Going global: how to translate a website

how translate a website
Mar 31 2016

Having a website once represented a competitive advantage for businesses. In the space of just a few years, a website has become an essential tool and, without one, companies risk being cut off completely from the market.

Website creation has also developed considerably in recent years and we have moved from complex HTML coding to a template-based approach, which has streamlined the whole process significantly. This means that anyone can now have their own website, which can be as basic or sophisticated as budget and need allow.

Despite the progress made in terms of the technology, putting together a website still takes time, effort and a great deal of accuracy to ensure that the content is clear, effective and attracts attention. This is vital to ensuring that the company itself stands out from its competitors and catches the eye of potential customers. Many companies invest a great deal of time and resources in copywriting for their website, rightly aiming for high-quality content creation, but they are often hesitant when it comes to spending money on translating their site into other languages. Frequently they turn to unqualified sources or, in some cases, machine translation. As much as it might seem like machine translation is a convenient option, especially for smaller enterprises, the end result can be, at best, unnatural and unpolished and, at worst, plagued with errors, owing to the lack of appreciation of context.

All things considered, the translation of your website is just as important as the creation of the original content, and the task must be entrusted to someone who not only understands the language, but also understands the value of the product, who the target customers are, and how to best communicate the message you are trying to convey. A sloppy or sometimes incomprehensible translation can often have exactly the opposite effect of the one you are trying to achieve, distancing the customer and belittling the value of the brand.

A professional translator, on the other hand, can go beyond the “standard” translation of the website text, by localising your content or “transcreating”, i.e. creating new text adapted to the target culture, in a style that suits the context and the product. This is particularly important when it comes to keywords and search engine optimisation (SEO), and can affect where your website comes in the search engine results – page one or page ten?


3 practical ways to translate a website


As regards the technicalities of translating a website, there are various different approaches that can be adopted to keep costs down and optimise use of time.

For minimalist sites with a limited amount of content, the quickest option is to translate in Microsoft Word. The webmaster can then insert the extracts manually by copying and pasting into the website architecture.

Another option is a back-end approach, using platforms such as WordPress and Drupal, where the translator accesses the website directly via a user name and password. This has the advantage of skipping a step, as the text is entered directly on the website, but the process is much slower for the translator, who also has to work without the usual checking and review tools available on other platforms.

For larger websites with numerous pages, and for e-commerce sites, the optimal solution is to export the site text in .xls (Excel) format, with the integrated HTML coding. By doing this, the exporting and importing process is automated, thereby reducing the risk of error associated with copying and pasting to a minimum. The translator can use specific translation tools to protect the code, to make sure it is not altered or deleted by mistake, and is able to work in a familiar platform, with all of the usual tools for spelling, grammar and terminology checks to hand. It goes without saying that this has a positive impact on the overall quality of the translation.

Translating a website is a complex affair but it does not need to be a source of stress or frustration. Choosing a reliable partner and using the right tools are the first steps towards creating a multi-lingual website that it is both grammatically correct and culturally appropriate, to allow the world to get to know and appreciate your products, and attract new customers. Take action: go global!

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