Category: Translation

7 tips for translating a website

Are you thinking about translating your website?

Whether you want to respond to the newly developed consumer demands or expand onto international markets, you know that a multilingual presence is essential.  (Just in case you need any convincing, you can read about why it is a good idea in my blog post here.)

Choose your target market wisely

Before you even start looking for a translation service provider, you need to know your target market.

Using tools such as Google Analytics will help you determine which countries and languages will bring you the most sales. For a more comprehensive list of tips on identifying markets and the best product-market fit I recommend this article by Nataly Kelly, VP Localisation at Hubspot, where she says:

“You want to ideally choose markets where you’ll have a high degree of success. This means you want countries where you can achieve product-market fit — but ideally, without having to make too many significant adjustments to your product or your go-to-market strategy.”

What is the difference between translation and localisation?

When launching your website on a new market, you will actually need to “localise” it, not translate it. So let’s look at these two terms? What’s the difference and does it matter?

Translation will transfer the meaning of your content into another language.

But what is localisation?

The term “localisation” actually comes from the term “locale”, which refers to the combination of the language a user speaks and the place they are from. So, in other words, it is making something appropriate for a given locale. It deals with the technical needs of each locale such as postal addresses, currency, pricing, units of measurement. It also means culturally adapting the text, making it appropriate for the target audience. For example, if your website is in American or British English, your CTA (call-to-action) will probably be too firm and compelling in France, where a subtler and softer message is necessary.

How to translate a website – 7 practical tips

Finally, you are ready to embark on the website translation journey and you want to entrust your content to a professional linguist. Now what?

Here are my 7 tips for translating a website (or rather, localising it):

1. How will we work together?

What will be our processes and tools?

Word or Excel files

If you create all the new content for the website in MS Word, this will mean a rather simple process for the translator. They will process the files in Word or in their CAT (computer-aided translation) tool for consistency purposes and send them back in the same format. However, (a BIG “however”), this means that your web design team or firm will have to insert all the bilingual content into your page templates. Then your QA staff will have to proofread every single source page, and the translator can proofread every single target language page. This is laborious and time-consuming. Do not run the risk of having the words translated, rather than the overall message. Make sure that you share the context with the translator.

7-tips-for-translating-a-website-same text-box-length-can-vary-in-different-languages-use-a-plugin-such-as-TranslatePress

With a plugin such as TranslatePress we can immediately see how the translation fits on a page.

Translating directly in a CMS

If the website is in WordPress or Squarespace, it can be helpful to use a plugin like TranslatePress (picture above) or WPML. The translator can work in the front end of the website and no one has to paste text. We can immediately see how the text fits on the page. The French language is longer than English and this method can quickly flag any placement or font and box size issues. It saves time but can also add another technical layer to the project, so you need to be comfortable with it.

7-tips-for-translating-a-website-same text-box-length-can-vary-in-different-languages
The same text box length can vary in different languages

Complex releases

If you want to run your website in several languages and manage multiple updates, a proper localisation management tool will be a worthy investment (such as Lokalise or Phrase). Not only you can see and edit your translated text in real time, directly in the front-end, but without it, managing the translation workflows in spreadsheets would be a logistical nightmare.

2. Who will proofread and QA your site?

Will the translator do it or do you have linguistic resources at your end?

If it is the translator, ask for the cost upfront. It may be a separate item on their quote, or it may be built in their hourly rate (check that). The entire site must be proofread before it goes live. QA is vital: if you think that having a typo in a document is bad, how embarrassing will it be if there are typos on your website for the whole world to see! Your top-notch products will not look professional. And do not think that only linguists laugh at language mistakes. The media is full of photos and articles, written by clients, about embarrassing goofs in museums, famous tourist attractions or on e-commerce sites.

3. Do you have a style guide or a glossary?

When you translate a website, it is important that the new language version carries the same appeal and style (e.g. friendly and relaxed or formal and professional). When we talk about formality, we also need to talk about inclusiveness. Consider your audience’s age, background and business environments. Deciding between the formal or informal “you” in certain languages — “vous” in French, “du” in German or “tú” in Spanish — will allow you to convey an inclusive, clear, and courteous style.

If a translator is part of your localisation team (e.g. working with QA staff on your site), sharing these guidelines and technical terms with everyone involved will help to keep the terminology consistent. And if you make further updates, next time these resources will make the website translation process faster and more accurate (not to mention the eternal gratitude from your chosen translator😊). You can find more details about style guides and glossaries in this article.

4. What about images?

They say a picture can be worth a thousand words. And it is true! In the era of digital marketing, imagery plays a part so important that it would be your loss to ignore it.

Firstly: are your images still appropriate for the culture that you are targeting? Your translator’s advice here can be crucial.

Make sure all images have appropriate translations and that they have been adapted to fit the local culture because they may carry different meanings. Additionally, links, headers, and titles should not break when users switch between languages, so including this in your QA process is vital.

5. What will happen after?

So, you have a new, shiny webpage in Spanish, French or Polish. Congratulations! Your multilingual website is likely (let’s hope!) to generate inquiries from people reading the site in languages other than the original.

What now?

How will you follow up on inquiries in other languages?

If you sell physical products, maybe this isn’t much of a consideration. A multilingual ordering interface will simply allow clients to place orders in their language that are then fulfilled like any other order. Even then, you may get questions from your potential clients about the technical details or features of your products. But what if your business is a hotel, a spa or a ski resort? What happens when you start getting reservation inquiries in French? Will the French website create a demand for French-speaking staff, and can you fill that demand? This is where continuous support and relationship with a freelance translator might help.

6. Prioritise

You received some quotes, but in the end you think you can’t afford a translator. Before you decide to quit and go with a free tool, consider some other options:

  • Do you really need to translate everything? Maybe just a landing page will suffice.
  • Can you prioritise the content to be translated?
  • Can you send the content in chunks for translation rather than wait until the entire catalogue of products or online guides is available?

7. The magic word – SEO

Your freshly translated website needs to be visible and rank well with the international market audience. And for that, you can’t just translate the keywords into the target language. The keywords have to be researched for each market separately. Let’s look at an example:

An e-commerce portal ranks highly in English-speaking search engines for keywords: “gifts for her” and “gifts for him”. But, a word-for-word translation of these phrases might not give them good rankings on a French market, where web consumers tend to look for “cadeau pour femme” (gift for a woman) or “cadeau pour homme” (gift for a man).

Other techniques such as the hreflang tag, dedicated URLs, creating engaging metadata, and local market backlink building will also matter.

A skilled SEO translator, who not only knows the local culture, but has adequate training and experience in the SEO strategies, will be instrumental to the good ranking of your localised website.

A final note: machine translations are not going to get you very far

Please consider this before you go with a machine solution.

Language complexity can only be handled by a human.

Translation is not only about changing the words. It is about the overall message. Local idioms and cultural references, are equally important. And so far, in spite of huge progress in Neural Machine Translation, only humans can do… Cliquez pour tweeter

WordPress like TranslatePress will offer to integrate with automatic tools such as Google Translate and DeepL. While no human translator can compete with the machine speed, beware. Translation is not only about changing the words. It is about the overall message. Local idioms and cultural references, based on cultural and socio-economic factors, are equally important. And so far, in spite of huge progress in NMT (Neural Machine Translation), only humans can do this. For example, if your website copy contains slogans that rely upon a cultural reference, a joke, or an idiom in your native language, the translator will have to find an image in their native culture that has a similar effect.

References to sports are notoriously difficult: no one understands baseball outside the US or cricket outside the UK and the Commonwealth countries. The meaning will be totally lost unless it is reliably localised (adapted to the target culture).

Cultural adaptation cannot be done by even the most advanced NMT engine.

These are just some tips that you need to consider when you decide to have your website translated.  

Want to know more? Have questions?

Drop me a line or post your comment below.

(This is an updated version of a blog post originally published on 11/06/2020.)

Web Application Localization Best Practices

This video is a summary of 27 best practices shared by Nataly Kelly, VP Localization at HubSpot in her blog post on www.borntobeglobal.com. Following these guidelines will help make your content easier to localize.

Read Nataly’s brilliant advice and tell us about your localization journey!

Would you like to receive a copy of this video in a printable PDF form? Subscribe to my newsletter and it will land in your inbox!

“Can’t read: won’t buy”: why you should localise your website

Can’t Read, Won’t Buy: 2014,” is a catchy title of a report published in April 2014 by an independent research firm Common Sense Advisory (CSA Research). The report contained findings of a survey of more than 3,000 global consumers in 10 non-Anglophone countries in Europe, Asia, and South America. Specifically, the research assessed online language preferences and their subsequent impact on purchasing decisions.

The key findings can be summarised as follows:
  • 75% of consumers say that they want the products in their native language.
  • 30% never buy at English-language sites, and another 29% rarely do.
  • Across the 10-country sample, 56% either spend more time on sites in their own language than they do in English, or boycott English-language URLs altogether.
  • Automotive and financial services are the products that consumers are least likely to buy if the website is not in their native language.
  • Exactly half would prefer that at least the navigation elements and some content appear in their language, and another 17% strongly share that preference. This finding contradicts the conventional industry wisdom that you should localize everything or nothing.

Considering these findings, Common Sense Advisory Chief Strategy Officer and founder Don DePalma concluded that “there should be no question about localizing your website and product information if you want to sell more goods or services to global customers. Localisation improves customer experience and increases engagement in the brand dialogue. It should be a rigorously planned and executed business strategy for any company looking to grow internationally.” (https://csa-research.com/More/Media/Press-Releases/ArticleID/31/Survey-of-3-000-Online-Shoppers-Across-10-Countries-Finds-that-60-Rarely-or-Never-Buy-from-English-only-Websites)

So why should you translate your website and into which languages?
1. Do you want to increase your customer base?

Clearly the statistics presented above support the need to localise your content and products. If your online presence is only in English, you are missing on over 50% of potential buyers who will never purchase from you.

2. Do you do business abroad already?

If you provide your customers with product descriptions, shipping and payment options and transact in their language, they will feel more comfortable. As a result, they will come back to you for more business because they trust you. When a site is in a language that people don’t understand, they are more likely not to trust it.

3. What is your competition doing?

If they are not doing the same (yet) you can set the standards that others will have to follow, differentiate your brand and gain precious market share before everyone else.

4. Have you examined your website analytics?

Where does the traffic come from? Have you had global visitors who did not stop and buy?

The answer to these questions will also help you establish which languages you should select for your localisation project.

5. Do you attach importance to strong SEO?

You will multiply its rich benefits if you translate your content and carefully choose SEO-rich keywords that greatly helps when global users search in their preferred languages.

6. Tempted by a free solution such as Google Translate?

A penny-pinching attitude really does not pay off here. If you read Google’s own quality guidelines (https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2721306?hl=en&ref_topic=6001971 ) you will see that they penalise the search engine rankings of websites that use automated content. This includes “text translated by an automated tool without human review or curation before publishing”.

Conclusion

The best way to translate a website that converts and boosts your brand is by hiring a professional experienced translator who intimately understands the language and the local culture. You will avoid developing content that appears foolish and turns the potential buyers off. The media frequently publish the localisation horror stories where lack of cultural and linguistic understanding has led to a ridiculous result. You don’t want your customers to giggle at some stunning mistakes while you claim to deliver state-of-the-art solutions. Your great products and online flagship store deserve great translations.

Advances in technology bring people closer

On the International Translation Day, 30 September, I read the recent ProZ report by Henry Dotterer and Jared Tabor about the changing face of our industry and the human response to technological innovation. (https://www.proz.com/industry-report/2019_human_response). According to the authors of this report, the translation industry changes can be categorised into three areas: AutomationIntimacy and Scale.

 

Automation includes technological changes such as translation management systems, AI and machine translation.

 

By Scale we mean the ever-increasing size of LSPs, freelance databases, broader quality spectrum and the sheer amount of source content. It is worth noting that the increase in scale favours specialisation, a trend that most translators embrace.

 

The one I find most interesting is Intimacy. In this automated and machine-embracing world “many clients are leaning towards direct contact with freelancers and knowing who is translating their content” in the interest of quality.

 

A recent example comes from the hotel guest acquisition platform Siteminder. Their Head of Localization, Matthias Borngrebe, says that he works with a pool of 15 translators and copywriters. Asked to describe their outsourcing approach, Borngrebe said that they “don’t work much with ‘anonymous’ translators from agencies. Working directly with freelance translators makes it easier for us to ensure quality.”

 

Freelancers are being called on to understand the clients and markets they are serving more intimately. As this intimacy increases, those who cultivate soft skills and who are business savvy are the ones who will come out ahead. For many freelancers, work with direct clients can prove both (mutually) satisfying and economically attractive.

 

It seems that advances in technology actually bring people closer and make us want to develop a closer relationship.

 

Is this your experience as well?

 

What makes an excellent translator? 5 traits you should look for

Many businesses and organisations find the process of hiring translators quite daunting, simply because they do not know what to expect and what to look for. Here are the 5 most important traits you should consider:

1. Quality and expertise

It goes without saying that this is the most important aspect of being a translator. Quality does not necessarily mean a degree in translation. Not everyone who has a master’s degree is necessarily a good translator. In fact, it depends a lot on the type of translation you require. There is a strong argument for hiring a lawyer-translator when you need a legal text, or for an IT expert when you need your software product or website to be translated. For marketing translation and transcreation, the most important thing will be a flair for language and creativity. In short: quality rhymes with specialisation. It is vital that the translator you choose is specialised in your industry and expert in this field.

2. Reliability

This is equally important. Even the fastest, the most competitive and highest quality translator will not be any good to you if they consistently deliver late. Part of making sure that this does not happen is to agree realistic deadlines in the first place. Beware of translation agencies who in a catchy phrase promise you fast, cheap and quality services! There are no miracles: a reliable quality service requires realistic timescales. The unexpected can happen to all: a power cut, a domestic emergency or illness. Or simply, while working on your project, the translator has uncovered that there are some hidden complexities or specialised domains outside of their usual field of expertise that will take longer to investigate and translate (e.g. legal content in the middle of a medical translation).

In these situations, another key attribute of a good translator comes in:

3. Communication

A reliable quality translator will communicate effectively and proactively with you. If they realise that “there is trouble ahead” meeting a deadline, they will get in touch with you straight away and will not wait until 1 hour before the deadline or until it is passed. They will think ahead, pre-empt problems and manage your expectations.

4. Ability to deal with feedback

Let’s face it: this is tricky. I will always remember the days when I was a software tester and I had to deliver the “bad news” to developers that their piece of software had defects and did not work. Most of the time they were not happy, taking it almost personally, as if the code was their baby. But that is kind of normal: they were simply professionals, proud of their work. Good, professional translators are proud of their work, too, but they should be able to receive and accept feedback from their customers courteously. Not only that: they should actively seek it.

5. Caring attitude.

Besides being courteous and reliable, a good translator has a positive attitude to their work and industry. As linguists, they are genuinely passionate about what they do. As industry experts and service providers, they genuinely care about your brand and product and they want it to be translated and adapted in a way that will allow you to reach out to those global markets successfully.

What are you looking for when you’re working with (or, looking for) translation providers?

Why did the world laugh at the French President’s mistake?

Last year a piece of news about the French President Macron made a lot of readers giggle. The President possibly switched between French and English a bit too fast. When talking about the Australian PM’s wife, he misused the word “delicious” — délicieuse — because in French it also means “delightful”.

Question: what if a mistake like this appeared on your professional website?

After all, “delicious” is the first automatic translation of “délicieux” that comes up on Google. And if you are a bit more curious and you click on the 8 more translations that Google offers, which one would you choose?

Not only you will lose good ranking and search traffic. Chances are that visitors won’t stay on your web page too long and errors will not add to their trust.

Your website is your business card, so careful phrasing does matter. Otherwise, it will be inauthentic and ineffective for people not speaking English.

Do you want your customers to giggle at some stunning mistakes while you claim to deliver state-of-the-art solutions?

Show them you care. Great products deserve great translations.