Leveraging DITA to Minimize Translation Costs

By Eric Severson  |  Posted 2009-02-18 Print this article Print

Leveraging DITA to minimize translation costs

In a multi-language environment, language translation can easily be the most expensive part of producing new and updated content. It's also often at the root of updates coming out late. In general, two things drive the cost and complexity of translation. First, the number and types of languages being supported, and second, the amount of content-or more precisely, the number of unique sentences-to be translated.

DITA can't change the first factor, but it can have a major impact on the second. To understand why, let's look a little deeper at how translation works. In any modern translation process, special software called a translation memory examines all new content to see which sentences have already been translated. Only sentences that haven't been encountered previously are sent for translation-and incur translation cost.

This means that not only unchanged content is ignored, but also any redundant content in the same document or across other documents in the set. Take the standardized phrase "Company XYZ makes no warranties and will not be held liable" as an example. Even though it may occur hundreds or thousands of times in the content, it will be translated only once.

The problem, though, is that supposedly redundant content is often not quite redundant, and even one word's difference will cause sentences to be viewed as unique and, thus, separately translated.

In the previous example involving widgets and screwdrivers, there were originally eight unique sentences that had to be translated. After consolidation into a single, reusable topic, there were only two. That results in a 75 percent savings in translation costs!

Eric Severson is co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer for Flatirons Solutions Corporation. Eric is also on the board of directors for IDEAlliance and is a former president of OASIS--both XML industry consortiums. He can be reached at Eric.Severson@flatironssolutions.com.

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