I am fascinated with this interview with the CEO of One Hour Translation on the Global by Design blog. And not just because of our American fixation on speed– Think “1 hour Dry Cleaning” or “10 minute oil changes”, or Pizza that is “delivered in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.”
No, I am fascinated because localization is really hard work, and this company threatens to make it easy. Particularly for the marketing organization at a mid-sized company, this really has the potential to be a game-changer. Here’s why.
I have my own experiences with the translation process both from inside and outside the industry. I have written about some of them here in this blog. And some of the whitepapers I wrote on the subject live on in my former company’s whitepaper archive. I can summarize the challenges for a global marketing team thusly:
- It takes time: Sucking content out of whatever systems you use, getting it out to translation, reviewed, pushed back into your systems, reviewed and published… All adds up, it’s painful
- Volume rules, and you don’t have a lot of it. Localization is a volume game, and on the marketing side, volumes can often be low, but the amount of work feels the same if the job is 10,000 words or a million words.
- There is never enough budget: You budget $10k, it will cost $15k. If you budget is $15k, it will cost $20k. And the corollary to rule #3 is…
- The countries don’t want to pay for it: It’s amazing. When the “bill comes due,” often a team materializes out of thin air to handle the translation in-house. It’s one of those things that falls rapidly out of the budget cycle when the details become real.
What the promise of One Hour Translation does is to streamline the whole process for you. (Full disclosure, I have never used the service so I have no idea if their quality is any good, if their TM process works as advertised etc.) Instead of having to negotiate every job, have a file analyzed for the number of words, check for matches against the TM database, manage the glossary, deal with a project manager as the go-between to the faceless translator, it’s all right there for you. A flat 7 cents a word, send off the job, and back it comes. Interact directly with the translator if needed, adjust quality on the fly. Poof, “so easy a caveman could do it,” with or without an “Easy Button.” And for a marketing team that is rolling out slowly in a few countries, or has just a periodic volume of work, this model will be very attractive.
There are surely a number of problems with this as well, starting with the languages supported, the inability to build a true glossary, reuse, translation memory, and scalability, to say nothing of the costs. But if you are sophisticated enough to manage those things individually, or have such a high volume of content that scalability is a concern, well you are not going to be using this service plain and simple.
For the rest of us, it will be a development worth keeping a close eye on.