You know that clients prefer to shop online in their native languages, so you want to localize your e-commerce platform or its good part for that new, promising market. It’s a big project and you want it to go really well in order to avoid looking bad in front of your new audience.
You know you’re going to have to trust someone to do it all at once because a partly translated site looks even worse than a completely untranslated one. You want to choose the right partner, but your budget is limited, and you’ve heard horror stories about incorrectly applied Machine Translation.
It’s easy to say, “we have the MTPE experience and can support you through the project”, but how do you make sure? In order to help you with this, we polled translators and asked them about challenges they encountered during translation of e-commerce projects for other companies. We have also suggested solutions to some of the more pervasive issues, based on our experience with this type of project. You should have a much clearer idea what are the most common problems with localizing your project from translator’s point of view once you go through the list below.
Challenges of e-commerce in translation
1. Lack of proper instructions for the project.
It’s difficult to work with no direction. One of the most common issues is deciding how “deep” to localize, i.e., whether to be more faithful towards the source text or translation target culture. Another issue is leaving out the age segment for the target audience, which can cause odd terminology choices. Yet another common issue is lack of links to the source material, which can impede translation process (see p. 5 where we explain it in detail).
2. No reference materials.
The absence of reference materials can lead to several people having to solve the same issue concurrently, thus wasting your time and money. The same applies to inadequate reference materials.
3. Badly rendered Machine Translation output that is impossible to post-edit.
Everyone can recognize fragmented texts and broken paragraphs characterizing badly localized e-commerce sites. This is typical when translators lack training that would help them efficiently decide when to use the MT output and when to translate directly from the source text. Even worse, MT output could be in the hands of monolingual post-editors who aren’t going to be able to solve issues with the source language.
A plethora of issues with Machine Translation can be prevented by using statistical MT quality estimators and adjusting the required productivity to the input quality. Some of the best automatic estimators include hLEPOR, HTER and Comet so you might want to ask if a potential partner is using those.
4. Lack of knowledge of client-specific marketing and advertising terms.
This boils down to good reference materials on your side, and selective localization process on the partner’s side. Here we recommend building and maintaining dictionaries for the key terms used in your corporate marketing communications. It´s your best option if you want to communicate with your customers in a unified voice.
5. Inability to see the source to be translated on its original website.
This can be disastrous for the end product as a lot depends on the editing choices and assigning too much or too little space for the target language in relation to the source can result in an uneven end product. This issue can be easily solved by either providing links to the source material or by specifying restrictions as to the length of translated texts.
6. No access to product images.
This is a mistake that keeps in business many a humor site specializing in silly translation errors. After all, “wings” are one thing on an angel, and another thing on a screw. You might like to protect yourself from ridiculous translation choices if you don’t want to end up the butt of a joke.
7. Lack of collaboration between translator groups.
This boils down to a good localization process and teamwork. A good partner will know how to split the tasks to avoid the lack of cohesion in the translated texts. This can involve categorizing translation input and ensuring online mode of work and constant dialogue between project members.
8. Lack of contact with the client.
All projects have some confounding elements. It’s best to make sure your project is assigned language leads, who will help clarify any confusion for translators and won’t waste time with constant calls for feedback.
9. Inability to influence terminology that the client approved erroneously.
You might think this should be included in number 8, and you would be right as it can be an unwanted feature of fractured contact with the client. However, this specific issue crops up often enough we think it deserves a special mention. It also means your partner is afraid to tell you that you made a mistake – and is thus costing you even more time and money as you have to rectify it yourself when you see it.
This list is by no means complete, but it’s better to be brief than to get bogged down in unnecessary detail. We hope you are now aware of the risks and won’t have to experience disastrous results of ignoring the challenges above.