Bilingual Employees as Translators? What You Need to Know

Your software launched in English, subscriptions are soaring, and your clients are pleased. Then, someone proposes expanding to global markets, which is a good idea, considering global software-as-a-service revenue is expected to increase by 21.3 percent a year through 2016. It turns out, your company has many employees who speak other languages. Steven in the design department speaks Mandarin, and Jan in engineering speaks Spanish, so you can get all your translations done in-house, right?

Before asking your bilingual employees to translate, here’s what you need to know:

Speaking Is Not the Same as Translating

Translating software is particularly involved, since it involves re-coding your application to support new languages. Developers must manually pull all textual content into a “strings file,” which can be a taxing process. Thankfully, using a global delivery network can lead to fast results with little or no coding required.

Your software will also need to be localized, meaning it must be adapted to the cultural differences and language nuances of each target demographic. Even if Steven speaks Mandarin, it will be challenging for him to translate your software’s user interface in a way that resonates with users if he has never been trained in localization.

Recruiting Employees to Translate Takes Them Away from Their Job

Sure, Jan could read over the documentation and do her best to translate it into Spanish, but wouldn’t you much rather have her write code and fix bugs? Employees have specialized skills they were specifically hired for. By asking them to do something they have not been hired to do, you may end up misallocating valuable resources.

Having Staff Translate Content Could Slow Product Development

Software requires more translations than other products, since you have to take into account the user interface, documentation, support content, and marketing collateral. On top of that, as with everything else, there is a learning curve for employees trying to translate for the first time. Progress will be slow, and mistakes will inevitably be made. If your employees cannot provide satisfactory translations, you might end up needing to hire a professional translator to fix errors.

The Best Place to Involve Bilingual Employees Is in the Review Process

Consider outsourcing your software localization project to a professional translator from the beginning, then have your bilingual employees review the translation. Your employees know your brand’s tone and style best, and they have the subject matter expertise to be able to provide helpful feedback and final approval. Your bilingual employees will shine when it comes time to review and approve translations created by professionals.

Image source: Bigstock

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About Amy Rigby

Amy Rigby is a freelance writer and world traveler who divides her time mostly between the San Francisco Bay Area and Cusco, Peru. She has a fascination with words, language acquisition and all things animals. Her writing specialities are marketing, travel, photography and technology.