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What languages does a translation management system support?
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Aleix Gwilliam
AuthorAleix Gwilliam
Reading time 5 minutes

A good translation management system (TMS) will typically support between 200 and 400 languages, depending on the provider. In the language industry, it is common to see languages identified by a two-letter code that is usually an abbreviation of the language itself, e.g. ‘en’ for English or ‘fr’ for French. For each language, you could have different variations for each country that the language is used in. For example, German as a language will have different variations for each country it’s spoken in, such as German for Germany, German for Austria, and German for Switzerland. These language variations are called locales, and TMS providers will usually publish a list of all of the locales they support. For this reason, it’s important to see both the languages and locales a TMS supports to make sure that it includes the ones that you need.

What do languages supported in a TMS actually mean?

When a TMS advertises that it supports specific languages, it typically means that the software can handle the translation and localization of content in those languages. However, that does not mean that it can automatically translate into that language just because it supports it. 

If a TMS supports a particular language or locale, it can handle the specific language and locale-specific requirements associated with that language. It provides the infrastructure to manage translations for that locale effectively. However, the actual translation work still requires human translators or machine translation engines to input the content and generate the translations within the TMS.

How can I find out which languages a TMS supports?

TMS providers will release their list of supported languages in the documentation for each of their releases. It’s also possible that each release comes with new languages or locales supported, so checking the documentation of each release will give you the most up-to-date information on supported languages.If a language or locale of your interest is not available, you should ask your TMS account manager or tech provider for any future availability.

Does a machine-translation engine support the same languages as the TMS?

No, a machine-translation engine supports its own languages independently from the TMS. It’s worth noting for clarity that a TMS and an MT engine are two different technologies normally provided by separate vendors. In the same way as a TMS, you can check with your MT provider which languages they support, which you can usually source via their online documentation. If an MT engine does not support a language but a TMS does, this means that translations will have to be done manually by the linguist and cannot be populated by the MT engine.

Expert tip

Grant Blackburn
Grant Blackburn

Locales are especially important in localization because they make localized content relevant to different target audiences that speak the same language. For example, if you want to translate content into French for Canada, translating it into French from France will not resonate with the French-Canadian audience. By allowing this differentiation in a TMS, linguists can not just translate but localize adequately, which in turn boosts an organization’s brand image across their global markets.”

Grant Blackburn

Xpert at XTM International

Did you know… What is the difference between a language and a locale?

While a language is a concept we’re all familiar with (e.g. English, French, German, etc.), a locale refers to a set of parameters that define the cultural and regional conventions used in a specific geographical area. It includes factors such as date and time, formats, currency symbols, measurement units, and other local customs such as spelling, tone, and terminology used only in that specific country or region. The difference could be summarized as the following: language represents the linguistic aspect, and a locale represents the cultural and regional specifications associated with that language in a particular context.

For example, English for the United Kingdom is different from English for the United States or English for South Africa. Therefore, a TMS differentiates the English language into separate locales. To identify each locale, it adds two extra letters (sometimes capitalized for clarity) to its language code, separated by an underscore:

English for United States: en_US

French for Canada: fr_CA

German for Switzerland: de_CH

By differentiating each language per locale, linguists can analyze and understand the cultural nuances and contextual variations within languages and provide more accurate translations or localizations based on their target locale.

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