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Single-Sourcing: Translate Once, Reuse Many Times

Single Sourcing System

If done right, single-sourcing can turn out to be the gift that keeps on giving. While reusing your content makes sense and is cost-effective in the first place, the savings multiply when you are looking to go global with your company and implement translation and localization of your source file. However, the process is not without potential stumbling blocks. Read on if you want to learn more about it.

Single-source publishing has been around since the 1990s when computers began to use graphical user interfaces and on-screen help became available. Through clever content management, a single-source document is created that now can be converted and repurposed in different file formats as often as necessary. A user manual becomes an online help interface, becomes an ebook etc… That method has considerable advantages: When you reuse content, you save money and increase consistency.

When you translate single-sourced content, the cost savings multiply. You translate the source files once and create different versions from those source files. For example, you could put out an online help file and a PDF manual from the same translation. Or you create several different installation manuals for different platforms, all using 70% shared (single-sourced) content. That way, you get two (or more) translations for the price of one.

Besides the economics, ensuring consistency across products, brands, and markets is another advantage of single-sourcing. Ease of maintenance is a nice perk too. Content updates affect all documents automatically and when you translate your updated content, you maintain all translations in sync rather than having to update each version of the translations when features change.

If you are single-sourcing with translation in mind, you should follow a few guidelines to help your localization process run smoothly. You want to use variables with caution and pay attention to language differences. You best work with conditional tags on standalone content, such as a whole sentence or paragraph. For example, don’t separate parts of the sentence such as “<adjective> <noun> <verb> <object>” because languages use different word orders. For example, Japanese follows a “<noun><object><verb>” sentence structure.

A Few More Tips:

  • If it looks like the grammar could change substantially when translated to another language, it is a good idea to create snippets of standalone content that are for reuse. Keeping the whole block together makes the reuse “cleaner,” especially in translation.
  • You should allow for text expansion as well. Your content in English will translate into much longer text in some languages, such as German, for example.
  • Do not embed text in images — keep them separate so they can be translated. The best practice is to use layered graphics for localization of callouts.
  • Finally, you should review your content before and after localization to address potential language issues.

If you would like to learn more about the benefits and challenges of translating and localizing single-sourced content, make sure you download our eBook and don’t hesitate to reach out to us with your questions. You can contact Venga here — we would also be happy to give you a free quote for your project today.

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