How Can You Translate Your Website?
Here's 3 Different Techniques for Translating a Website for a Service Business
As website development experts we often get asked to help our clients translate Websites into other languages. After all, who wants to miss out on a new client relationship because language is a barrier? With widely available online tools like Google Translate & Babel Fish, it should be a piece of cake to make a website available to almost any language (even Klingon & Latin!)
3 Techniques for Translating Websites
- Machine Translation: Google Translate, Chrome, and other browsers offer tools to translate content for end-users. If you want your website to have such a tool, your options are more limited. Google Translate discontinued its free tool, so your best options are paid services called Bablic or ConveyThis. Machine translations are inherently problematic because they don’t have a human making sure the translation makes any sense or is written the way a native speaker would write. Take this paragraph from a BBC article was written in Chinese and machine translated into English:
“The aircraft was successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida late Sunday (February 9) Eastern Time. The entire mission lasted seven years, of which it would take about two years to fly from Earth to the sun. Arrived at the mission in November of this year.”
You can get the general idea of what the writer is saying, but it has errors in tense and is not how conversational English may usually be.
- 1 Page Gateway Translations: I recommend a 1 page summary of your services prepared by a professional translator that serves as a gateway to your services, but avoids translating the entire site. Answer important questions like “What services does your company offer?,” “Who should a speaker of that language reach out to?” and “What makes your firm different?” Have a native speaker (maybe even the employee who speaks the language) prepare this. Using this approach, it is easier to maintain over time, as if you add a new blog post, new service offering or change pictures, you wouldn’t need to update this page.
- Full Site Translations: The most expensive option is also the most effective -- translate everything. Keep in mind that all content that changes has to be updated in all of the languages you offer which can make regular site maintenance harder for marketing staff. This is the only way to fully serve clients who speak another language.
Yet, many sites don’t take these easy steps. Why not? It turns out that translating your site can actually have some negative effects that are evident as we ask more questions. Let’s explore those questions:
Are you trying to serve clients in markets other than the United States?
Often translating a site into another language is the first step companies take to service clients in another country. It is important to consider that offering a service in another country may bring additional procedural and legal restrictions that might be worth looking into before proceeding. Are there additional licenses to procure? Are there taxes to collect? Is the way of providing your service different in the country you wish to expand into? These are all questions to ask before soliciting business in a new country.
Do you have someone on staff who speaks the language you wish to translate your site into?
Hooray, your site has attracted a new potential client who speaks a new language! Now, your new potential client reaches out via email or phone -- do you have a way to interact with that person? If it is just one employee who speaks the language, and that employee leaves, will you hire someone else who speaks the same language? Are any documents that they would need to sign or marketing materials they would see also translated? It is good to figure out the answers to these things before the person calls or emails.
Is there enough a market for your service in the language you have chosen?
Different cultures shop for services in different ways and sometimes for different services altogether. It is important to do the market research to make sure that there are enough people who will buy your service in the language market you are entering.
Looking to build out your website into another language?
We're happy to help. Reach out to our team here to learn how to get started.