If you want to translate your website, here are a few crucial decisions that you will faced with:
- What languages do you need the translation in?
- Who do you want to target with the website translation?
- How do you want the translation to be delivered?
- How will you update the languages when you update the content?
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
Let’s take these in turn.
Deciding which languages can be a complicated thing. The decision also has to be discussed with your webmaster to ensure that the language format can be supported on your server and content management system (CMS). Remember that each language has characters of its own and, in the case of some languages, don’t forget that the language might have to be written in a different alphabet all together or even in a different direction, as some languages are written from right to left. There is another issue when making this decision that entails maintenance. This can be very difficult if you have to perform layout changes on a website. If you are moving around Japanese text, for instance, just by making a line break in a sentence, you might be changing the meaning altogether. Well, this may not be such an issue if you are Japanese webmaster, I guess.
Who do you want to target?
A lot of people translate websites without a second thought. “I want my website translated into 15 languages by next week!” Although it may seem quite impressive to have a website in several different languages, most people want to translate their websites in order to tap the global market and increase their customer base worldwide. In light of this, it must be noted that there is a lot more to taping the global market than just language alone. Before translating without a second thought, it may be wise to look deeper into the issues of localizing your text and even your website content for the market you wish to target. To do this, it is a good place to start by talking to someone from that country or language service provider to get educated information on prevailing issues, both from a linguistic as well as a cultural standpoint.
How do you want the translation delivered?
There are many different options here. You have to think about how the texts are going to get from the language service provider onto your website. Are you going to copy/paste them? If the language is Russian for example, do you understand Cyrillic enough to know where the texts should be placed?
In the case of English, for example, or any other language that can be recognized by the reader to some extent, some prefer to have a well-structured document translated using a common word processing program. This is also the cheapest route in most cases, as it is easy to organize, easy to translate in it editable format, and within the confines of the document, you can clearly define exactly what you want to be translated.
In the case of languages that are difficult to recognize or in the case of several different languages, sometimes, it is a good idea to have a bi- or multilingual spreadsheet. This way, although it may take longer to place on the website, a person lacking language skills would be able enter the text into your content management system without too much difficulty. This also makes archiving your multilingual texts more organized and more easily accessible over the long term.
Another option would be to have HTML files translated. Your website can be exported, translated and viewed right on your desktop. This is a very efficient way of translating websites; however, it is usually associated with more costs as the number of words is generally a bit higher. These are naturally repeating words and phrases on each and every page that should not be charged to you in full, but they will still have to be proofread and this leads depending on the amount, this leads to an increase in cost.
The last option would be to have the language service provider translate the text and enter it into the website for you. The LSP will use their resources and the translators they work with to ensure the quality of your site. This is known as full service website translation and it is the most expensive due to the DTP costs involved. (* DTP = desktop publishing). However, if this is done well, it is certainly the most efficient method with regard to quality.
If you are looking for the cheapest route, here is how to do it: Extract all the texts you want into a file, have that translated, and paste in the translated text yourself. In conclusion, kindly ask your language service provider if they will look at the final product when you go live. Unless the website is extensive, most LSPs will have their translators fly over the website for you free of charge to ensure that nothing seems odd to them. This generally works well, however, don’t expect a translator to perform a second proofreading on your entire website free of charge.
Seeing that website texts are updated on a regular basis, think about a plan on how to organize your new texts for translation. This is where a multilingual spreadsheet might come in quite handy. Ask your language service provider about working with a translation memory to save costs so you do not have to continuously translate texts which repeat again and again.
Are your translated texts going to be optimized from an SEO perspective? If so, it might be a good idea to talk about the keywords you have implanted into the text with your language service provider as well as your exact requirements regarding the translated texts. Regarding generating double content, it is also important to review how the translated texts are going to be organized on your website. Please see my post on SEO for more detailed information on this topic in general.
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