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Building a Better Business with Multilingual Translations

In our increasingly connected digital world, multilingual translation is more important than ever. The 2021 Unbabel LangOps Survey of more than 1,000 decision makers found that 62% of global organizations have increased their translation efforts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But how can organizations ensure they are 1) producing quality communications that resonate with their audience, and 2) getting an optimal ROI from their multilingual translation services and/or software?  Before we get to the value of seamless global dialogue for business growth, let’s go over the elements that define multilingual translation and the different translation options available today. 

What is multilingual translation?

Put simply, multilingual translation refers to the process of translating communications from one language (the source language) into another (the target language). The “multilingual” aspect of multilingual translation also implies an ability to work across a variety of languages. Bilingual translation, on the other hand, deals with just one language pair; for example, an English-to-Spanish dictionary. 

What are the different types of multilingual translation services?

There is no shortage of options for businesses to choose from when it comes to translating multiple languages. Let’s take a look at the three main categories of multilingual translation and how each works. 

Human multilingual translation

This is what many people picture when they think of language translation services — using humans with expert linguistic knowledge to handle all aspects of the translation process. For instance, a company might use a translation agency or a business process outsourcing (BPO) firm that staffs multilingual translators to manage each project. Taking a human-only approach to multilingual translation results in high-quality outputs; the downside is that the manual nature of the work can make it costly, time-consuming, and difficult to scale. 

Multilingual translation technology 

Some organizations choose to take a more automated approach to their multilingual translation efforts. AI drives the most advanced language solutions on the market today, also referred to as machine translation. Machine translation has come a long way since its genesis in a time when a single computer would fill a whole room. Today, companies are using state-of-the-art neural frameworks to train and deploy AI systems that produce fast, high-quality language translations. 

That said, relying 100% on multilingual translation technology with no human intervention can provide an inconsistent customer experience and ultimately be bad for business. Consider the case of the Norwegian Olympic team who used Google Translate to order 1,500 eggs from a supermarket in South Korea — and ended up receiving 15,000. Machines can’t fully understand the context of numbers, proper nouns, and industry-specific terminology without training from people.

AI-powered, human-refined multilingual translation

What if there were a way to benefit from the best of human translation and the best of machine translation? Thanks to human-in-the-loop AI, that dream has finally become a reality. This approach combines the speed and efficiency of AI with the accuracy and context provided by language experts. This AI-powered, human-refined approach enables near real-time translation while still accounting for regional preferences and cultural nuance. 

The marriage of cutting-edge technology and human expertise is also allowing companies to develop more holistic language strategies. Language Operations, a new approach to global communication at scale, uses human-in-the-loop AI to unify multilingual efforts across the entire organization and provide fast, high-quality translations at every touchpoint. 

Why is multilingual translation essential for business growth?

Multilingual translation presents a valuable opportunity for companies targeting global expansion to reach a larger audience and access new markets. A survey of Fortune 500 companies conducted by Common Sense Advisory (CSA) discovered organizations that invest in multilingual translation are 2.6 times more likely to experience revenue increases and generate improved profits.

In a separate study, CSA also found that 76% of global consumers prefer products with information in their native language, and two out of three use online translation tools such as Google Translate to understand content and communications in languages outside their own. How can a company create loyal customers if they expect buyers to do the translation work themselves? Fixing this type of language inequality in an English-centric business world requires companies to provide high-quality, seamless multilingual translations that offer a native-level customer experience for everyone. 

Translating static vs. dynamic content and communications

The first piece of this puzzle is translating website content such as company descriptions, product pages, resources, and so on. This content can be thought of as “static” in the sense that a multilingual editor only needs to review it once before going live, and then again whenever the page might need to be updated. 

The second, more complex aspect of global communications lies in translating “dynamic” conversations with multilingual prospects and customers, such as email and live chat. Taking a human-only approach to customer service is simply too slow and not very cost efficient, while using translation software on its own will likely result in quality issues that leave people scratching their heads.

That’s where AI-powered, human-refined machine translation overseen by a dedicated LangOps team comes in, allowing companies to quickly scale multilingual dialogue without compromising on quality. In the 2021 Unbabel LangOps Survey, more than 90% of decision-makers said that LangOps could be extremely or very important for their company’s global market strategy. 

Accelerate global growth with language translation services

Our employees, partners, and customers are working toward a world where there are no second-class citizens — only global citizens. Unfortunately, many organizations still operate with a narrow focus on English content and communications, giving little regard to the quality or consistency of their multilingual translations. Recent statistics from Web Technology Surveys indicate that English is used by 62.2% of all websites even though native speakers make up just 5% of the world’s population.  

To maximize the revenue-driving and brand-building potential of language, global organizations must invest in translation technology that provides an A+ customer experience while also being seamless and intuitive for employees to use. Ready to see how taking a unified approach to language beyond basic translation can knock down barriers and accelerate global growth? Schedule a demo of Unbabel now.

About the Author

Vera Almeida is the head of Language Operations at Unbabel. She leads and manages Unbabel’s LangOps team and focuses on terminology work for AI-powered MT engines, termbase management, translation memory management, and quality assurance processes and tools.