Multilingual content management and localization in an omnichannel world

Loclization of three languages represented through a pattern
April 27, 2020



Localization and its counterpart, globalization, have been part of the content management lexicon for more than a decade now. But, for the most part, the application of these terms, and the software and services which support them, has been constrained to specific projects like websites and applications. Contentful has opened a new way to approach content and its management.

Adding a language or a locale is as simple as adding a new social media service with great API support. By looking at language as another dimension to open and engage new markets, together with your chosen translation company you can realize the full global potential of your content and manage multiple languages easily.

International content marketing strategy and localization services

The strategic dimension of content marketing as it applies to international business development is important to every business contemplating expansion of its target markets. Each content marketing campaign poses numerous challenges and questions, such as: 

  • How to add and integrate multiple languages on your website? 

  • Which languages are most spoken? 

Each organization must evaluate its products and services to consider where there is most likely to be a demand for those offerings. 

The development of a content strategy can be done with online research or in consultation with a translation company that can give expert guidance on how to localize for a specific market or region. Translation services often are combined with the other dimensions of localization such as date and numerical formatting, currency and measurement units. The most important aspect of localization, perhaps, is expertise in cultural tastes and preferences.

Content writing services are a key component of any marketing campaign. However, often the expense of creating original content can be replaced with the far lower costs of content translation. A translator costs less than a content writer. It’s less expensive to translate Spanish to English than to hire someone to write original content in English. Spanish to English translation is, in fact, one of the least expensive language pairs because of the ample supply of Spanish translators. Less frequent language pairs cost more.

Six basics steps for multiple language localization with Contentful 

Consult our in-depth how-to guide before you add multilingual locales with Contentful. But we’ll summarize the key points to outline the process:

1. Define locales 

Each space has its own locale set, identified uniquely by its ISO code (e.g., de-AT). One locale is defined as a default when creating a space, shown in the web app and used for queries that don’t request a specific locale. New locales can be added via the web app, or add your own via the API.

Then configure each locale’s settings. In-depth info is found in the API documentation

2. Set optional locales

Sometimes you may want to require the default locale but leave other locales optional. For example, if you want to be sure the English locale fields are always filled out but want to leave the Spanish locale empty, make sure to select “Allow empty fields.”

This is useful when working with multiple translators. They may deliver their work at different speeds. Prioritize languages and bring them online as they are proofed and ready for primetime. Add others later.

3. Enable locales and their fields

After adding and configuring a new locale, enable it. Do this field by field, toggling visibility within entries. This may sound complex, but it gives fine-grained control over which content is localized and when. This can also be done within the web app or via the API.

4. Managing translator roles and permissions

We hope you’ve got a trusted team of translators working for you (more on this later). But as an American president once quipped regarding nuclear weapon negotiations: trust, but verify. Limit translators to editing only their own languages with the “custom roles and permissions” feature. 

5. Integrate any translation management or localization software

You may integrate an external translation management system with Contentful via API or a third-party integration application like Zapier. It just takes some coding. You can find details in the API documentation.

6. Be Brave! Multiple locales aren’t a problem.

More locales mean more complexity, but Contentful is clever and its users are resourceful. Some have published content in 30+ languages. Here are some tips and tricks: 

  • Control content visibility by hiding or showing locales to limit what is visible in the entry editor. This makes things more readable to editors and improves performance.

  • Use custom roles and permissions to constrain the view of each translator or editor to the locale relevant to them. 

Getting outside help for translation and localization services

Contentful provides an amazing framework and management tool for your multilingual content, but you still need to acquire the quality content in all those languages.

Translation agencies tend to deliver the highest quality, but they cost marginally more. They tend to have multilingual experience, and they manage the translation teams for you —  a one-stop localized shop.  

Yes, you pay for that convenience, but your professional time also has a cost. Solicit three to five bids from translation/localization agencies, then pick the one that offers the best rates, knows your content domain and offers a long guarantee to fix any errors even after delivery. Get free consulting on the best way to proceed, and use this to select the agencies who really know their stuff and your target markets.

Freelance translators and machine translation services

Alternatively, work with freelancers. Freelance translators can be found in marketplaces where you can review their profiles, rates and ratings. Check out their reviews and portfolios and negotiate directly. Alternately,  you can post your job there and get bids, then choose from among the bidders. The challenge with any freelancer is that you’re on your own if something goes wrong. Therefore it’s a good idea to choose translators in pairs: one to check and refine the work of the other and serve as a backup if things go wrong.

The last option is machine translation. Tread carefully here. Translation software services like Google Translate and Microsoft Translator have improved dramatically in recent years, but the quality of their translations does not rival that of a skilled human linguist. Feel free to apply these tools for localization testing and internal uses, but don’t publish content without the review of a qualified and preferably certified translator.

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