What is a translation proxy (I)

Localisation, Technology

What is a translation proxy?

Although this technology has been around for some time, many language professionals are still not clear about it. For this reason I would like to explain what they are and clarify what translation proxies do (and what they do not do and are not).

In simple language, it is a translation layer integrated into the surface of the website that is shown to users. It stores translations in a translation memory that is updated in real time. Translations can be stored in the cloud or on a dedicated server at the translation agency or at the client premises.

The content of the translation memory is written and reviewed by human translators. The translator can either work directly on this external web layer or translate the content with the translation memory of his or her choice, and then upload the translation to the memory. (Obviously, the translation memory may contain automatic translation, although we do not recommend it)

Content in the source language is on the client server. The translation (but not the site itself) floats in the translation proxy cloud.

When a user visits a website in his or her preferred language, he or she will see the client’s website with a translation that, say, “floats” over the website’s interface.

What’s so special about this? What are the advantages for the translator and the content creator?

Back in time, having a website meant you needed a PHP, Java and HTML programmer to modify and update code for any change? All this ended a decade ago when content management platforms such as WordPress, Joomla, Typo3 or Drupal, among others, burst onto the market. This meant having a simple website to publish your content was already available to anyone without technical knowledge.

With the emergence of translation proxies something similar is happening in the field of web translation. The content is no longer in files, but in the content management systems and their databases, although complicated techniques are required to extract the content. However, this has already changed. Thanks to translation proxy solutions, complex solutions are no longer essential to translate the content of a website.

Let’s review the traditional steps of a web translation project:

  1. Assess the size of the project and prepare a budget

To make a quote, translators need to analyze the content, i.e. count the words. But in the case of a website, this task is not so simple. The content of the current websites comes from databases, not from HTML files. It is practically impossible to analyze all the content from a simple browser. It is even more complicated when you have an online store with thousands of dynamic pages. What can be done? Quite simple: the client gives the translator direct access to the content management system (CSM). In this case, the translator has to deal with the ins and outs of that particular content management system.

Or the translator may insist that the client deliver the documents to be translated and have someone from the company do a cut and paste afterwards. Even for a large company with an IT department, this can mean a lot of time and money, not to mention small and medium-sized businesses with limited IT resources. These extra costs can be a deterrent to localizing a website.

  1. Next step. The translator sends a quotation, the parties reach an agreement and you manage to export the whole text in XLIFF format.  You import all pieces of content into the translation management software and start with the translation. Most likely, someone from the company will import the translation into the CMS, or copy and paste everything manually. Seems quick and easy, doesn’t it?
  1. Well, we’ve got it all. Unless one of our international clients contacts the company and tells us that some translations are out of context, sound strange or go out of preset space. We need to go back and check the whole website and fix what’s wrong again.
  1. But wait, this content is not up to date! And we repeat the whole process from beginning to end.

For the translator and for the company, this process can be a headache. In international companies there are departments dedicated exclusively to managing web translation projects, and IT staff responsible for importing and exporting content. All of this requires time, personnel and a few fixed expenses.

Proxy-based translation tools simplify these processes by eliminating the technical side, both for the client and the translator.