Here are some lessons and thoughts that we’ve learned so far.
TL;DR; It is hard.
When we have started to build our e-learning platform (Ekademia) on top of Moodle over a decade ago, it was already translated (more or less) to almost a hundred languages. It also had a quite a sophisticated online editor for installed languages - with English being the main one.
But there was one problem, or a mistake judging from the present perspective. We did not have global plans it the first year so most of the visible text and to make it worse - Polish text was baked into the code. This is bad, a very bad practice.
Cores of all of our systems were build this way - with text backed into a code. All the scripts of our second biggest system_(e-mail autoresponder impleBOT) had to be rewritten a few years ago to accept other languages. Two other systems (simple CMS impleSITE and viral marketing and one time offers generator impleFUN) will be translated soon.
If you think that translating scripts is hard, wait till you start to work on help documentation and tutorials.
It is tempting and many times the cheapest way to create all your help documentation, tutorials and blog posts in your own language and then translate it into English, and maybe later from English into other languages. It is the cheapest way… in the short-term. As with the code - if you produce your content in your own language, you limit yourself for translators from your own country. You also risk that translation to other languages (made from English translated from your language) will lose original meaning like in the Chinese whispers game.
It is best to create original content in English mostly because it has a relatively simple construction, there is a great number of established tools that help you write in English and most foreign specialists (like programmers) speak or at least understand English.
But say you’ve already created your scripts and documentation in a non-English language. What is the best way to translate it into English and then into other languages?
For non-legal content:
For legal stuff, there are 2 ways:
When you are done with all this, you should introduce a new policy for your organization. All public content should be created first in English, then translated to your own and other languages. It feels like more work, but there is a great chance that your own countryman will understand English, thus forgive you that some content is in English. The upside is that everything you produce is global ready from day one.
This text was written by me in English. It would be much easier to write in my own language and then give it to translation. But before that, I’ve written almost 2 thousand articles and have not published any one of them in English. It probably can be better, but with every article I write, my vocabulary expands and the number of mistakes lowers. It’s hard to imagine the CEO of a company going global that cannot communicate fluently in English. It’s just another skill one has to master with practice.