not request payment.

You may then grade the translations on  a simple scale:

  • Major errors found
  • Minor errors found (mostly style and/or typos)
  • A few minor errors found (mostly style and/or typos)
  • Only preferential and minor stylistic issues found

As you are dealing with professional agencies, there should not be any major errors in the translations provided.

Once you have graded all agencies, you may wish to consider external factors (such as cost) and finalize your selection.

Next step

Now that you have a team in place, you are almost ready to start translating!  To ensure an efficient and successful translation process, it’s important to take a few preparatory steps before diving in.

STEP 4 – Prepare the translation

There are a number of steps you should take to set your translation team up for success. As a general rule, the more assistance you provide, the better the translation quality.

Provide access to content

If you’ve selected a Transifex translation partner and plan to order translations within the Transifex system, this step is not necessary  you can simply use the Transifex order wizard.

In all other situations, you must provide access to your translation environment directly to your linguists or agency.

If you’re working with a translation agency

We recommend making your agency’s project manager or point of contact an official Team Manager within Transifex. This way, they’re able to add translators, reviewers, and language coordinators for each language in your Transifex project.

For example, if you would like to invite e2f to work inside your Transifex project, simply open your Team page and click “Invite Collaborators.” From there, enter e2f’s email ( [email protected]) or username (e2f) , and select “Team Manager” as the Collaborator’s role.

Click on “Send invitation” and let the project manager know that you provided access to your files. Ask them to confirm they have access to the projects.

If you’re working with individual linguists
Using the same technique as above, you need to individually invite each linguist, and assign them the proper role within Transifex.

Provide references and tools

Depending on your specific Transifex plan, you may have access to select Transifex features. Make sure to utilize all the features at your disposal – these tools can have a tremendous impact on translation quality.

Major features include options to:

  • Import and/or share a Translation Memory across all your projects
  • Create and upload a Glossary – a reference for all future translation projects that promotes consistency of terms
  • Create and upload a Style guide – even a brief description of your product or service, target audience, or tone of voice will be of great help to your translators
  • Provide additional context – upload screenshots to Transifex, provide instructions in Developer’s notes

We will be discussing these features in more detail in future articles.

Next step

So you’ve built your internal and translation teams, and prepared your content. You are finally ready to launch your first project!

STEP 5 – Launch your first project

As in every field, the better the communication, the better the outcome.

Schedule a launch call

Whether you work with individual linguists or a translation agency, we highly recommend an on-boarding conference call. This is your opportunity to share project details and requirements. Important talking points include:

  • The scope of your first project
  • Whether you need one-time or continuous translation
  • The project’s timeline
  • Whether there are priority files to be translated first
  • Where to find relevant references

Follow-up closely

The Transifex platform makes it very easy to follow the translation progress visually, so you should be fully in control of the schedule and notice early if there is any issue developing.

Finally, as we mentioned earlier, it is very important that you reply promptly to any question linguists may have during the course of the project.

Other considerations

Whether you are translating an app, a website or a document, remember that even with perfect translations, your job might not be over. For example:

  • For apps and websites, we strongly recommend that you prepare a linguistic testing of the localized version. The translation might be too long for certain buttons, some text may still be untranslated, some links may point to the wrong page, there might be other functional issues. Professional translation agencies can help you with this step as well.
  • Similarly, documents and presentations typically need reformatting as in some languages, the translation might be much shorter or much longer than the original

NEXT STEPS

We hope that this article helped you refine your translation strategy as you plan your first project. If there is an aspect you’d like us to cover in more detail, or if you’d simply like to discuss your translation strategy, please reach out and let us know.

Transifex documentation

Transifex provides a wealth of guides and instructions on their website. For more information, check out: